My Experiences Learning Self-Advocating

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A question I recently heard posed by a parent was “How do you help your child learn how to self-advocate more independently?” That’s a great question, and as an adult on the spectrum, I can tell you about my experiences with learning how to self-advocate. So just what is “self-advocating” anyway? It is the act or practice of speaking up for yourself.

How can parents best transition advocating from themselves to the young adult? Talk to your young adult about self-advocating using concrete examples of how they benefit from learning this skill. The parent(s) must understand that there could be some pushback or lack of understanding the concepts. The young adult might find the idea of self-advocating scary or overwhelming. There is good chance you need to talk about and process the subject a couple of times. Depending on the response, you may need to change the way you approach the topic.

My Mom was a good advocate for herself and her family so she understood a lot of the concepts. What she didn’t know, she read about or asked for help from her support system. There are lots of different ways to teach advocating skills. My Mom used a lot of modeling and role playing. I really appreciated when she talked beforehand about what I should expect, especially when I was anxious about a certain situation or setting. We would often go over different responses to common situations. When we arrived at events, she would try to give me space to interact more independently. Looking back, I often was uncomfortable and really awkward and because it was hard work to spend time with other people. Even though she gave me space, I knew that if I needed help, my Mom would be there to support me.

Afterwards, my Mom would often explain the social situation to the best of her abilities, reviewing certain things including reactions, slang, nonverbal communication, expectations, and a host of other social nuances. This meant a lot to me because I found what other people do and say confusing, both then and even now, after years of practice and self-advocating. I appreciated having someone I trust talk me through what happened. There are lots of things those conversations taught me including theory of mind, self-advocacy, etiquette, and much more. My Mom had been modeling social skills my whole life including self-advocacy but she those specific lessons became more focused during middle school and beyond. I’m still working on this skill set every day, even as an adult.

This was my experience with learning self-advocating from my Mom. There are lots of ways to teach these skills and it’s important to see what works best for you and your child. Remember, there are no simple easy fixes for learning any new skills but it’s necessary to keep trying and to support your child when they need it. As always, wishing my readers the best in all of your endeavors.

Out-of-Sync Woman

I was diagnosed at a young age and went through the special education system in public schools. Family is incredibly important to me as I grew up in a large supportive family. I enjoy being outside in nature and arts and crafts.

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