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Copyright © 1998 Brain Injury Resource Center
Advocacy Skills
From The Ashes:
A Brain Injury Survivor's Guide

Brain Injury Resource Center
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Advocacy Skills
Goal Analysis
Goal Setting
Problem Solving
Decision Making
Advocacy Plan
Action Plan
Assertiveness Skills
Assertiveness Plan
Assertiveness Quiz
Fear of Criticism Test
As You See It
As Others See You
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System Advocacy

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Contents of this page adapted with permission  from: "Don't Get Mad Get Powerful, A Manual for building Advocacy Skills," MI P&A

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     Advocacy Defined.  Advocacy is a type of problem solving designed to protect personal, and legal rights, and to insure a dignified existence.  There are many types of advocacy.  For example, system advocacy, is useful for changing "the system;" additionally, it is used to promote causes. Legal advocacy is what lawyers are paid to do, and  legislative advocacy is designed to change laws. Self-advocacy, involves advocating for oneself; while individual advocacy involves advocating for another. While there are many types of advocacy, the focus of this section will be self-advocacy.

          Well practiced advocacy skills will increase your chances of getting what you want; when you want it. Effective advocacy is built on a broad based analytical approach to problem solving. The links in this section will guide you step-by-step, through the skillful implementation of a self-advocacy plan. Links elsewhere on this page will take you to related resources.

Why Self-Advocacy?  Self-advocacy skills can help you avoid or solve problems with family and loved ones, doctors and lawyers, employers, associates, and friends.  Self-advocacy skills can help you obtain reasonable and necessary accommodations in both public and private settings.  They can be useful  in matters of public entitlements, such as education, housing, employment, transportation and taxation. 

    The forms (tools) in this section will provide self-advocacy skill builders that can be use in both private and public matters. In these pages you will learn the basics of  self-advocacy. You will learn to identify and define problems, design and implement action plans and track and measure results.  Exercises in this section are designed to build skills that will enable you to  identify,  resolve, and in many instances, prevent  problems.

Empowerment Through  Advocacy.  Well practiced self-advocacy skills can give you important advantages in most  situations.  Sometimes you will be subjected to information that is incorrect or inaccurate. Other times, you will face situations that require you to make choices about things that are inappropriate, immoral or unethical.  Then, there are times when your rights to hu mane treatment and dignified existence will have been ignored or denied.  Self-advocacy skills can help you identify, analyze, and make informed decisions concerning such choices.  The regular exercise of self-advocacy skills will empower you to gain more control over your life.

Problem Definition.  Advocacy takes time and effort.  Developing a clear and specific definition of the problem helps minimize frustration and waste.  Additionally, defining the problem requires you to distinguish major issues from incidental details.  It means getting to the heart of the issue and, if possible figuring out what is causing it.  In some cases, defining the problem also leads to ideas for its solution.  Advocacy skills will give you essential maps and tools for defining and resolving problems.

Getting Started.  If you have had a head injury you will be confronted with the advice of many professionals in the fields of medicine, education, and/or rehabilitation. 

    You might become confused by all the different opinions you receive about your care, or you might not agree with a particular professional's advice or plan of care.  The challenge then becomes, how to advocate effectively for your needs without alienating those whose help you need?

Building Expertise Educate yourself about your condition. Where head injury is involved, you might want to become expert in matters of  Post Concussion Syndrome. There are many ways that you can become expert about your condition. This web site and its links will provide a solid basis for building such expertise. Increasingly,  public and university libraries hold a wealth of knowledge about head injury as well as many other medical conditions and disabilities. 

   If you become familiar with the medical terms, possible prognosis and treatment choices for  your condition, you will gain the respect of professionals.  Increased confidence will come with your growing medical expertise.  The application of the self-advocacy skills in this section will give you the power to achieve your objectives.

Keep Good Records.   Keep written records of all meetings, telephone calls, and written communications about your condition. You are entitled to copies of your medical and rehabilitation records, so be sure to ask for copies from each professional. It is also helpful to have a friend or family member to go with you. 

     Keep good notes of items covered and action plans. At the end of each contact or visit confirm the accuracy of your notes and impressions.  Ask for opinions in writing , ask the professional you are working with to sum up the results of any conclusions or action plans  in a letter or memorandum to you. That way, you will know right away whether you have a clear understanding of any agreements that have been reached.

Problem Solving.   If you do not agree with a recommended treatment or plan of action, you have options. First, you can present your concerns in writing to the professional you are working with. A written document is often more clear and convincing than a conversation that can become emotional on such issues. 

    Next, you can get a second or third opinion. When your well-being is at stake, it is important to compare the advice from several professionals and choose the option that is best for you. If you feel there is a need, you can take your problems up the chain of command. Sometimes patients are reluctant to "'go over a professionals head" in an organization, but that is why there are levels of authority. You may find that your problems are easily solved at the second or third level above the one where you started.

Importance of Attitude.  Finally, you are the last word on your treatment  You do not have to agree to any plan that you do not feel is in your best interest. Trust yourself, you may not have lots of degrees, titles or letters after your name, but you are the expert and ultimate authority when it comes to your needs. You can get the best care for yourself  being friendly - yet firm, assertive - not angry, and persistent - not pushy. 

    A positive attitude about your advocacy efforts is critical to your success.  As a society we hold many different cultural values.  Some of these values make it hard to feel good about your self when you advocate; however, other values  can make you feel good about your advocacy efforts.  The values and practices expressed in these pages  will help you create a positive image of yourself as an advocate.

Persistence Pays Off.Effective advocacy requires follow through. You must follow up to ensure that agreements reached are carried out and that promises made are promises kept.    Exercises  in this section will help you track and determine whether  agreements are actually implemented. 

     Exercises in this section will help you build skills to identify, define, solve and prevent problems.  You will also learn to set goals and objectives, analyze and track outcomes.  Skills in this section will empower you to make informed thoughtful decisions.  In other words, they will help you to know what to do, and give you the know how to do it.  In the process you will develop skills to gain more control over your life.

     Thank those who helped you.   Each one of us has worked with truly dedicated professionals and individuals who have become special friends and allies. Thank these special people in little ways -- flowers from your garden..., virtual flowers  from the web..., a special card, a note of praise to the firm, agency, or individual. Everybody likes to feel appreciated. Sometimes little kindness' can improve a previously “problem” relationship. 

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Copyright © 1998 Brain Injury Resource Center