Kenmore resident Aimee Levesque, whose daughter is served by People Inc., recently shared why it is important for families to advocate for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
She shared this in recognition of March being Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.
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Levesque’s daughter, Jessica, is a participant of People’s Arts Experience Program and a former participant of the agency’s Young Adult Life Transitions Program and currently involved with its Self-Advocacy Program.
Both fans of the arts, Aimee is co-founder and managing director and Jessica is an actor with Unique Productions, a company of artists that aspires to promote community integration through the arts by providing individuals with disabilities a chance to be artists, actors and writers.
Levesque also is a parent advocate. She has worked in the disability field in Western New York for more than 15 years.
“Parents are the best advocates for their children,” she said. “You are an expert on all things your child and play an important role in their education, and get to reap the rewards of their love and affection. As a parent advocate, there are many things that you can do.”
She shared the following tips:
• Learn about your child’s disability and teach the child about the disability, too. The more you and your child know about the disability, the better advocates you both will be. Use the Internet, books and brochures to teach your child; use anything you feel will help her understand. Be accurate, consistent and honest if she asks questions.
• Know your child’s abilities. People are often forced to focus on what our children cannot do to get the services they need, in and outside school, but what about the great things they can do. Focus on the positives and on all of the terrific things your child can do, has achieved and will continue to grow at.
• Keep records. Save copies of your child’s Individualized Education Plans, reports and samples of his schoolwork. Take notes while on phone calls or in meetings.
Put all of these items in a large binder. These materials may be helpful for showing where your child might have some difficulties or may highlight the areas where he has strengths.
• Have goals for your child. Just like every other student, your child will have goals and aspirations, so encourage her to set those goals. Also, include your child in the goal and decision making processes as often as you can.
• Allow yourself to feel and display emotions.
• Join parent groups. Parent groups — online or in person — serve many purposes. You can share resources, discuss similar situations, laugh and cry together. In essence, parent groups are a place of help, love and support.
• Take care of yourself.
Levesque is currently enrolled at the University at Buffalo as a doctoral candidate for the Curriculum Instruction and the Sciences of Learning Program