What is Advocacy?
‘Advocacy’ means speaking up for someone and being their supportive spokesperson. The National Autistic Society says that: “Advocacy is a process of supporting and enabling people to express their views, to use information and services, to find out about options and make decisions, and to make sure their rights are respected.” (https://www.autism.org.uk/advocacy)
An ‘advocate’ makes sure that the needs, rights or views of a person are fairly represented and heard by the appropriate officials, decision-makers or other significant people. (In a different sense, certain legal professionals similar to barristers are also called ‘advocates’).
‘Gifted advocacy’ could involve writing letters on behalf of a young person with high learning potential. Or accompanying a learner with Dual and Multiple Exceptionality (DME)* in official meetings as they seek a challenging education at school – or for the resources to receive this in a home education setting.
‘Ambassadors’ can also advocate for an area in which they are passionate. This does not represent a specific individual, but supports a whole sector, such as maths education. Specifically representing youngsters with high learning potential, Potential Plus UK has a network of high-profile official Ambassadors, you can find more about them on the Our Experts page.
Self-Advocacy for Young People with High Learning Potential
Self-advocacy requires a child or young person with high learning potential to have a clear, calm understanding of themself, their needs and their learning ability. This must be coupled with an awareness of when and how to speak up – and with whom (parents, teachers, school governors, etc). These are skills that will need to be taught, possibly by a parent, responsible adult, teacher and/or using online resources such as those suggested below.
An alternative route to getting a young learner’s voice heard is for them to create or join a ‘student group‘ or ‘school council’.
Self-Advocacy Online Resources
- 4 steps to successful student self-advocacy: http://www.gtcarpediem.com/self-advocacy-overview
- Self-advocacy for all school ages: https://www.smartkidswithld.org/getting-help/raising-independent-kids/self-advocacy-strategies-ages/
- Self-Advocacy for Gifted Teens and Tweens: http://www.davidsongifted.org/search-database/entry/a10849
- Expert Deborah Douglas talks self-advocacy: www.giftedselfadvocacy.blogspot, and specifically http://giftedselfadvocacy.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-right-triangle_20.html
- The National Autism Society recommends this self-advocacy advice: https://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/self-advocacy
- Policy and general good practice from the Northern Ireland Department of Education: https://www.education-ni.gov.uk/articles/school-councils-and-pupil-participation
- Smart School Councils model: https://home.smartschoolcouncils.org.uk/
- Self Advocacy for Gifted Learners: https://tiltparenting.com/2018/09/18/episod-126-deb-douglas-on-self-advocacy-for-gifted-learners/
- MindMatters (Episode 8): A guide to Self-Advocacy: https://youtu.be/-pVYTdc5oOg
- School Councils
- CBBC presentation for younger viewers: http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/find_out/guides/uk/school_councils/newsid_3043000/3043237.stm
- The Power of Self-Advocacy for Gifted Learners: Teaching the Four Essential Steps to Success (Grades 5–12) by Deb Douglas
- Empowering Gifted Minds: Educational Advocacy That Works by Barbara Jackson Gilman
Parents or carers might be the most appropriate people to act as advocates for their child with high learning potential. This might entail being in contact with a school, (such as individual teachers, the head teacher, office staff, a SENCo, the board of governors), Ofsted or the local education authority. Home-educated children might need an advocate when liaising with the local authorities, council services, independent study groups or online tutors.
Children and young people with mental health problems, on the autism spectrum or who have any other form of Dual or Multiple Exceptionality (DME), for example, may well need advocacy by their parent or guardian when dealing with the local authorities, social services, health professionals or Educational Welfare Officer.
As well as these individual situations, some advocates find strength in creating or joining a parent ‘pressure group’ to reach out in numbers to the wider community.
Parent Advocacy Online Resources
How to Advocate for Your Child
- Potential Plus UK Advice sheets, including PA307, Working in Positive Partnership with Schools
Communicating effectively with the school: https://www.nagc.org/sites/default/files/Parent%20CK/Smutny%20Communicating%20Sept%202002%20PHP.pdf
- Tip sheet for working with the teacher: https://www.nagc.org/sites/default/files/Parent%20CK/NAGC-Classroom%20Advocacy-Tip%20Sheet-FINAL_0.pdf
- Caregivers are often the gifted’s best advocates: https://www.nagc.org/sites/default/files/Publication%20PHP/NAGC%20TIP%20Sheets-Advocating%20for%20Gifted%20Services-FINAL.pdf
- An ‘Advocacy Toolkit’; US-bias, but great pointers and downloadable Gifted Education Advocacy Power Point presentation: http://www.coloradogifted.org/advocacy.html
- Gifted Advocacy is an education! https://giftedchallenges.blogspot.com/2019/09/gifted-advocacy-is-education.html
- A gifted advocacy blog library at https://www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_gifted_advocacy.htm
- ‘Effective Advocates’ (for gifted children); a series of four columns by Dr Julia Link Robers and Tracy Ford Inman: https://www.nagc.org/sites/default/files/Advocacy/Advocacy_Articles_PHP.pdf
- Advocating for appropriate education for your child: https://www.txgifted.org/files/Advocating-for-Appropriate-Education.pdf
- Parent Support Groups
- https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources-parents/starting-sustaining-parent-group-support-gifted-children (eBook download)
- NAGC Webinar ‘Parent to Teacher Communication; Parent Advocacy’: https://youtu.be/zQV9cUnA4zU
- Gifted Minds Empowered: Advocacy to Develop Gifted Children’s Strengths, by Barbara Jackson Gilman
Teacher and School Advocacy
Now that there is no ‘right to funding’ for school Gifted and Talented programmes, teachers, head teachers or governors might need to advocate (to other teachers, heads of year, head teachers, governors or local authorities) for funding or people’s time with specialist clubs, study sessions or equipment, for example.
As schools increasingly form groups of academies, advocacy to Teaching Assistants, SENCos, teachers and senior managers has grown to include those within other learning establishments, as part of school-to-school discussions. There are many ways in which a teacher, SENCo or senior staff member might need to advocate for a young, high potential learner or their parent.
Teacher and School-Advocacy Online Resources
(Occasional US bias, but strong advice and experience that is relevant internationally.)
- ‘Toolbox’ to help school leaders respond to high-ability students’ learning needs: https://www.nagc.org/resources-publications/resources-administrators/administrator-toolbox
- Advocating for gifted programmes in your local schools: https://www.nagc.org/get-involved/advocate-high-ability-learners/advocating-gifted-programs-your-local-schools
- Caring for Gifted Parent Groups: http://www.nsgt.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/article_sheard_parent_groups.pdf
- Both sides of advocating for a gifted programme: https://www.nagc.org/sites/default/files/Publication%20CHP/Advocating%20for%20Gifted%20Programs%20in%20Your%20School%20CHP.pdf
- The Guide to High Learning Potential for Schools, from Potential Plus UK. (Includes information on how to advocate successfully.)
- Being Smart about Gifted Education: A Guidebook for Educators and Parents, by Dona Matthews and Joanne Foster
- Re-Forming Gifted Education: How Parents and Teachers Can Match the Program to the Child by Karen B. Rogers
DME / 2E
The term dual or multiple exceptionality (DME) is used in the UK to describe children who have both high learning potential and a special educational need (SEND) through a learning difficulty or disability. The USA uses the term 2E. the difficulty involved in advocating for a child with high learning potential multiplies when the child also has some form of special educational need or disability. Often, the special educational need becomes the focus for support and the high learning potential is ignored or remains unrecognised. Advocating for a child with DME can be hard. As part of Potential Plus UK’s membership, we offer a member only area which includes a group available to help support families of children with DME.
DME Online Resources
- The National Autistic Society writes about advocacy https://www.autism.org.uk/advocacy
- The ‘2e’ – Twice Exceptional Newsletter’, Advocacy edition http://2enewsletter.com/topic_resources_Advocacy.html
- Voiceability and NHS England’s ‘STOMP – Top Tips for Advocates’ includes help for those with autistic spectrum disorders and sensory or communication impairments https://www.voiceability.org/for-professionals/stomp
- ‘Gifted Ed, Some Advocacy, More’; Australia’s Teacher Magazine interviewed a professor of educational psychology and exceptional learning: https://2eresource.com/2020/01/27/gifted-ed-some-advocacy-more/
- Education professionals’ advocacy for gifted students with autism spectrum disorder; downloadable dissertation: https://scholarworks.wm.edu/etd/1463428512/
- ‘STOMP – Top Tips for Advocates’ from Voiceability and the NHS includes ASD support: https://voiceability.org/uploads/STOMP_Advocacy_Guide.pdf
- Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide, 2nd Edition, by Peter W. D. Wright and Pamela Darr Wright
- Guide to Special Education Advocacy: What Parents, Clinicians and Advocates Need to Know by Matthew Cohen
Highly Gifted Advocacy
Some children are very significantly advanced in their cognitive abilities, setting them even more apart from other children their age. The characteristics and difficulties associated with high learning potential children are even more extreme in children who are exceptionally or profoundly gifted.
Exceptionally gifted children are those with cognitive abilities in the top 0.1% of the population (or 1 in 1000) and profoundly gifted children are those with cognitive abilities in the top 0.03% of the population (or 1 in 3333).
Early development means that these exceptionally advanced children acquire and process information very quickly, affecting their cognitive and social development. Many suffer from social isolation due to the lack of a suitable peer group with whom to relate and feel an overwhelming pressure to conform.
Highly Gifted Online Resources
- Profoundly and Exceptionally Gifted Youth advocacy: http://pegy.org.uk/advocacy.html.
- A growing international network for the highly and profoundly gifted: https://giftedconsortium.com/advocacy/
- Excellent handbook; US bias, but nationality-free principles and valuable resources: http://print.ditd.org/young_scholars/Guidebooks/Davidson_Guidebook_Advocating.pdf
Gifted Advocacy Events Internationally
- Potential Plus UK publishes a full calendar of events held by themselves and related organisations. These link parents and young people with high learning potential nationally with some events that may have an advocacy focus: Potential Plus UK Events Calendar
- In the UK, the National Development Team for Inclusion hold an annual Advocacy Awareness Week, (although not specifically for gifted children): https://www.ndti.org.uk/advocacy-awareness-week/
- ‘Gifts and Talents, Values for the Future’ conference in partnership with the APCS – Portuguese Association for Gifted Children:
- The World Council for Gifted and Talented Children hosts a Biennial World Conference at a major international city: https://world-gifted.org/wcgtc-world-conference/
- The National Association for Gifted Children (in the USA) hold an annual NAGC Leadership & Advocacy Conference: https://netforum.avectra.com/eWeb/DynamicPage.aspx WebCode=EventDetail&evt_key=52e343cd-a961-4105-baeb-0a84c711cdb7
- Gifted Awareness Week, Australia, is a major event to promote understanding and inclusion: http://gaw.aaegt.net.au/
- Bright and Quirky online summit; ‘making life better for bright kids with ADHD, Autism, Anxiety or learning differences’: https://brightandquirky.com/summit-2020-2/