Self-advocacy is a very important part of becoming self-determined. Self-determination means choosing and setting your own goals, making important life decisions, accepting responsibility for those decisions, problem-solving, monitoring your own behavior, taking action to get the things you want and need, and self-advocating.
Self-advocacy includes the ability to speak up for what you want and need in a way that others understand. It is learning about your strengths, challenges, and how to ask for help. Self-advocacy is about trying new things and growing your skills to increase your independence and develop less reliance on other people. It is about problem-solving, managing your emotions, asking questions, and trying new things. Self-advocates learn about disability law and how it applies to them and share information about self-advocacy with others.
Here are some examples of self-advocacy:
- A kindergartner asks for help to put books in her backpack (versus not taking the books home, becoming frustrated and upset, or not knowing how to ask for help).
- A 10th-grade English student asks for help in breaking down his assignment so he knows what needs to be done first (versus not completing the assignment or only completing one part of the assignment).
- A 12th-grade student talks to his teachers about his difficulty understanding abstract language and requests more clarity in assignment descriptions.
High expectations are important. It is helpful for parents to learn how to advocate for their children as early as possible and to understand how maintaining high (and realistic) expectations can benefit their child. Research has shown the impact of having high expectations on longer-term outcomes of children with disabilities. Through parents' advocacy and knowledge, they help their child learn to self-advocate and become more independent. Teachers can also help promote self-advocacy at school by keeping expectations high and increasing responsibilities. The more capable and independent the child can become without relying on others and adults, the more likely they are to be successful in work and community experiences.
Self-advocacy skill development is individual to the student but consideration should be given to skills shown by same-age peers. Skills for greater independence can be taught in a step-by-step approach by breaking down the activity into smaller steps (called a task analysis). It is never too early to encourage self-advocacy skills with children at home, in school, or in the community. By working on these important skills children can gain greater confidence, build self-monitoring and problem-solving abilities, and increase independence.
The following are resources providing examples of independence goals and may help promote increased self-advocacy skills from early elementary through high school both in the home and school settings.
- School Independence Goal Ideas: examples of independence goals for school routines, including social skills and self-care; goals target from kindergarten through high school and secondary transition.
- Home Independence Goal Ideas: examples of independence goals for the home including social, daily living, and self-care skills; goals target kindergarten through high school and secondary transition.
The Task Analysis video below provides an overview demonstrating how to create a task analysis and break down steps to a skill or independence goal.
Task Analysis (8:21)
Some students present on their disability, which can be helpful to peers, educators, and the community and can lead to the student becoming more self-confident, having better understanding of their disability, and promoting their self-advocacy growth. The following are guidelines, templates, and examples for creating and delivering self-advocacy presentations. Remember, the presentations can be very simple or more detailed and should be based on the needs and interests of the student. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to develop the presentation. Students may require help from family members, teachers or other school staff, or peers to develop their presentation. Information can be presented in a variety of ways: live, in a PowerPoint with audio voiceover, or using a voice output device.
Guidelines, templates, and examples for creating and delivering self-advocacy presentations can be accessed in the buttons below. These resources may be helpful in learning more about self-advocacy and increasing self-advocacy skills for children at home, school, or in the community.