From the Editor

Do you experience many emotions when dealing with the school system in advocating for your child? Sometimes we parents forget to be respectful to school staff when we are advocating for our kids. This can lead to emotionally charged phone calls, emails, and meetings where not much is accomplished.

When advocating for my son, I have learned that clear, respectful, detailed, communication helps so much towards achieving a goal for him. Starbridge has many sample letters available on our website to give you an idea of how to communicate for different situations: See them here.

Wishing you successful and productive educational advocacy!

Best to you and yours,

Maria Schaertel

Educational Advocacy

Education is the Foundation for a Child's Life

The learning opportunities and resources young learners have at their disposal pave the way for a successful future. A quality education can lead to better employment opportunities, higher salaries, and a prosperous life. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), professionals who have a bachelor’s degree make approximately $20,000 more than those who’ve completed high school with no college education. 

Unfortunately, not all children are on equal footing when it comes to education. Some children have learning disabilities, go to school in underfunded school districts, or experience educational disparities that put them at an early disadvantage to their peers. Education advocacy aims to address these issues and others so that all children get an equal opportunity to learn and be successful.  

By understanding the role that advocacy plays in the American education system, teachers and parents can coordinate their efforts so that children get the resources they need.


Effective Communication Tips

Advocacy is a skill that combines knowledge, good judgment and creative problem solving. Building skills for advocacy also requires building and promoting the ability to engage with a wide range of people. To engage with others effectively, communication is needed!


To communicate with impact, the goal is to: obtain what is appropriate, create opportunities for success, establish relationships, and to establish and continue negotiations.


Negotiation is a method by which people settle differences. It is the process of discussing something with someone in order to reach an agreement.


How to prepare for communicating and negotiating

Be aware of your emotions. Feelings can influence the way people overcome conflict, reach agreement, and create value! Emotional control can play an important role in successful communication and negotiations.


Realize that teams will have rough spots. Know what your “hot buttons” are – what triggers your emotions? Also, examine your assumptions. By being aware of hot buttons and assumptions, we can be more effective team members.


Be aware that:

  • Everyone is an individual
  • Personalities can be a distinct challenge in any interaction.
  • We all have our own opinions and, at times, our own agendas.
  • We all have different communication styles.


Successful communication is….

The ability to listen, without interference, to the message being delivered.


Discussing a concept in an open, receptive manner that allows both sides to hear and understand the message and appropriately respond to that message in a constructive way.


Assuring that discussion points are presented clearly so that the issue is accurately understood.


Understanding that communication is not limited to what we can hear. It includes body language - messages or responses sent through facial expressions, eyes and body. Correctly interpreting body language is challenging, yet necessary to accurately understand the message delivered by the sender.


We may not always agree. It is not the fact that we disagree; it is HOW we disagree that makes all the difference in good communication.


Adapted from “Families as Advocates: Your role at the CSE” workshop, by Family Support Service Program Coordinator Maritza Cubi

Considering Cultural Differences in Communication

Pace yourself when you speak. This allows those who have a different native language time to interpret what you are saying.


Try speaking clearly and concisely. Avoid using ambiguous or dual-meaning words. One of the problems with the English language is the many meanings one word can have. For example, “object” can mean a thing, such as a box, or it can mean you disagree with something.


A smile can go a long way towards expressing openness. Your body language communicates your acceptance - or non-acceptance - and respect, as it helps put listeners at ease.


A word of caution when using slang; slang words are unique to individual cultures and not always interpreted correctly.


Be aware when using humor that what is funny in one culture might not be in another.


Try using a formal communication approach until you develop a rapport with the person or group.


Double negatives are confusing enough to those with English as their native language. In a cross-cultural situation, double negatives are easily misunderstood.


Remember to ask for feedback. When you encourage two-way communication, this helps prevent misunderstandings and clears up questions people might have.


It’s helpful to summarize what you have said. Don't assume that just because you said it, everyone understands. Repeat what you have said in a different way and allow people the time to grasp what you have said. By summarizing what you have said, you can verify that everyone is on the same page.


Adapted from How to Use Good Communication Skills for Cross-Cultural Diversity


If an interpreter is being used, make sure you connect with the individual too and not only the interpreter. Pausing and asking for feedback throughout the conversation helps clarify and makes the person feel included.


It is important to look at the person directly, smile, and check for understanding throughout the conversation.

Acknowledgement, being flexible, and showing empathy and respect goes a long way towards having effective communication!


From Maritza Cubi, Starbridge Family Support Service Program Coordinator

Starbridge Educational Advocacy Services

At Starbridge, we partner with families, youth, and schools to access appropriate solutions and open up possibilities.

If you are looking for information or seeking support in addressing educational needs for a student who has a disability or suspected disability, Starbridge Family Education Specialists and Advocates are here for you. We educate and empower you to advocate on behalf of your children. Our goals are to improve educational outcomes and build positive family-school relationships.

Please use the Contact Us form or call us at 585-224-7359 and leave a message. Our Intake Coordinator will call you back to ask for information about you or the person you are calling about (if you are phoning for someone else) and can connect you with further resources or staff.

See our website for more!

Additional Resources

From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide - pdf with excerpts from the book


Wrightslaw – information about special education law

Special Education in Plain Education


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