As for students with learning disabilities, self-advocacy is a crucial skill to have in the classroom, in order to obtain the best educational experience for yourself possible. Although, everyone can benefit from self-advocacy in and outside of the classroom.
As elementary school students, we so often hear the term “stick up for yourself” without receiving a complete understanding of what it truly means to do so. This results in naïve misinterpretations about self-advocacy; that it is an easily manageable task that accumulates with time and age. Well, at least that was my belief. I was met with the harsh realities of not “sticking up for yourself” as a high school freshman. Because I did not have the confidence, courage, and acknowledgement, I found that my academic wants and needs weren’t being met to my full satisfaction. Thankfully, because of the experience, I discovered the secret power that lies in self-advocacy and the impact it can have on one’s educational (and life) experience. Start the school year off right and be assertive in your education.
Identify Your Voice
Our educational lives are constantly monitored by a small army of adults including our parents, teachers, guidance counselors, club advisers, etc. In this triumphant sea of elders, it becomes very easy to lose your voice. Especially if some of these adults feel automatically inclined to exercise their authority over those younger than them, rather than with them. This lack of a platform can be discouraging to certain students, causing them to withdraw from the nucleus of their educational process rather than towards it. One of the most significant ways to dispel this unequal share of powers in one’s personal education is to know yourself well enough to vocalize your presence. By the simple act of acknowledging your academic wants, needs, strengths, weaknesses…etc. you lay the foundation for strong confidence and assurance that cannot go unheard by the adults in your educational journey.
A large part of self-advocacy is communication. And for my fellow introverts, allow me to rid of the ridiculous myth that extroverts are the only ones who can naturally speak for themselves. It merely takes a thorough understanding of self in order to communicate fluently and effectively with those who can provide aid to you. Taking initiative and being assertive means, in no way, to overrule the authority figures in your education. Rather, it means to be proactive and engaged in the learning process alongside them. The learning process is different for everyone. As for myself, I struggle with severe-to-profound hearing loss, which puts me at a slight disadvantage in certain oral-orientated classes. (Yes, I am calling you out, Honors Spanish.) Because of this, I had to commence personal conversations with my school advisers in order to address and accommodate these issues.
Self-advocacy does not come easily. It stems from self-confidence which can, in most cases, take time to build. With that being said, however, confidence is constantly evolving, so you should not decide to “wait” until you feel that you’ve reached the status quo of confidence that the media portrays. In the end, you must find what is most important to you as a student and person and inform people of the internal and external barriers making it difficult to attain the educational experience that you deserve.
Leadership Opportunity for Teens
During the summer in which I was a rising sophomore in high school, I was invited to a leadership program for teenagers with hearing loss called LOFT. It was here that I learned to be self-advocate. If you are a high school student with any measure of hearing loss/deafness, click on the hyperlink for more information about the program.