Supporting Student Self-Advocacy: Five Simple Steps
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!
©2022 Individual Matters, LLC. All rights reserved. Feel free to republish so long as credit is given.
- Published in Development, Dr. Katen's Blog, Healthy Living, Parenting, Self Advocacy, Successful Living
Learning About Learning
A Free Presentation Series for Parents with Students of All Ages
Individual Matters hosts a series of presentations for parents of students of all ages. Join Dr. Katen and other local experts to learn about all things that have to do with learning.
The presentations take place on the FIRST TUESDAY of every month for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. Topics will include:
- Learning Simulations
- ADHD: What is really causing the attention problem?
- Dyslexia and other Learning Disorders
- Auditory and Visual Processing
- Executive Function and Learning
- Learning Styles and Using Strengths to Find Success
- Gifted and Advanced Learners
- Successful Learning Skills: Organization and Homework Strategies
- Autism and Other Social Challenges
- IEPs, 504s, and Advocating for your Child at School
- And many more!
Location: 2530 E. Foresight Circle, Grand Junction, CO 81505
Day/Time: 1st Tuesday of each month, 5:30-7:00pm
If you can make it, please RSVP by email or phone so we can be sure to have enough seats and snacks.
Hope to see you there!
What does Dyslexia feel like?
“Shame cannot survive being spoken… and met with empathy.” – Brené Brown
Individual Matters is pleased to bring the Experience Dyslexia® Workshop to Central Kentucky and beyond.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “dyslexia.” You probably know it refers to a type of “reading disability” that makes decoding and understanding text difficult, results in poor spelling, and is often associated with left/right confusion.
But you may be surprised to learn that you already know someone with dyslexia. In fact, you are probably surrounded by them! Research suggests that the disability is very common. As many as 15% of the population experiences some form of dyslexia, yet only 1 in 10 are ever diagnosed.
If you are an educator, these statistics may not be surprising. Perhaps you witness the struggles of dyslexia in your classroom every day. Its effects include a wide range of learning-related symptoms, as well as one or more of the following behavioral symptoms:
- Low Self-Esteem
- Family Problems
But regardless how familiar you are with dyslexia, it can be hard to relate to the personal struggles of those who live with the disability. And when we don’t understand another person’s behaviors, we tend to make assumptions about the reasons for them.
When dyslexia is undiagnosed, or its effects are not well understood, those with the disability may be labeled as lazy, oppositional, immature, or dumb. Their childhoods are often characterized by continual and frequent failures, as well as by nonstop criticism from teachers and parents, and teasing from classmates. Not surprisingly, the silent shame of this burden inhibits learning, destroys self-esteem, and can lead to depression and other mental health problems that continue well into adulthood. Even when students have been identified with dyslexia, it may be difficult for parents or teachers to empathize with their struggles.
Fortunately, the International Dyslexia Association has created the Experience Dyslexia® Workshop. Now people without the disability can begin to understand what it’s like to have it.
Empathy and understanding is vital for compassionate teaching and parenting. Understanding what dyslexia feels like helps us to avoid making assumptions, recognize learning problems for what they are, refer for appropriate treatment and interventions, and help children with dyslexia and other learning problems find success. With empathy, we can begin to scaffold individuals in overcoming the challenges of dyslexia – as well as capitalizing upon its many upsides.
At Individual Matters, we are pleased to facilitate the Experience Dyslexia® Workshop – as well as others that focus on learning, teaching, and parenting. These experiences are available throughout Central Kentucky and beyond. They are appropriate for teachers, parents, or anyone else who works with dyslexic individuals and/or wants to understand impacts of living with the disability.
To learn more, or to schedule a workshop with Individual Matters, email us or call (970) 628-5589.
©2017 Individual Matters, LLC. All rights reserved. Feel free to republish so long as credit is given.
- Published in Dr. Katen's Blog, Dyslexia, Learning, Achievement, and Academics
Dr. Katen to Discuss Learning Differences at The Lexington School
We are very excited by the upcoming “Saturday Series” at The Lexington School: November 5, 2016.
Dr. Katen will present: “Students with Learning Differences: Navigating the Challenges.” Topics include:
- Different ways that students think and learn
- What learning differences are and how they impact learning
- Social and emotional challenges experienced by children with learning differences
- How to support your child’s unique temperament and learning style
This is a unique opportunity to:
- Gain valuable insights
- Learn helpful strategies
- Participate in hands-on activities
- Collaborate with other parents and professionals.
Parents and professionals from all schools welcome. To register, visit www.thelexingtonschool.org/Page/Saturday-Series
The Lexington School will award attendees with certificates for Continuing Education/Professional Development Credits.
- Published in Dr. Katen's Blog, Learning, Achievement, and Academics, Parenting
5 Reasons to Seek a Psycho-educational Assessment
Why is My Child Struggling at School?
Attention issues, learning challenges, and social and emotional issues
Parents often feel lost, frustrated, and powerless when their child is struggling at school. Although motivated by love and a fundamental desire to help their child, parents may be unsure why their child is having trouble and what steps to take in figuring it out. There are many reasons a child may be struggling, and, although these may be obvious in some cases, for most children the root cause is complex and not immediately evident.
One underlying cause may be attention issues, which can result in academic problems, negative behaviors, and social difficulties. Academic performance is greatly affected by poor attention because it creates gaps in knowledge. In the classroom, new knowledge builds upon previously mastered material and, as the child progresses in school, gaps in foundational knowledge become increasingly problematic. Behavioral symptoms of attention issues can look very different for each individual child. For example, some children are disruptive, some stare out the window, and others present as engaged while, in fact, their thoughts are elsewhere. Since children in this latter group are not characteristically hyperactive and disruptive, they are at highest risk because their attention problems are least likely to be identified. In addition to academic and behavioral disruptions, attention issues can also result in social and emotional struggles. Children with ADHD are often socially immature and experience low self-esteem.
A learning challenge may also be the culprit of low academic performance. A learning disorder is suspected when academic achievement is substantially below what is normal for age, schooling, and level of intelligence. Not surprisingly, learning disorders significantly interfere with school performance and achievement. Beyond failing grades, these problems can also cause demoralization, low-self esteem, and deficits in social skills. Children may become disruptive in class or simply “check out.” Furthermore, undiagnosed learning disorders can impact students into adulthood when they feel ashamed and “stupid.” As a result, personal relationships and careers may suffer. Contrary to popular belief, learning disorders are not indicative of low intelligence and do not assure failure; some of the greatest thinkers of our time are believed to have had learning and/or attention deficits.
Social and emotional issues can also lead to academic problems. A child weighed down with sadness, anxiety, low self-esteem, and turbulent relationships is less likely to find the focus and motivation necessary to be successful on tests and assignments. Every individual expresses and deals with social and emotional issues in his own way – a reality which presents additional challenges to parents who seek to understand what is going on with their child.
Many times a child’s difficulty at school is not due to a disorder or attention problem, but instead relates to a particular learning environment or style. For instance, children who are advanced in a certain area, but who are not challenged to the upper level of their abilities, are at risk for disrupting class, losing motivation, hiding their talents to fit in with peers, and developing an unhealthy view of why they are different. Sometimes a child simply has a different style of learning. For example, a visual-spatial thinker (someone who conceptualizes in images, and who sees “the whole” rather than organizing information into “silos”) learns most effectively when they understand the big picture first and can utilize their non-verbal abstract learning skills. Visual-spatial students also typically have “light bulb” moments when they grasp a concept all at once rather than in a step-by-step manner. Recognizing and capitalizing upon individual strengths and learning styles are essential for maximizing academic achievement and personal growth throughout one’s life.
When attempting to understand the cause of a student’s struggles at school, a good first step is psycho-educational testing. Essentially, psycho-educational testing removes a great deal of guess work by distinguishing between “can’ts” (inabilities) from “won’ts” (behavioral choices), and by giving parents solid answers and direction. Results of testing reveal how an individual thinks and learns, information which can be used to offer recommendations based on cognitive, emotional, social, and behavioral functioning, as well as individual strengths and interests. Once parents clearly and comprehensively understand their child’s struggles, they can focus on promoting strengths, developing skills, seeking supportive learning accommodations, and collaborating with educators. Ultimately, the goal of psycho-educational testing is to maximize the child’s potential and lay the foundation for personal and professional success.
– Dr. Katen
©2016 Individual Matters, LLC. All rights reserved. Feel free to republish so long as credit is given.