LD Self-Advocacy Manual
Becoming an Effective Self-Advocate
Words to know for
Accommodation - something to make learning easier
Anticipate - thinking about what might happen
Right - what the law says you should get
Rehearse - doing it over and over
Responsibility - what you are supposed to do
Compromise - "giving in" a little to make a "deal"
Support - someone to help you
|But the final "mystery" is figuring out how all of that
information can help to make your life a little easier both within and
outside of school.
That is what being an effective self-advocate is all
Ten steps to becoming an effective self-advocate:
Accept your disability:
Before you can advocate for yourself, you have to admit
to yourself that you really do have a learning disability. You aren't dumb.
You aren't lazy. You have probably worked very hard to hide your learning
problems (even from yourself). Now is the time to admit to yourself that
you have some difficulties and may need some special help in order to be
Admit your disability to others:
You cannot be a successful self-advocate if you continue
to hide your difficulties from others. Naturally, you can't expect teachers
to provide appropriate accommodations if they don't know about your disability.
But it is just as important to be able to admit your difficulties to your
friends. When you can really be honest about your learning disability,
you will find that you no longer feel so ashamed and embarrassed about
your learning difficulties. You will be able to relax a bit more in school
and spend more energy learning than hiding.
Understand your learning style:
Hopefully, you now have a pretty good understanding of
how your brain works and how your processing difficulty interferes with
your education. School psychologists and teachers can offer you some ideas
that they have about your learning disability, but only you can decide
what makes the most sense to you. If the ideas offered in this course don't
make sense, ask for help in understanding better. Or ask for other ideas
about information processing that might "fit" you better. If you don't
understand how you learn, you can't ask for accommodations that you really
Realize how "other issues" might interfere
with your self-advocacy:
You have learned about the common effects of a learning
disability including low self-esteem, communication difficulties, and attentional
problems. Think about how these issues might interfere with your ability
to advocate for yourself. Are you too shy and withdrawn to ask for help?
Do you get angry and aggressive when embarrassed or frustrated? Are you
able to communicate your needs or do you need to ask someone (teacher,
parent, friend) to help you ask for accommodations? Are you impulsive and
tend to say or do things that you latter regret? As with your learning
disability, you need to be open and honest about any of these related problems
before you can be an effective self-advocate.
Know what you need:
Do the accommodations listed in this course meet all of
your possible needs? Which ones do you think will be the most useful for
you? Can you think of other accommodations that may be better? It is not
possible to anticipate all of the needs which your learning disability
will cause for you. You will need to constantly rethink the accommodations
and possibly come up with some ideas of your own.
Anticipate your needs in each class:
Don't wait until the final exam to start thinking about
accommodations. Right from the start of each class you should be thinking
about how you might be able to learn the material better. Maybe the teacher
has a style that confuses you. Maybe there are too many distractions in
the room. Maybe assignments aren't presented clearly. Begin talking with
your teachers about accommodations as early as possible.
Know your rights and responsibilities:
You have learned about your legal rights to an appropriate
education and appropriate accommodations to meet your needs. But are you
really prepared to argue your rights with a teacher that may be "reluctant"
to provide appropriate accommodations? Do you know where to turn for support
when your needs are not being met? And remember, accommodations are intended
to counteract the negative effects of your learning disability, not just
make school easy for you. Don't take advantage of your right to accommodations
by requesting things you don't really "need".
Be willing to compromise:
Some teachers will bend over backwards to "accommodate"
for your special learning needs. Others will be less "flexible". Be ready
to compromise in order to get at least some accommodation. You may also
need to "prove" to some teachers that you really need help and are not
just being "lazy". Maybe make a "deal" or "contract" with a teacher. If
you do this, be sure to follow-through with everything you have agreed
to do. This helps to build trust.
Know where to go for support:
Sometimes even an effective self-advocate needs support.
Maybe to help with a "difficult" teacher. Maybe to provide advice when
you get "stuck". Or maybe just so you don't feel isolated and alone. Find
someone who understands your learning disability and can provide support
(or can even advocate for you) when needed.
Plan for the future:
Many LD students just try to survive one day at a time
and don't think too much about long-term goals. But to really advocate
for yourself you need to think about where you want to be in one, two,
five, or ten years. What kind of work to you want to do after your education?
Do you want to go to college? When you have a very clear plan for the future,
you will be better able to see the reason for your education today.
|"Ok, so now you are ready to advocate for yourself. Or
are you? The hardest part may be yet to come . . . . . . meeting with a
teacher to "negotiate" your accommodations."
Here are a few tips to make that meeting a little easier:
|| Have a very good idea of what you want and why you
|| Rehears what you will say......maybe with a friend
|| Maintain eye contact (as much as possible).
|| Take your time when talking and ask for time to think
if you need it.
|| Rephrase what you hear to be sure you really understand.
|| Be respectful.
Be careful of your body language (do you look or act
angry, impatient, etc.?).
|| Be flexible and ready to compromise.
|| Make it very clear what you are willing to do in return
for the accommodation (get assignments done faster, pay more attention
in class, improve effort, etc.).
|| If there is resistance, ask to have a follow up meeting
with a support person (case-manager, other teacher, parent, etc.).
|| Be very appreciative of any accommodation given
( Say, "thank you.")
Why should you tell others about your disability?
|| How would you describe your learning disability to
a new teacher?
What accommodations do you think you will probably
|| What would you do if a teacher refuses to provide accommodations?
|| Who could you turn to for help and support?
||What are your plans
for after high school?
Return to Table of Contents
Chapter 11 - Planning for Your Future
Published with Permission Of Writer: Scott L. Crouse, Ph.D.
LDInfo.com: A website dedicated to the advancement of practical
knowledge and understanding about the often mysterious world of Learning
Copyright © 1996 Scott L. Crouse