March and April are the months when our families take spring break, and our students manage parent-teacher conferences. At TSG, we work with students all year long on how they can learn skills to help them cope better and manage school pressures with greater confidence. Yet, many parents ask us how they can teach kids self advocacy skills, specifically around homework and in class instruction. Ann Dolin, M.Ed. is the founder and owner of Educational Connections www.ectutoring.com, which is a highly respected and busy tutoring company serving DC/VA/MD families. Recently, she invited me to answer parents’ questions alongside her during an upcoming Free Webinar for Parents on March 3rd, 1pm—Speak Up For Yourself: Teaching Kids the Power of Self Advocacy for Academic Success.
Both of us have 50 years of combined experience supporting families and students in honing their skills for success. For those who can’t attend, here are the key skills that we will share with parents during our talk. We’ll share this information in a 3 part series on Self Advocacy Skills for Students.
What is self advocacy?
Self advocacy is taking action or speaking up to help yourself or your interests.
Why is self advocacy so important?
It helps you know and get what you need to become a better, more independent learner and more confident person.
What are strategies for self advocating?
- Self Advocating [Language]–Use Your Words
Advocating in Writing: Writing can help us organize our ideas, process our feelings, and construct our thoughts clearly. Try writing a letter or note to the person you need to speak to, let it sit, get input from another person, then craft the message you want to pass to the other person either in person or through written form (text, email, note, letter, message, etc).
- Self Advocating Out Loud [Language}–Speaking Up
Advocating Verbally: Learning to say something when you need it, think it, feel it, or believe it is a skill toward building greater independence. The hard part is speaking up when we don’t know how we feel fully, or what we think.
Try using basic emotion coaching skills on yourself or with your child to unravel your thoughts and untangle your feelings.
Emotion Coaching + Problem Solving
What emotions exist? What thoughts exist?
What are our emotions communicating re: need, situation etc? (i.e. I need time. I need protection, I need space. I need help. I need to understand.)
Which emotion is most important to address first? (i.e. safety, comfort first)
What thoughts should be shared, kept private, filed away?
What action would help the most to resolve the feelings and convey the priority thoughts?
- Self Advocating with Others—Asking for & Accepting Help
Sometimes we need help from others to help us solve problems and take action on our own. Asking for and accepting help are important skills in learning to self advocate.
Offer Starter Sentences:
I’m having a hard time with……..
Oh by the way, I might need……
I just wanted you to know that I do better when…..
Something I learned is…
Provide Prompting Questions
Do you remember when we learned……? I need help understanding….
Could I have a few minutes….to talk about….?
Is now a good time to ask about…..?
- Self Advocating through Action [Movement & Environment]–Doing Something To Help Yourself.
Environment – Change your seat. Get a better view. Shut the door. Sit away from distractions. Ask for necessary equipment (headphones, coputer, technology platforms).
Movement – Get a drink of water. Take a quick walk. Stretch. Big belly breathing. Shake out the stress. Run an errand for your teacher. Laugh hard (if you can).