Parent Advocacy - Strength in Numbers

One of the best ways to advocate for your child and a strong gifted program in your school is to join a parents' group or organize other gifted parents into a group. As the old adage goes, there is always strength in numbers. Parents' groups are more likely to influence school administrators and school boards when they speak with one voice. This involves communication, organization, and co-operation on the part of parents.

The first step is to talk with other parents in your child's school to determine if a group already exists. If you are new to a district, you can contact the director of special education for information. You can also check the school district's website or your state's department of education website. Information may also be found online at the National Association for Gifted Children where state organizations are listed by state.

If you cannot find a local group but do find one at the state level, investigate the possibility of starting your own group. Talk to other parents to determine the level of interest. Express the benefits to these parents and then decide if you want to proceed. It has been my experience that once a parent initiates the formation of such a group, most people will look forward to joining in when they see the value of the group.

As stated earlier, communicaiton, organization, and co-operation are key to successful parent advocacy groups. Begin by gathering contact information. This can be as simple as asking gifted parents you know for their email address. However, in some situations this can be a daunting task due to privacy laws. Most parents will be happy to share this information. Another way to start the process is to contact your district's special education director, gifted co-ordinator, or gifted teacher. Print an invitation for parents to meet together and discuss the formation of the group. Ask the school district to distribute it to gifted students. If your district already provides meeting space to other outside groups such as the PTA or a band booster club, they should also provide your group a place to meet. Depending upon the response you get, this initial meeting can also take place at someone's house or a local restaurant with a meeting room.

Most state gifted organizations provide guidelines for organizing a local group or chapter. This information can be found on their website either as a download or through the mail. When this resource isn't available and your group decides to organize on their own, simply utilize organizational information from any state gifted site you find online through a search engine.

Finally, co-operation between parents can determine the effectiveness of your group. It is human nature for a parent to be concerned primarily about their own child or children. However, once they realize how much more influence the group can have on what the school district is willing to provide, they should see the benefit to supporting all gifted children.

A strong parents' advocacy group can mean a strong gifted program. By working together parents can foster a good relationship with teachers and school administrators. This ultimately should be the goal of all parents of gifted children.