Monday, April 9, 2007

Special Education Advocacy

In my job as a Special Education Assistant, I think about the people who have advocated on my behalf over the years, and would like to think of myself as someone who will do the same. Therefore, I like to call myself, and hope that I will become, a Special Education Advocate instead. It is this hope that brings several questions to mind. Most importantly, ‘What does it mean to be an advocate anyway?’ The dictionary defines an advocate as “a person who speaks, writes, or even pleads in support or defense of another person, cause, etc.” A person who does this can also be referred to as an intercessor. In this entry, I want to talk about a few advocates who have been a blessing and encouragement to me, on my way to becoming an advocate for others.

The first advocates I had were the first advocates everybody has. They are unpaid yet exceptional advocates known as parents. In addition to all the repetitive and expected acts that she did and does for me, mom made countless phone calls with teachers, doctors and others who help, placing her beloved son in the right hands. Since my birth, Dad has written hundreds of letters, made many phone calls and has driven hundreds of miles for his son. He has also argued with doctors, teachers, and even university professors to get the best for me. This was advocacy.

Mrs. Gleave was my S.E.A. during elementary school. As I spent grade 2 wearing my first pear of glasses, later ran for the cross country team several years in a row (always finishing near the back of the pack), and finally graduating in grade 6 winning the music award, Mrs. Gleave was there. She was a constant encouragement to me, raising my spirits with her laugh, which sounded like a bicycle, and being just as much a friend to me as to my classmates.

When I had my stroke in grade 9, I often used Mrs. Jackson (an S.E.A. for several students in my middle school), as a support as I walked down the halls, hoping to regain my balance as soon as possible. In front of my peers and classmates, I would walk with my arm around her shoulders. This was not cool in middle school. Nevertheless, what she did was certainly advocacy.

Years later, Mrs. Gleave gave me the greatest assistance of any S.E.A. while I, a university graduate in Psychology, wondered what new road, I should take. I had thought that the only option was to apply for a master’s program of some sort, and continue writing dreaded essays and exams for at least three more years. However, Mrs. Gleave said, “David would be a great S.E.A.” That was all I needed to hear. I began the two-year program that fall and the rest is history. This was advocacy.

In spite of the work that all of these people did, my Greatest Advocate is none of the previous. If it were not for the work of my Greatest Advocate, the many hours my parents, doctors and S.E.A.'s labored on my behalf would have been for not. My greatest advocate is God because I believe that from the first day, he has been leading my every step. First John tells Christians “we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1) And it is because of His acting, speaking and working on my behalf that I hope to do the same for others.

"See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think?"

Matthew 18:10-11

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