Navigating the complicated matrix of options and understanding one’s rights can frequently be a harrowing process for caregivers of an autistic child. Those in receipt of a new autism diagnosis seldom have a clear set of steps to undertake, frozen with shock and grief. And those that have lived with their child’s diagnosis for years can, nonetheless, find the levels of bureaucracy numbing and difficult to traverse as their child grows and needs change.
Areva Martin comes with answers. In her book The Everyday Advocate: How to Stand Up for Your Autistic Child, she lays out a means for parents to better grapple and fight for their children’s rights. Mother of a son with autism, and Harvard educated lawyer by profession, Martin’s book sets aside the debate of the causes of autism and instead digs into the much needed topic of services identification and classroom and medical care evaluation. Written in a clear, personal manner with references, checklists and summaries at the end of each chapter, the reader quickly begins to construct a sense of the elements of advocacy.
Martin’s book offers three distinct sections. The first area addresses getting a diagnosis, working through the shock/grieving process and the elements of self-advocacy. The second section focuses on personal advocacy, avoiding isolation and balancing your career while advocating for your autistic child. Finally, the last section details public advocacy, navigating therapy and educational decisions and other legal consultation areas. Also included are various appendixes that provide sample letter forms and a student self-monitoring IEP worksheet.
Too often, parents do not have the financial means to engage an advocate, or simply “give up” when the prospects for fighting for their child become too great. Learning the ropes of how to build your case, store your information and leverage the system can be taught and brought to benefit those with autistic children. Martin’s book can serve as a standard “go to” resource for parents with children with ASD across the country. As Martin writes, “Know that you’re on a steep learning curve and will not be able to master everything overnight. All you can do is your best. If you take responsibility where you can and resolve to improve, you will make a positive difference.”
Brian Field is the co-founder of the Autism Support Network
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