Committing to Advocacy

By Laurie Klose, Ph.D, NASP GPR Committee Member, Texas NASP Delegate

In September of this year, I committed to engaging in at least one act of professional advocacy each week and keeping track of these activities in a log.  I was nervous about making this commitment because I have the common belief that "advocacy" is something that requires a lot of time and planning and is an extra responsibility.  However, I realized that I frequently ask other professionals to engage in advocacy for school psychology and I needed to fully understand what I was asking others to do. 

Week one:  A task force has been created in our state to work with legislators regarding the sunsetting  of the statute that governs the practice of school psychology.  As part of this task force, I am assisting in the development of one page documents that inform legislators about the context of each of the "asks" that our state association is putting forth. I wrote up my one pager regarding including the practice model in the statute using resources from the NASP website and I provided feedback on the documents created by other members of the task force.  Excellent advocacy activity- was completed at home, required about 2 hours of time, utilized resources already available, provided important support for school psychology.

Week two:  This week's activity would fall under "seized opportunity".  I was meeting with the Vice President for Academic Affairs of our university and I had the chance to engage him in the elevator chat about school psychology.  He had no idea who we are or what we do.  Now, he does. He also has an introductory understanding of the challenges facing school psychology in the near future, including shortages, and how university training programs can impact the future emotional, behavioral and academic well-being of children.  Excellent advocacy activity- visibility increased, critical initiative presented, seed that we need more capacity to train graduate students planted.

Week three:  This week's activity was the most emotionally challenging so far.  I shared information about the NASP Practice Model and the Implementation Toolkit with a colleague who is resistant to the model as the standard for the provision of school psychological services.  I found this person's negativity and need to remain focused on an antiquated idea about the provision of school psychological services very frustrating.  Given that this person is in a position to exert some influence, I held the course.  I don't know how successful this was.  However, I know that without the interaction, this person would not have been aware of the toolkit for implementing the practice model, so I am taking that as a small victory and committing to using all my consultation skills to try and move this colleague's thinking in a direction that is more consistent with evidence-based practice.

Week four:  Woohoo! State Professional Development Convention!  Lots of advocacy work accomplished.  Most important were conversations with our legislative liaison and the executive director of our licensing agency.  Important plans and pathways were developed to support our efforts in the sunset process.  Excellent advocacy activity- professional connections cultivated, interagency cooperation encouraged, messaging tweaked, key stakeholders identified, practicing school psychologists informed and encouraged to participate in advocacy activities.

Week five:  This week I voted in my state organization election.  That may seem like a small thing, but exercising one's vote is actually the most basic form of advocacy that there is.  In order to have effective leadership, stakeholders have to be willing to elect those who represent their interests.  If we choose not to vote, we effectively give up our power.  From local elections to professional organization elections to state and national elections, voting is critically important.  I hold those who receive my vote accountable to representation of my interests.  When my preferred candidate is not elected, I seek to educate and inform the elected official regarding resources and information that are consistent with my interests.  By engaging in this process, I contribute to the direction of legislation, governance and leadership.  It all begins with a vote.  Excellent advocacy activity- voting.

Week six: This week I provided public comment on the revision of several rules that regulate the practice of school psychology.  This is a critically important activity to the profession.  There are a number of rules being proposed that could have significant unintended negative consequences on the practice of school psychology, especially as related to the shortage of professionals in the state.  The licensing board cannot be expected to understand every possible outcome of rule revision.  That is one reason that the public comment period is part of the process.  The 30 day period allows interested and affected individuals to provide feedback so that the resulting rules can do what they are supposed to do, which is ensure that the public is protected.  When school psychologists do not engage in this process, the rulemakers cannot know if they are on the right track.  Again, this activity was easy to do from my own home and took less than an hour. Excellent advocacy activity- providing guidance to those who regulate the profession. So there is the first six weeks of my advocacy commitment.

What have I learned?

  • A lot of advocacy can been done from home.  For those that are uncomfortable with the idea of meeting with elected or appointed government officials, there are many other ways to engage in advocacy for the profession.
  • It can take a little or a lot of time.  If you have a lot of time to give to advocacy activities, give it. If you don't, look for opportunities to promote the profession or to engage in activities where there are guidelines provided by others  such as  using the NASP advocacy action center or similar resources through your state organization.
  • Look for unexpected opportunities.  When consulting with my resistant colleague and meeting with the university vice president, my primary reason for the interaction was unrelated to advocacy for the profession.  However, the opportunity arose and I grabbed it.  Being ready for these opportunities is critical for engaging in effective advocacy.  Reviewing the key messages, key initiatives and resources available through NASP provides the preparation.