Always an Advocate

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(I got your back, baby girl)

Not too long ago I was on hold with Delta Airlines, trying to convince them that my daughter and I needed to be seated together on an upcoming flight to visit my family in Ohio. I had purchased the tickets online, after being told that I could select two seats together after the transaction was completed. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen that way

On the phone they asked questions and made comments : “How old is she? Oh, she’s 10? She should be fine on her own”.

“She has special needs,” I said. “Biologically she’s 10, but developmentally much younger.”

“I’m sorry, but we don’t have any seats together; perhaps you can negotiate with other passengers once you get on the flight,” the agent replied..

“No, you don’t seem to understand. My daughter has a disability and needs to be seated next to me for a variety of reasons. When I booked the flight, I was told I could just call in and get our seats assigned together after I purchased the tickets online. I wouldn’t have booked it otherwise. I absolutely need to have everything set up ahead of time or we will not be making this trip.”

The agent told me, over and over, that they couldn’t accommodate my request (in fact, that it was an absolute impossibility to do so). The final solution I received is that I would have to speak to the ticket agents AT THE GATE on the date of our departure.

After being told NO 7 times, you might think I would acquiesce, but the trick here is that – the squeaky wheel gets the grease. REALLY, truly. This is how I have been advocating for my daughter for the past 8 years.

Eventually, I was transferred to someone who finally made my request happen. This airline story might seem like a minor victory, but I felt so validated when I got our two seats together. I knew there would be another battle shortly, in some scenario in our world. But, I felt confident in my abilities to speak up when needed.

On that note, here are my top 3 tips for advocating effectively / successfully :

  • Be Informed : Learn / research and really KNOW your childs’ rights in all settings, whether it’s services through the school district, local regional center or even special accommodations that can be made in various settings. Knowledge is SO powerful in this world.
  • Don’t Apologize : Ask for what your child needs are, firmly and purposefully. I find that I tend to apologize for asking for what is rightfully due my child because I never want to be a bother to anyone. But, my child deserves TOP NOTCH access to services, resources ad accommodations. She doesn’t have a voice, so I have to be the strong (and effective) voice for her.
  • Be Persistent : Again, back to the squeaky wheel …. I call and check on services and resources over and over again. I am constantly following up with the powers that be, making sure that my request is remaining a priority. I am friendly and humble (no need to be nasty or demanding) – consistently asking for help in getting my child the help she needs.

So, good luck out there, I know how challenging it can be sometimes. And, when you don’t feel like you have the ability or energy or strength to fight for your child, call me and I will be your biggest cheerleader! Note : FREE ADVOCACY is available to you through your local regional centers and public schools. Don’t be afraid to ask.

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