Policy Matters Blog

At the Heart of Advocacy

This blog is the first in a series of posts from GPR Committee members that will be in conversation with one another. Have a question for the GPR Committee about advocacy? Let us know

When you really love something, it’s almost hard to remember that moment it began for you. And I suppose there are some that will counter with, I slowly fell in love with whatever “it” is. Advocating for children as a volunteer leader of NASP has become such an important part of my professional identity that it’s still personally motivating when I share #MyAdvocacyStory. 

It was my first official day as a young and eager school psychologist. I remember all the feelings and nerves of the opening day of school. So when the principal asked me to help with a little girl who had run out of the building and climbed the tree outside, I remember thinking, “Here we go!” I also remember thinking, “I have no idea what to do, and they never covered this in grad school!” As I recall, this frightened little girl (who we later diagnosed with autism for reasons unrelated to tree climbing) responded well to my patience and calm persistence that she use my office when upset. But despite our connection on day one, she climbed this tree every day that week.  

It was only when I marched into the principal’s office and told him that we needed to cut all the lower branches of the tree over the weekend did I recognize that advocacy might be my jam.  

Too often we assume that advocacy is joining some national debate that involves poring over thousands of pages of legal language that seem removed from our daily work. Some of it is this work, and federal and state policy 100% impact our jobs and the lives of our students, and that’s why NASP has the member benefit of a Director of Policy and Advocacy and a GPR Committee who monitor federal and state actions. But advocacy is also “the act of speaking on the behalf of or in support of another person.” 

I realized that the very first step in my advocacy journey was to find the courage to speak up. If you are wondering, I wasn’t even sure my idea was going to work; for all I knew, she could have run from the school after we altered the routine, but I truly believed that changing the setting of this behavior was going to be a more effective intervention than suspension (which was mentioned several times by school professionals). Fortunately, it worked perfectly, and she found more interest in my office than the tree. 

Now go back and take the sentence, “I truly believed that changing _____ was going to be a more effective intervention than ______” and substitute what you are passionate and professionally knowledgeable about as a school psychologist. This is the heart of advocacy and the first step in your advocacy story. 

Mental health was a crisis before the pandemic. Marginalized communities pay the heaviest price as inequalities in learning widen. For the foreseeable future, school will be a struggle for many. Your advocacy as a school psychologist is critical in developing solutions for our children.  

Now, take to social media and tell me how YOU speak up for children using #MyAdvocacyStory and #NASPadvocates. 

And to my fellow GPR bloggers: When did you first feel called to be an advocate? 

Finally, don’t ever forget school psychologists are here to help, it’s what we do!