Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.
When Nichole was born with Down syndrome I began to learn as much as I could about her condition. I felt the need to become an expert and help educate people. I was passionate and vocal...really vocal. I had become her advocate, but was I an effective advocate? This is a thought I have been processing lately, because in order to see positive results, I need to be an effective advocate.
You see, when Nichole was a baby, I was learning how to be the mom of a child with special needs. Out of my great love for her, I wanted others to see her just the way I saw her. I wanted people to understand Down syndrome and see the beauty I saw.
Looking back, I believe that sometimes my "all-out" ways stunted me from being an effective advocate and perhaps even approachable. I know I spent energy focusing on weather people used People First Language, or if they used the correct terminology or up to date information. I did not expect people to be at the same level of awareness I was, but I think maybe I did expect them to arrive to the place where I was once I had explained the ins and outs of Down syndrome. I wonder how many people felt overwhelmed by me.
I was learning to do life with Nichole, and the many layers of my life touched by Down syndrome. She is only 3 years old, and I still have a lot to learn. However, Down syndrome is so common for me, and for our family, that I believe I can look more objectively at what an effective advocate is. After all, I now have 2 girls to advocate for (actually, make that 3, Ellie needs her mama to advocate for her at times)
Why am I thinking about this right now? I just got the book "From Emotions to Advocacy" and I am learning about being an advocate in the school system. This book, however, has challenged me in the "personal level" advocacy, and the many times that I have allowed my emotions to take over. Effective advocacy happens when emotions are under control, it is hard to advocate when you are angry, or hurt by a comment or an action.
But being Nichole's and Nina's advocate means that I get to practice Proverbs 31:8-9. I get to speak up for Nichole and for Nina, for their rights, and for their needs. Why? Because I want to see Nichole and Nina's lives changed, I want them to thrive! Regardless of their disabilities, they have great potential, they have gifts and talents to contribute to those around them.