By Jodie Dawson, Psy.D.
The ability to self-advocate is important for kids to learn in order to be successful at all stages of their lives. In the past, self-advocacy was a term applied mostly to adults with disabilities, but recently more focus has been placed on teaching this skill to preteens and teenagers.
Self-advocacy is understanding your strengths and needs, identifying your personal goals, knowing your legal rights and responsibilities, and communicating these to others. Because your child lives with his learning struggles on a daily basis, he must learn how to maneuver through life's challenges and obstacles to make sure his needs are met.
Until now, you've been your child's best advocate - protecting him from life's harsh realities. But the earlier you teach him to advocate for himself, the more prepared he'll be for life ahead - no matter what path he takes after high school. Whether in the workplace or on a college campus, your child must understand his strengths and limitations, know how they affect his performance, and be able to communicate this to other people.
Young people say they need to understand how they learn and be able to express this information in "plain English." Your teenager must be aware of his strengths and needs in the learning process, strategies that help him succeed, accommodations that bypass limitations, and the type of environment that facilitates learning. To gather this information, he should review assessment results with the specialists who tested him; talk to his teachers and/or tutors; and reflect on his own learning challenges, successes, and preferences.
A key component of self-advocacy is knowing how to communicate this self-knowledge about the learning process to others. Your child must be clear in his requests and prepared with explanations. The manner in which he communicates can either get others on his side or push them away. To many, what he's asking for may be new. Your teenager may need your help preparing ahead of time, planning what he will say, and making notes to take with him. Role playing is a great way to practice communication skills. By helping him anticipate different situations, you can raise his level of confidence.
It's important to help your child identify his support system early on. Whom does he trust and feel comfortable talking to - parent, relative, teacher, administrator, counselor, mentor, tutor? He needs to have people he can turn to for help, especially once he leaves home. This way he won't have to feel alone as he navigates through life.
High school is a great place to begin practicing communication with teachers and other school staff. Encourage your child to set up conferences with his teachers. This gives him an opportunity to discuss what's going well and what isn't, to get feedback, and to work out a plan to do better. After all, once he leaves high school and enters the workplace or college, he'll have to do this for himself. You won't be able to call his professor or boss; you have to pass on the advocacy baton.
Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you more
insights to help you help your child succeed.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to complete your registration.
Great work! Only one more step. Now we just need you to verify your email address. Please click on the link in the email we just sent you to submit your review.
Please click on the link in the verification email we just sent you to complete your change of email address.
Whoops! It looks like we still need to verify your email. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the e-mail? Click the button below and we'll send you a new one.
Thanks for registering. Welcome to GreatSchools, the largest online community committed to improving educational outcomes through parental involvement.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! You haven't verified your email address yet. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the email? Click the button below to receive a new one.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
For principals and school officials, we offer a special Enhanced School Profile (ESP) which allows you to update and add information about your school, as well as respond to reviews. If you are a school official, click Continue to start.
Please note that it can take up to 48 hours for your comment to be posted to our site. While you're here, we'd like to invite you to fill out a survey on your school's programs, activities, and extracurriculars. It only takes a few minutes and will help parents get a full picture of your school.
Get started now! You have successfully registered and can now start updating your Official School Profile. The information you provide is extremely valuable in helping parents and students learn more about your school, so thanks for taking the time!
Thank you for registering as a school leader. We just need to verify your email address. We've sent you an email - please click on the link in that message to get started editing your school's information!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.