How to support your students’ self-advocacy

Every student is unique and at a different stage of their journey to becoming a self-advocate.

Written by
Monique Ziegelaar profile picture
Monique Ziegelaar
Speech Pathologist & How I Learn Contributor
Alice working at her desk with her EA and using a pen on her touch laptop

Every student is unique and at a different stage of their journey to becoming a self-advocate. Research shows that adolescents in general will rather fit in than stand out from the crowd. This means students may not ask for help, even when they need it. This is critically important for students with a disability.

Students who have a disability usually already stand out because of their disability, and therefore may try even harder to cover up difficulties to fit in.

Research shows that many students with a disability will ‘struggle in silence’ rather than request help in front of their peers. Self-advocacy is incredibly important for these students. Schools should create a culture that empowers students to become self-advocates.

There’s no one rule about supporting self-advocacy that will fit every student. Ensure you’re creating a safe and secure classroom environment, where students feel comfortable to practice self-advocacy.

This website includes information and research articles on how educators can support the development of self-advocacy skills in their students.

Advice from students

  1. Respect my dignity. This includes how you talk to and about me. Don’t make me feel like a burden.
  2. Respect my independence. I need space to make and maintain friendships without an adult being present.
  3. Let me make mistakes so I can learn from them, just like any other teenager.
  4. Don’t single me out in front of my peers.

Advice from parents

  1. Be open about barriers that are making it difficult to implement learning or accessibility adjustments. We understand implementing adjustments can be easier said than done, especially with time pressures.
  2. Problem solve with us.
  3. Create and maintain open communication.
  4. If you’re unsure, ask for clarification. We don’t expect you to know everything. Better to ask than assume.

How to support your students in the classroom

Hear directly from students on how to best support them in your classroom.