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6 ways to advocate for your special needs child

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.

Fight the good fight

Advocating for your special needs child is one of your most important jobs. It can feel overwhelming and intimidating, but if you remember that you know your child -- and his needs -- better than anyone, it gets a little bit easier to fight the good fight.

4. Learn persistence.

No appointments until next May? The school can't possibly provide an aide? Insurance won't cover therapies for children with developmental delays? When you encounter a no, simply keep restating your need, with a smile on your face. Hey, it works for my kid -- the 347th time he asks to take out the trash cans, I usually cave.

5. Avoid the blame game.

Few things are more enjoyable than trashing my insurance company. (Hey, I never claimed to have much of a life.) I can rant for hours about their incompetence, the unfairness of it all, and so on -- but that's not actually helping my son. Instead of looking for someone to blame, look for a solution to the problem. For me, that means channeling my energy into filing complaints with the state insurance commission, getting in touch with elected officials, consulting with special needs attorneys, and getting my son the help he needs.

6. Remember to care for yourself.

Parenting in general is hard work. Parenting a child with special needs is even more work, and it can be exhausting. If you don't take the time to take care of yourself, you'll quickly burn out. You can't help your child until you meet your own needs.  On airplanes, you're instructed to put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help others. Follow that advice in life.

Read about the importance of putting yourself first.

The hard truth is that advocacy is more than a full-time job. It's a calling. It's some of the most important work you'll ever do. It can make a difference for your child -- and for all children. And, one small voice at a time, advocacy can change the world.

More tips on parenting kids with special needs:

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