Helping sibs advocate for people with intellectual disabilities

Brothers and sisters across the country are realizing that they can make a difference on behalf of their siblings with intellectual disabilities. Do you want the world to recognize all of the talents that individuals with disabilities have? Is there an injustice that you want to correct? Perhaps you are looking to become more involved in the lives of people with disabilities through volunteer service?

If you are having these ideas and feelings, you can become an advocate of people with disabilities. Advocates spread the truth, correct misconceptions, and stand up for the things they believe in. There are countless ways that you can become an advocate for disabilities.


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  • educate others in casual conversation
  • volunteer
  • contact the media
  • hold a fundraiser

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  • forget to use people-first language and encourage others to do the same
  • overlook the need for a Best Buddies program at school
  • underestimate the power of your voice
  • assume legislators won’t listen

[publishpress_authors_data]'s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do educate others in casual conversation

In your everyday contact with friends, teachers and others, you can offer additional information when people make inaccurate statements about someone with disabilities. When you casually add some facts to the conversation, you help to educate others without making a big deal about it.

Do volunteer

Advocate by volunteering for an organization that helps individuals with disabilities. By volunteering, you are sending the message to others in the community that you believe people with disabilities should have social and athletic opportunities, just like everyone else. For example, a popular organization that always needs volunteers is Special Olympics. Visit to check out their activities. Additionally, there are many other organizations in your local community that needs volunteers.

Do contact the media

Did a local TV reporter or newspaper journalist write an article about disabilities that you agreed with? If so, you can often find their email addresses at the bottom of the articles or on their web pages. Send them an email and let them know what you liked about their reporting. Reporters enjoy receiving positive feedback, and they will be more apt to write other articles in the future with this feedback.

If a reporter missed something, or if you disagree with their piece, be sure to let them know. Newspapers sometimes run corrections; but more importantly, you will be educating reporters so they are more accurate the next time they report on the topic.

Do hold a fundraiser

Many local groups raise money for research, educational opportunities and social inclusion for individuals with disabilities. You can join their mission by helping to raise money of your own. Contact local groups and ask if they have any upcoming fundraisers that could use your help. If not, consider holding your own fundraiser to support a national disability organization. For example, you could sell cookies or lemonade, participate in a walk or fun run, or sponsor a dance-a-thon, just to name a few.

[publishpress_authors_data]'s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not forget to use people-first language and encourage others to do the same

People can sometimes knowingly or unknowingly use hurtful words in describing people with disabilities. You probably hear people using the “r” word from time to time. Or you may hear them saying something such as, “That Down’s girl…” rather than, “That girl with Down syndrome…” Be sure to model good vocabulary in your speech and writing, and you will be surprised how contagious your example will be. You can make a big difference just by choosing the words you use and modeling sensitivity to people with disabilities. How you describe your brother or sister with disabilities will set the stage for how other people view him or her.

Do not overlook the need for a Best Buddies program at school

Have you ever noticed students with disabilities sitting at their own table during lunch? Maybe you feel that others kids in school rarely spend time with the students who have learning differences. Some brothers and sisters across the country have tried to change this by starting a Best Buddies program at their schools.

This program matches each participating student with a disability with a “buddy” in school who doesn’t have a disability. The buddies participate in fun group activities after school or out in the community, such as bowling or attending movies. The purpose of this program is to promote friendship and awareness by helping kids with disabilities develop more relationships and opening the eyes of classmates. For information on how to start a Best Buddies program at your school, visit

Do not underestimate the power of your voice

Is there something that is bugging you about how people treat your brother or sister with disabilities? Is there something that you learned from your sibling that you want to share with your community? Consider writing an editorial for your local newspaper. Your voice is powerful, and newspapers love to receive opinion pieces from young people. If you are interested, call your newspaper and ask how you can submit an editorial or a letter to the editor. You also may be able to find this information online at the paper’s website. Find out how many words you are limited to and where to send your submission.

Next, write down your thoughts and consider asking a trusted person to give you some feedback. Send it to the newspaper, as they have instructed, and you might see your article in print or online. Also, consider writing an article to your school newspaper.

Do not assume legislators won’t listen

Sometimes, there are important issues that require the help and support of lawmakers. Don’t let the thought of contacting legislators scare you. In fact, they like to hear from young people. You can find the contact information for your local and national legislators online. Write or call them and share your concerns. For example, some siblings have written to their congressmen about the fact that their brothers or sisters are not allowed to graduate or about the need to create more educational opportunities for their siblings. Sometimes, legislators use their influence to make quick changes. Consequently, it is important to make your voice heard by your elected officials.


Don’t be afraid to use your creative skills in advocating for individuals with disabilities. The ideas are endless. Just remember that even though you are just one person, you can make a difference. People will listen. Changes can be made.

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