By Charlotte Des Jardins

Book Review by Julie M. Accola
AEHA Quarterly, Winter 93-Spring 94

How to Get Services by Being ASSERTIVE is a book by Charlotte Des Jardins.  It is available only from Family Resource Center on Disabilities, 20 East Jackson Boulevard, Room 900, Chicago, Illinois 60604, 800/952-4199(US) or 312/939-3513.  1993, paperback, 208 pages.  $5(US) plus shipping.

If you’re trying to obtain educational services for a child with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), How to Get Services by Being ASSERTIVE is a “must have”, even though it does not specifically mention MCS.  Because it’s written frankly and from the parent perspective, this book fills a need not met by other materials.

I shared this book with a parent of children with MCS, and she rated it excellent and lamented that she hadn’t had it a year ago to give her confidence, information, and step-by-step guidance she needed.

The book, often used as a textbook for parent advocacy training, contains sections on how to determine your style, use assertiveness at special education meeting hearings, (due process hearings, etc.), deal with bureaucrats and public officials, and much more.  Especially helpful are the assertiveness exercises on topics such as “Using their Negatives to Build Your Positives”, and “How to Shovel Your Way Out of Those Bureaucratic Snow Jobs”. 

The book does a good job summarizing special education law and available resources without becoming bogged down in these topics; information is provided on how to obtain copies of the laws (US).  A few case studies by parents and who eventually won services for handicapped children provides inspiration.

Some key messages from the book:

Be assertive rather than aggressive.

Keep to the topic of your child’s special needs; don’t let officials get off on tangents  about your child’s behaviour, schools’ lack of money, etc.

Learn your rights by becoming familiar with laws pertaining to the disabled.

Be persistent.

Make requests in writing.

Keep logs of all contacts with the school system and others.

Reprinted with permission from The Human Ecologist, Summer 1993, P.O. Box 49126, Atlanta, GA, 30359-1126, (404) 248-1898.