In a previous post, I touched on the importance of self-advocacy and how to support students with developing this skill. By “self-advocacy,” I’m referring to a student’s ability to speak up for him/herself to get a need met or problem solved at school (versus promoting personal, personal, or religious ideas or beliefs to others). In terms of school and life success, self-advocacy is inseparable from personal responsibility.
Here are five simple steps for helping students develop self-advocacy skills for school:
- Discuss and define what it is. Make self-advocacy a regular part of classroom and home conversation. Adults can share ways they have (or have not) self-advocated in their education, jobs, and everyday lives.
- Validate, validate, validate. Sympathy and understanding are key when responding to a self-advocating individual. Critical or belittling reactions will shut down this process.
- Make a plan. How can a student ask for help, explanation, or permission? Is there a particularly “safe” teacher with which to begin practicing this skill? If so, communicate with them in advance. Rehearse the process at home. Then give it a try.
- Reinforce and review. How did the self-advocacy experience go? What worked and what didn’t? How did it feel before, during, and after? Compare notes with the teacher. Also, what positive reinforcement can teachers and parents implement to help sustain this behavior in the student?
- Return to step 1. Self-advocacy never stops. Successful individuals are continually evaluating their own strengths and weaknesses and responsibly communicating (not demanding or imposing) their needs to others.
Remember, self-advocacy is a skill. For mastery, it must be learned, practiced, and repeated!
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