Any child with a disability or special needs must learn how to find the assistance they need from the world around them as they become independent adults. Self-advocacy skills include your child being familiar with their own strengths and weaknesses, knowing exactly what to ask for, and knowing exactly how to ask for what they need. In other words, your child must learn to advocate for themselves. Teaching your child self-advocacy skills now is a great way to ensure that they will be able to take control of their environment when they become adults.
What Does Self-Advocacy Mean?
Self-advocacy means communicating your needs and desires to others who can provide assistance. This relies on an important set of skills, including:
- Speaking up for yourself when you need help.
- Communicating your needs and desires in a straightforward and understandable manner.
- Being able to listen to other people’s opinions, even if they’re different from yours.
- Having self-respect.
- Having self-control.
- Taking responsibility for yourself.
- Knowing the rights you’re entitled to.
- Knowing where to get help or who to ask questions to.
How to Teach Self-Advocacy Skills
A great place to teach your child self-advocacy skills is at their IEP meetings. You can even simply have your child the beginning of the meeting without having to be present for the whole thing. Simply involving your child in their IEP meetings will help them to learn about the impact of their disability, what assistance is being provided to them, and how to work with others to ask for what they need. Everyone at an IEP meeting is there to help your child, so it’s a great environment for your child to develop the skills they need to speak up for themselves and accept help from others. Here are a few things your child can do at IEP meetings to learn self-advocacy:
- Make a list of ideas, questions, and concerns before the meeting.
- Practice introducing himself or herself and discussing their ideas.
- Talk about their interests, dreams, and goals during the meeting.
- Explain their disability to the group.
- Lead all or part of the meeting, including helping to formulate goals.
- Ask for explanations when they don’t understand a concept or plan.
- Review the solutions the team has come up with at the end of the meeting.
Practicing these skills will not only help your child during school but will also help your child to develop lifelong self-advocacy skills!
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (202) 561-1110 (Washington, D.C. office) or (301) 577-4333 (Lanham office). Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.