Self-Advocacy for Students: a Guide, 8 Tips, & 6 Exercises
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We are the most psychologically competent generation that has ever lived. We know what it means to “be in the moment” and “have the right resources.” But if that’s true, then why do so many of us shy away from expressing our needs and interests?
Life coaches often reply with the mantra, “love yourself,” but most fail to explain how. Besides, it soon becomes clear that accepting yourself with all your strengths and weaknesses doesn’t solve the problem because others have little motivation to do the same for you.
Self-advocacy is the second stage of self-love, and it focuses on improving your image in other people’s eyes.
This article by our experts provides comprehensive advice on effective self-advocacy for students, parents, and tutors. We also recommend these tips to other groups, such as people with learning disabilities, autism, and hearing loss.
✊ What Does Self-Advocacy Mean?
Self-advocacy means respectfully speaking up for yourself and, whenever necessary, ensuring that your needs are met.
This skill also fosters your independence and empowers you to find solutions that may not be so obvious to others.
Self-advocacy consists of 3 milestones:
Understanding your needs;
Knowing how to meet them;
Communicating the above two points to others.
The following examples of self-advocacy illustrate the idea.
|Case 1||Imagine you have been active and attentive in the classroom but missed some key points of the lecture due to your hearing problems. You can ask the teacher to explain the point again or provide extra information.|
|Case 2||Your friends decided to arrange a meeting at a restaurant the following weekend. All of them live nearby, but it will take you almost two hours to get to the venue. Instead, you suggest choosing another restaurant that is more convenient for you.|
Some may consider your actions to be selfish, but they are not. You are an important member of the community and have the same rights to education, respect, and convenience as any other person.
Thus, your actions in these cases are called self-advocacy.
📜 A Brief History of the Self-Advocacy Movement
The self-advocacy trend was born in Sweden in the 1960s. People with intellectual disabilities were encouraged to create and lead leisure clubs.
In 1968 and 1970, national conferences for the representatives of these clubs were held. The purpose was to let others know how they would like to be treated and show that a disability does not define a person.
In 1972, Great Britain and Canada adopted this practice. In fact, a conference for people with mental retardation was held in Canada in 1973. A group from Oregon attended but was dissatisfied with the event since they considered that professionals had dominated it. Upon their return, they created a self-advocacy group called “People First.”
By 1993, at least 27 self-advocacy organizations had been founded in the world.
Nowadays, these groups help people with mental retardation and other intellectual disabilities to develop leadership skills and increase their public presence.
📍 Why Is Self-Advocacy Important?
Self-advocacy becomes vital in social settings when we must coexist with other people who pursue their goals and have no concern for us. In these situations, we have to speak up and protect our own interests.
Oftentimes, we face these challenges in school or in the workplace. That’s why self-advocacy is essential during this part of our lives.
Although self-advocacy skills benefit everyone, underrepresented groups will find them particularly useful. The rights of ethnic or gender minorities and people with disabilities are often suppressed.
Thus, the benefits of self-advocacy are:
You empower yourself. Being a passive onlooker has never made anyone happy. Self-advocacy teaches you to become an adult and take responsibility for your life. It shows you how to set boundaries and clarify your intentions to those around you.
You control your reality. Take the initiative to change the world for the better! No one exists in isolation. When you become more empowered, other people also benefit from your advances.
You learn to understand the needs of others. Self-advocacy trains your empathy. Besides, this skill helps you make better decisions and become a more pleasant speaker.
You gain problem-solving skills. Self-advocacy revolves around resolving complex social situations. It teaches you to consider different perspectives and research the origin of the problem. Most importantly, you learn to find a solution that will benefit both sides of the conflict.
You develop yourself. By participating in self-advocacy groups, you promote the ideas that matter to you and many other people. Meanwhile, you gain invaluable leadership skills that can be applied to other areas of your life.
You create healthy relationships. Some of your current acquaintances will become your friends, partners, employers, or colleagues. The way you interact with them now will impact your future more than you can imagine!
🤺 11 Self-Advocacy Skills for a Student
How can you advocate for yourself if you are your strictest judge? Making friends with yourself can be challenging, but it gets easier with practice. There is a couple of positive self-talk techniques to help you with this point:
Recall a situation from your childhood when you felt vulnerable. Imagine that you approach your past self. What words of support would you offer?
Do you wear a ring or a bracelet? This game can turn your self-image upside down. Whenever you blame yourself for some mistake or think of yourself negatively, put the piece of jewelry on the other hand. A marker of success would be going an entire week without changing the hand.