by Sarah Lopez Sequenzia

Making Your Case

Making Your Case is an easy to follow training designed to teach people how to effectively educate legislators and policymakers. It was developed as a Partners in Policymaking class project and is distributed through the Minnesota Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities. You can access the training and materials online via this link: www.bit.ly/makecase

Having a voice on the really big decisions that impact our kids is a lot easier than you might think. It’s not rocket science. Government officials, legislators, agency heads, and school board members, all want and need our opinions. This course is a great way to learn exactly how to be involved and impact those big decisions.

As a parent and an advocate, I am frequently told things similar to “Wow! You are so good!”, or “I couldn’t have done this without you!”. Well thank you, but neither of these sentiments is really true.

I am definitely not “good” but chose to educate myself on how best to help my daughter and other children like her. I was taught by a long line of local advocates like Sandra Osborne, Carolyn Tavel, Pam Lindeman, and Kathy Becht. And they weren’t “good” either, they learned advocacy skills from someone else. The point of this is that you can learn too! You can do this yourself! As the parent of a child with disabilities, you are their best advocate! You have to be their advocate to be able to teach them to advocate for themselves as they grow up!

Making Your Case, in my opinion, is the simplest way to begin advocating on a much larger scale. Why? Because it is all about your story, your experience, the needs of your child, or how the current rules and laws impact your child and/or family. All you have to do is formulate your story and share it with the legislator or policy maker.

Here is an example: Let’s say that the Florida Legislature is considering passing a bill on education. Your State representative can choose to vote for or against the bill. They can even stand up before the other legislators and argue why they are for or against the bill. A simple letter to the representative explaining the needs of your child, and how this bill would impact his or her education may very likely influence their decision. And if they are going to speak publicly on the bill then you are helping them by allowing them to share your story.

Legislators can’t stand up and say, “Please vote for (or against) this bill because I want you to”. No one would care! But if they stand up and say, “I am asking you to vote for this bill because back home in my District there is the “Jones” family. Mrs. Jones has a son with disabilities who works very hard every day to keep up with the other kids in class. He’s an engaging little boy who loves comic books and baseball. He just wants to be like other boys and girls and enjoy the same opportunities. Mrs. Jones told me in a beautiful letter that passing this bill would allow her son to access those opportunities on a more frequent basis. So please, for Mrs. Jones and her son, vote Yes on this bill!”.

As you can see, the legislator in the example above NEEDS the personal story of Mrs. Jones and her son to be able to effectively persuade the other representatives to vote the way he or she wants. They need us!

How do you learn how to formulate your story and share it with the legislators, or school board, members, or the head of the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD)? Take the Making Your Case online course! It’s free. It’s easy. And it really works!

Here is the link again for your convenience: www.bit.ly/makecase