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Self advocacy is understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses, knowing what is needed to succeed and being able to communicate that to other people.

To self-advocate, a student needs to learn how to speak up for themselves, make some of their own decisions, learn how to get information and resources that will increase their success, and find out who are the people they can count on for the help they need.

Additionally, students who know their rights and responsibilities, have some ability to problem solve, and are able to hear constructive feedback and learn from it, will be more successful advocating for themselves.

One of the most difficult things for students to get comfortable with regarding self advocacy is reaching out to others when they need help.  Doing this takes some level of confidence and self-determination.


How Self-Advocacy Is Helpful To Students


Students who are able to self-advocate are able to:

  • Find solutions to problems as they occur
  • Be proactive to avoid problems
  • Feel comfortable taking risks
  • Feel a sense of ownership over their learning
  • Develop independence and feel empowered


Beyond Academics


Being able to self-advocate is helpful beyond academics.  It is also a very important skill to assist students socially.

As students meet and engage with many different personality types in school, as well as in life, they are often called upon to use self-advocacy skills.

Children must use self advocacy skills to express their needs and opinions related to things like; what game to play, who goes first, what positions to play in sports games, as well as many subtle situations that come up all throughout the day as they share materials, space, and engage in friendships and relationships.


Consider the following When Teaching Children About Self-Advocacy 


What does the student need to know or receive from others to accomplish his/her goal?

This could be anything from what materials are needed for each class subject, clarification on directions, expressions of opinions or ideas.

Who is most likely to be able to help the student meet his/her needs in a given situation.

For example, if the student is having trouble in P.E class, should he ask his art teacher for help, or would he be better off to ask his P.E teacher for help.

When should the student “speak up” and ask for help.

It is helpful for students to understand when they should ask for help so that they do not wait too long. Usually it is easier to fix things if you ask for help earlier, rather than later.

Some things to consider when “speaking up”  

  • Is the other person available? {or are they busy}
  • Can/should it wait? {for a better time, or is it an emergency?}
  • Use a calm voice volume and tone when asking for help
  • Did you try solving the problem first, before asking for help?


 Where should the student ask for something he/she needs?

Depending on what the student needs, where they ask to have their needs met may be important.  Consider whether or not privacy is important.

For example; if a student needs to get a drink of water, than where they ask for help does not matter.  But, if what the student needs is to take a BM…they may want to explain to the teacher, in private, that they really need to go to the bathroom.


Children who can self-advocate will be more successful in school and in social relationships. Some children benefit from explicit teaching to master self-advocacy.

I hope you found this information helpful as you work with your students in growing their independence.


Thanks So Much and Happy Teaching!

Cindy ~Socially Skilled Kids