The term “self-advocacy” simply means that a person is able to speak up for themselves and articulate their needs. Parents of children with special needs are likely familiar with the importance of their child being able to self-advocate, but it’s a skill every child should learn regardless of whether or not they have special needs.
This skill is vital for your child to learn in order to be successful in school, and life in general. By speaking up for themselves in school, they can help their teacher know what they understand and what they need more help with. Learning to speak up for themselves in social and familial situations can also help them form healthy relationships.
1. Ask, and it will be given to you.
It’s important for your student to understand that people aren’t mind readers, so it’s impossible to telepathically communicate their needs to their teachers or peers. Their teachers want to help them be successful, but sometimes (particularly with students that are shy or lack confidence) it’s difficult for them to figure out what your child needs. If they can’t communicate what they are struggling with, their teacher can’t help them. By teaching your child to self-advocate, you’re teaching them to be confident enough to ask for help when they need it.
2. Healthy relationships are based on mutual respect.
It’s safe to say that we’ve all had experiences with overbearing people at some point in our lives. Unless you’re able to self-advocate and stand up for yourself, you can find yourself in an unhealthy relationship. Whether it be with friends, family, or colleagues, you have to be able to stand up for yourself and ensure your needs are met in a respectful manner.
The same is true for your child. Self-advocacy tells your student that their needs are important and they shouldn’t allow others to ignore or take advantage of them. The key is for your child to do this respectfully, so they themselves don’t become overbearing. It’s all about balance.
3. Self-advocacy builds self-sufficiency.
By learning to advocate for their own needs, you give your child the opportunity to become independent. If you always swoop in to speak up for them, they won’t learn to do it for themselves. This is especially important for children with special needs, as you will not always be around to help them. Getting things done for themselves will be a useful life skill for them to learn. By teaching your child to calmly and respectfully speak up for themselves, you’ll help them to become emotionally and intellectually independent. A skill they will use throughout the rest of their life.
One of our goals at St. Barnabas is to help your child build effective life skills that will help them be successful and well prepared for high school and adulthood. Teaching personal responsibility, self-advocacy, and respect for others are important parts of this goal.
Our mission is to challenge each student in a supportive environment that promotes academic excellence and sound moral values within a framework of God’s love.