Meet Delma Suber!
When Delma Suber’s 10-year-old son was diagnosed with autism, her entire world shifted. Forced to advocate for her son in a school system with many roadblocks — Suber had to start from square one. “I didn’t really know what to do,” she said. “There wasn’t a blueprint; I just learned as I went.”
Her battle began as soon as her son’s school learned about the diagnosis. Immediately, Suber felt a shift in the way he was viewed, especially as a minority child. After noticing the changes, she was determined to transform the dynamic. Her first step was creating what she calls a “parent toolkit”, which assisted her in becoming an advocate.
Despite its name, Suber’s toolkit wasn’t necessarily a physical resource — but a mental journal that she used to handle sticky situations. She called upon a few friends and family who worked within the school system, and asked for their advice on all-things-education. “Reaching out to these people helped me get equipped to advocate for my son,” she added. “My resources in education taught me how to speak their language — but most importantly, how to let the school know I meant business.” Her mental toolkit also consisted of other key knowledge, such as how to maintain professionalism during the initial approach to staff.
As a Parent Advocate, Suber’s hope is that her groundwork at EmpowerED Families will give other parents a much-needed confidence boost. “We may be in a pandemic, but education does not stop,” she emphasized. “Show up at school meetings and advocate for your child. Let teachers know that you’re present, active, and visible!”
Meet Iris Blanco!
Iris Blanco, mother of three children, didn’t quite realize the importance of parent advocacy until she moved to Indiana back in 2016. To her surprise, she encountered a school-related dilemma almost immediately. “I didn’t know how to enroll my kids in school, and I couldn’t figure out who to ask or where to go,” Blanco noted. “I went to the closest school to my home, and they looked at me like I was crazy!”
According to her, the standoffish response she received from school staff was a result of her visible confusion. In addition to the unfriendly attitudes she encountered — she was still left with no information about how to enroll in public school. Though Blanco had family in Indiana, their children were enrolled in private education. “I couldn’t afford that, so it wasn’t an option for me,” she said. With no external help, she took it upon herself to conduct the research. It took many hours on the Internet to finally figure it out. Her determination, however, got her children in the door.
As a social worker within the school system, it quickly dawned on Blanco that a plethora of distrust toward schools existed among parents. She realized that parents didn’t feel they had a voice, and even when they attempted to use it — they never felt heard. “I was very disheartened to hear their stories,” Blanco said. “I realized that so many of these families were going through the same issues.”
Blanco’s personal experiences as a mother and social worker fuel her desire to serve as a EmpowerED Families Parent Advocate. She hopes that over time, other parents can let go of the fear of speaking up — a principle that she had to learn herself.
Stay Tuned for the next installment in our Parent Advocate Spotlight series!
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