Self Advocacy - Intermediate District 287
Self Advocacy - Intermediate District 287
A Skill and a Right
Definition of Self-Advocacy
Self-advocacy refers to:
an individual’s ability to effectively communicate, convey,
negotiate or assert his or her own interests, desires,
needs, feelings and rights. It involves making informed
decisions and taking responsibility for those decisions.
(VanReusen et al., 1994)
Self-knowledge is the first step towards advocating for
your rights. You need to know who you are - your
strengths, areas of challenge, values, and interests
before you can truly be a self advocate.
To be a self advocate one needs to
know what they need and want
know how to get what they need & want
communicate in a timely and effective
way – being assertive versus aggressive
Six success attributes that highly
correlate with self advocacy
The presence and use of support systems
Emotional coping strategies
Raskind and Goldberg (2005)
Why is it important to include selfadvocacy skills into my curriculum / our
How are we going to find time to do that?
What would we do?
Students need to learn how to advocate for
at their job
in the community
during their school day
in daily living situations
with their friends and family
We need to support and encourage them
as they learn this critical life skill
Can your students
ask their boss to explain a new task AND show them
how to do it before they walk away?
promote their idea among a lot of ideas for a
Saturday night gathering with friends?
know when and how to share what they were
thinking and feeling when there was a huge
misunderstanding with their group of friends and no
one is talking?
problem solve how to get a ride somewhere when
everyone seems to have other commitments?
Barriers to Assertiveness/Self-Advocacy
Feeling quiet and too shy to speak
Feeling frustrated and ready to explode
Feeling like I don’t know what to do
Feeling afraid of saying the wrong thing
Not knowing how someone else will react
Wanting to be nice to everybody
Not wanting to cause a problem
Not wanting to draw attention to myself
Thinking that no one will understand me
Not liking the other person / situation
enough to try
Other barriers that you have witnessed?
What stops students from
being their own advocate?
Figure out what the barriers are
Come up with a
plan to work through
the challenges, build their
skills, provide opportunities for supported
practice and help them overcome their
Do your students . . . .
Know and understand their rights and responsibilities
Know their abilities, needs, gifts, strengths, and
Know what accommodations they need as well as why
they are needed
Know how to effectively communicate their needs, ideas,
feelings and preferences
Know who their key people are and how to contact them
Know how to ask questions when something is unclear or
Opportunities for Growth
How mindful are we, as facilitators of students’
learning and communication skills, in providing
opportunities for growing their self advocacy?
Take a minute to share 3 ways you promote self
advocacy skill development in the natural contexts
and daily schedules of your students.
Supporting students to become
Teach youth about their disability and assist them to
recognizing their strengths, talents, skills and support
Teach skills such as: requesting assistance, making
choices, expressing an opinion, and sharing
Encourage youth to “speak up” for themselves
rather than relying on an adult to it (we support but
not do it for them)
Step by step, we encourage them to . . .
Learn how to make informed choices for self
Identify their needs and wants
Share information with someone they trust
Practice what they want to communicate
Speak for self; find their voice first in easy
situations then in harder ones.
Not give up if people don’t listen the first time
Celebrate each effort and accomplishment
Students should know and be
Discussing his / her disability
What accommodations are helpful, those that
are not, and why
Understanding their rights and responsibilities
Articulating their strengths and challenges
Discussing what works and doesn’t work for
them in the various environments they may
Knowing and discussing overall learning style
How does staff support students to
be self advocates?
Provide opportunities for students to make choices
Partner with students to set their own goals
Allow youth to take risks and make mistakes but also
facilitate the processing and learning from those
It is helpful for students to create a Personal File of pertinent
information that can aid them in self-advocacy
Some ideas for things to include
Medications, Pertinent Medical People
IEP / Transcripts
Photos of projects, activities, volunteer experiences
Copies of financial aid forms
Medical (and vehicle) insurance information
Important addresses & phone numbers
Copy of birth certificate, drivers license
Social Security card
Everyone has the right . . .
Every student, regardless of their disability and abilities
has the right to communicate what works and doesn’t
work for them, what brings them joy, the interests they
would like to pursue/continue to pursue, what makes
them fearful or angry, the situations where they like to
have a choice or some degree of control.
Our work is to help them strengthen and use their
communication skills to grow their self advocacy muscles
so their are better prepared to navigate the variety of
situations their adult life will surely bring.
Courage doesn't always roar.
Sometimes courage is the quiet
voice at the end of the day
saying, "I will try again
Mary Anne Radmacher