I didn't really think I'd need to put any effort into advocacy for Monkey. I mean, he's four - what advocating can be done at four? He's in a play-based preschool, and Taekwondo is purely learning physical discipline. Not hard to pull that together. Plus, we're homeschoolers, which means I am his teacher, principal and aide, so who do I need to advocate with? But last night, I was popping in and out of #gtchat, and I realized that I'm going to need to be doing a lot more advocating than I thought.
Firstly, with external classes. I can't teach this child everything. Eventually, he's going to need more than I can give, and in the sciences department, I can see that point coming sooner rather than later. But, honestly, if his interest level keeps up, I'm going to need to find an anatomy and physiology professor who is willing to take on an 8 year old. Not likely at any bracket, but especially trying to later convince a university professor to take on a 10 year old. Good luck. I'll need practice before I get to that point, and things like getting him into academics-lite courses via the park district seems a good place to start. Something we're not so attached to that if my efforts fail, it's a catastrophe, and a place to start so that when I do need to talk to a professor, I can do so capably.
Then there's neighbors. People automatically assume that all children of the same age/grade are alike. As I use Monkey's chronological age to drive what grade he's in (our homeschool junior-kindergarten curriculum ran the gamut of K-3, and our senior kindergarten will likely go K-4), people assume he's just like other kindergarteners. This afternoon, however, he explained to his Hammie why blood cells are bright red versus purple-y, and what makes the difference - including using the word "oxygenation" - and where the oxygen goes once it leaves the blood, and how it gets reoxygenated. Not a 'normal' kindergartener in any respect. However, when people approach him expecting an average 4-5yo child, it will be my job to jump in and make sure everything goes moderately well. This happens with his doctor as well - often Monkey's words are discounted in favor of my own, which is useful at times, but when I'm trying to teach him to tell the doctor himself what hurts, aches, or just feels off, it's difficult when the doctor simply talks over him or ignores him. So, more advocacy it is.
Lastly, there is family. Family, oddly as it seems, is either all-or-nothing. People either understand that Monkey is simultaneously 4 years old physically, 9 years old cognitively, and 2 years old emotionally... or they don't grok the concept at all. It is especially frustrating when you consider that we often spend time with people who just don't get it. Because Monkey is intellectually capable of more, they expect that he will behave "appropriately" for his cognitive age - even at the park, or while playing outside, or determining if he can wait until after dinner for a sucker. They don't understand that his emotional development lags behind, and that he is often not at all capable, no matter how much he wants to, of performing to their expectations. Where advocacy comes in... that's where I need to work harder. People are fond of calling Monkey out on his faults, because it seems he's not trying - he's not matching up to his intellectual, or even chronological, age - therefore he must be simply being belligerent. I need to do a better job of stepping in and explaining that NO. This is not a reasonable expectation for him, and we need to adjust accordingly. I don't care if he just told you that he had bacteria in his system causing him to have a cough, that doesn't mean he's not going to run off exploring at the dinosaur museum.
Really, advocacy seems to be part and parcel of any parent's life, but especially if you have children who are not normal across the board. And it's something I need to work on, because as it stands, I haven't fully found my footing or even my confidence. But, knowing it's something that needs work is half the battle, and it gives me the chance to really think about it, and try to get it together for Monkey... and for me.