Advocacy is taking action to help people say what they want, secure their rights, represent their interests and obtain services they need.
Advocates work in partnership with the people they support and they take their side. Self-advocates speak for themselves or for someone else in the same situation, for example, other people on the autism spectrum.
Some advocates specialise in helping specific groups of people, such as people with mental health needs or people on the autism spectrum. Some advocates specialise in helping people with specific issues such as education or disability benefits.
Some advocates work for independent organisations as paid members of staff or as unpaid volunteers. They may provide advocacy as a separate, standalone service or they may provide advocacy as part of a wider package of support. They may also train their clients so that they learn how to advocate for themselves.
There is currently very limited research evidence on advocacy and self-advocacy for people on the autism spectrum or their parents and carers. The studies we identified varied enormously in terms of the type of advocacy provided, the type of study used and the evidence that each study presented. For example:
There are a number of reports (Scottish Executive, 2006; National Institute for Mental Health in England, 2008) which provide best-practice guidelines on advocacy for people with complex needs. We believe that anyone providing advocacy for people on the autism spectrum, or their parents or carers, should follow those guidelines.
We also believe that further research should:
Please read our Disclaimer on Autism Interventions