Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Self-Advocacy/Self-Esteem Connection

How and Why must teens with special needs learn to advocate for themselves?

How? Inclusive decision-making, being a part of every decision that affects my life -
this does not necessarily mean I get the final say so - but that my ideas are sought and included in the process. Being a part of decisions helps me and those around me learn about what I value IE. what's really important to me.

As I explore what I value and the people around me start to respect what I value
I gain insight into myself and my sense of self-esteem is enhanced because I am
experiencing the respect of others.

This huge process begins with simple choice-making.
Which of 2 kinds of cereal for breakfast?
Choosing from a menu is essential for adult decision-making to be internalized.

When I am able to make informed choices and speak up for myself I am less likely to be taken advantage of or stigmatized. It's my life! I must have input into its design.

Ultimately, I must be able to identify my needs, disability related or NOT -
in words that I can understand. I must learn when and how to explain my needs to others AND I must know what supports I need to manage/succeed in this situation.

For example...
  • I will meet with my college professor prior to the course starting and explain why I will have to record all sessions.
  • I will discuss with my new employer that I need new responsiblities in writing or that I learn best by watching someone else perform a job.
  • I will explain to my respite worker that I become uncomfortable when there's too much noise so I will need a quiet place to go if I start to feel upset.
  • When I sign up for a recreation program I will explain what my interests are and that if I choose to join in a new activity I will but I don't like being coaxed.
Simple, easy to understand language that helps other people understand me
BUT first I have to figure out who I am!


Chad Brinkmeyer said...

Great post. What kind of role should a student with a disability have in their IEP meetings throughout high school? I recognize the importance of being a self-advocate at the meetings, but should it go beyond that?

Mary Korpi said...

Hi Chad - Sorry I didn't respond sooner. Students in special ed need to learn how to speak up for what they need. The IEP meeting is a great training ground for them to try out these skills. I think it's important that the people who are close to them prepare them for what they want to say and how to say it but the ultimate goal is that they would run their own meeting. It has been suggested that they make a power point presentation about themselves and show that! if speaking is too intimidating.
The goal here is that as an adult they can say what their needs are and what supports they need in language that they and others will understand, not jargin! Speaking up at the meetings should define what the student studies based on what their interests are and where they want to go after high school. Mary