Many people ask me why I spend my time advocating for others, and helping others find solutions for their problems. The answer to that is complex, but at the same time simple. When people first start advocating it can be overwhelming. Many times service providers, guardians, parents and schools are used to getting their way. When one starts to self advocate they are faced with the resistance of people who are used to making decisions for someone and now that person is wanting to make decisions on their own.
I’ve been there before, I had parents who didn’t want to let me make decisions. I ran away so that I could make those decisions on my own. I worked hard to get where I am. I learned a lot along the way, I learned about the rules that guardians, service providers, schools and others need to follow. I also made excellent connections with people who are much more knowledgeable and influential than I could ever be.
But I advocate for others because I don’t want people to be forced to go through all the trouble of making some horrible mistakes when advocating like I did. I made some huge ones, and I learned from them. I advocate so that others can learn from them too. I also advocate because sometimes people need to be a voice for those that are either afraid or unable to speak up.
I remember a mother of a disabled child and executive director of an Arc chapter telling me once that I need to not get frustrated with advocating when things get hard, because someone needs to be the voice for her son. As I’ve been pretty frustrated lately that has gone through my head a lot.
The biggest reason is however quite selfish. It makes me happy to help others do great things with their lives. I do it because its what makes me happy.