If you have attended an IEP or an ARD, as you yawned to get enough oxygen into your brain to keep your eyes open, you may have wondered about the Latin derivation of Advocacy. As Latin was a standard, required course in my high school I share: Ad (to) vocare (call). I believe “to another’s aid” is implied.
Typically we think of advocacy as an argument to support something we believe in or someone we speak on behalf of. Many of us find ourselves in need of an advocate, barrister or attorney to help us sort out the myriad complexities of our daily lives such as when we buy a house, write a will or butt heads with an agency that denies our child services.
Many well-meaning groups have been negatively scrutinized and criticized by persons on the spectrum for lack of representation. This is not an uncommon reaction, and if you were involved in the civil rights movement in the U.S., you will remember this well.
The doing of something to someone, for someone, is usually not appreciated because it suggests that the person can’t do it for himself.
Early in the process of developing RDI, we crossed paths with many autism advocates who tackled the acquisition of services as a need-all, get-all proposition—mostly this stemmed from a common list of suggested supports a person with autism might need. This unfortunate approach lacked the specificity necessary to carefully scaffold for independence. Phrases such as “leaving no stone unturned and doing it all” created a nightmare of non-stop intervention that wore everybody out. Of course, some of this was useful, such as when a child with autism and apraxia could benefit from work with a speech therapist. But the same child might have no need for an occupational therapist.
Most frustrating was acquisition of full-time aides or classroom shadows. Often quite lovely and caring, aides did everything from repeating the teacher’s instruction, “pick up you pencil” to helping the child write answers to problems. This created dependence rather than independence.
In RDI while we appreciate the help that is available, we also advocate and propose a plan that specifically structures the reduction of scaffolding for thinking that can lead to independence. Empowering parents through RDI is a good example of this where, as consultants, we are working ourselves out of a job not into one.
Ms. Jay was my Latin teacher. She clearly loved the subject and actually made it fun. I wonder, though, if she realized that for most of us Latin would never be a life-long passion although it might scaffold the definition of an unfamiliar word and provide curious insight into a once-upon-a-time meaning.