Introduction to Advocacy
What is ADHD advocacy?
Advocacy is the promotion of ideas and issues that are important to you and your family to governments, media and the general public. More than just making people aware of your concerns, advocacy is about persuading policy makers to act in your favour.
Many of us already advocate for ourselves and others on a regular basis without thinking about it (e.g. whenever participating in a job interview). When it comes to issues related to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the subject matter is more complex, the audience often less informed and the cost of inaction far greater to the individuals involved.
As an organization, CADDAC assists individuals with their advocacy efforts on a daily basis. Equally important, CADDAC advocates on systemic issues such as more educational supports for students with ADHD and increased access to treatment options, as well as increasing government awareness of the socioeconomic costs of undiagnosed and untreated ADHD. We do this through written policy submissions to governments, meetings with elected officials, interviews with media that may influence policy makers, and other efforts.
This work takes time as our voice is just one among many seeking policy change. Further, governments have a process for decision making that also takes time. Some changes require legislation with new laws or amendments to specific rules called regulations. It can be many months for legislation to be passed, allowing ample time for public and political debate. However, some changes can be made that do not require new laws and those changes can be made more quickly. It may take many months or years though to prompt governments to take any action at all.
Our voice is strengthened with support from members and like-minded individuals speaking in unison. CADDAC has prepared this Advocacy Tool Kit to assist you in your own advocacy, both individually and in conjunction with broad campaigns initiated by our organization. We remain available for answers and advice to help you in your advocacy efforts.
To realize success, advocacy requires a commitment to continuously advancing your issues, presenting a clear request for change known as an “ask” backed by strong arguments and evidence and a critical mass of support for your position.
Why advocate for ADHD?
One of the ways in which CADDAC serves the community is through our public advocacy of issues affecting individuals and families living with ADHD. But our efforts are enhanced with the active participation of our supporters, to the benefit of us all.
It is important to engage in advocacy because decision-makers react to those who most effectively bring their issues to the forefront of the public agenda. All governments have competing interests and concerns that must be addressed, as well as their own policy priorities and financial limitations. Those who can best engage in this process will have their voices heard. Those who choose not to engage will have no say in decisions that could fundamentally impact their lives.
We advocate, then, for the purposes of protecting and promoting our interests. If this sounds crass, consider that there are plenty of other organizations and individuals that are willing to fill the void that would be created by our absence from the public debate. There is also a responsibility to speak up for not only ourselves but for others like us who may not be able to. We must therefore be prepared to act, for ourselves, our families – especially our children – and our community.
How to advocate
There are a number of ways in which you can advocate, depending on the issue you are pursuing, whether you are participating in a larger CADDAC campaign or advancing something on your own, whether it is a national or local issue and whether you are advocating proactively in support of a policy or reactively against a policy that has been recently announced.
Some of the specific steps that may be considered as part of an advocacy effort include:
- Writing a letter to your elected representative(s) or more senior officials
- Attending a meeting with your elected representative(s)
- Drafting a petition to government and securing signatories
- Writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper
- Attending a government organized public consultation or “town hall meeting”
- Urging your family or friends to support your effort by calling or writing local politicians themselves
- Writing local candidates at election time asking for their opinions on issues you care about
- Joining CADDAC led advocacy campaigns