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My advocacy plan

What do you think?

Before you get started, think about how you would answer the following questions.

  1. How do you decide what movie to go to in your group of friends?
  2. What would you do if you received the wrong order at a restaurant?
  3. How do you ask for what you want?
  4. What laws protect students with disabilities?

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Be an advocate

Part of getting older and gaining independence means becoming a “self-advocate.”

What does self-advocacy mean?

It means speaking up for yourself and communicating what you need to others. It involves knowing your strengths and weaknesses, knowing what your rights are and effectively communicating through speaking and listening.

These advocacy skills are needed in many aspects of life (i.e., in school with your teachers, at home with your family, at work with your boss and co-workers and with your friends). Advocacy skills are equally important in college.

What doesn’t it mean?

Being a self-advocate does not mean that you will always get what you want. However, many times, effective communication does change the behavior of others.

Effective communication

Self-advocacy involves effective communication. Using assertive communication to advocate for our wants and needs can help us achieve our goals, help us feel good about ourselves, develop positive relationships with others built on respect and support our decision-making abilities.

There are three types of communication — passive, aggressive and assertive.

  • Passive communicators never stand up for what they want or need and are often afraid of hurting others’ feelings or being rejected.
  • Aggressive communicators, on the other hand, may be impulsive, bold and overbearing. They may even include sarcastic or belittling comments to communicate.
  • Assertive communicators express both positive and negative thoughts and ideas in a clear, direct way, without stepping on anyone’s toes. Effective self-advocacy involves assertive communication.

Here are some tips to help you communicate assertively.

  • Use “I” statements and consider the feelings of others.
  • Be conscious of your tone of voice. Be firm and calm but nice.
  • Stick to the facts.
  • Be respectful of others’ opinions and feelings.
  • Use appropriate body language such as make eye contact, face the individual you are talking with and have a pleasant but serious facial expression.
  • Listen to the individual you are talking with about their opinions or feelings.

What are your rights?

As an individual with a disability, you are protected under three laws. It is important to know your rights in order to ask for what you want and require.

The Individuals with Disability Education Act is the law stating students with disabilities in high school have the right to a free and appropriate education where you will get appropriate special education services.

In college, qualified students with disabilities are eligible for services and are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. There are no special education classes in college, but students with disabilities can receive accommodations. Accommodations are modifications or adjustments to help you perform tasks. For example, one type of accommodation in college is receiving extended time on exams.