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I was recently reminded that teaching our daughter how to self-advocate was going to be an ongoing lesson.  It’s a skill we will continue to practice at home and school until it’s more automatic. 

When we teach our children how to self-advocate, we teach them a skill that they will use for the rest of their lives. It’s essential that our children be able to speak up and ask for help. Not only with school work, but when they are sick, injured, or need help.

A few sentence starters to practice with your child at home . . .

  1. When your child needs help with a problem.

A classmate asks, “Why do you always leave the room during reading?”

Your child can say to the teacher after class: “My friends are asking why I leave for reading class. I don’t know what to say. Can you help me come up with an answer?”

  • When your child needs help with directions.

The teacher doesn’t read all of the directions out loud, and your child is having a hard time making sense of the written directions.

At school:  “Can I talk through the directions with you?”

At home: “I can do the work once I understand the directions. But it’s hard for me when they’re all in writing.”

Middle – Schoolers
  • When your child is slow to complete her work 

The teacher tells the class, “You need to complete your classwork before you can have free time on your computer.”

At school – your child asks the teacher: “It may take me a little longer to read them. Can I work on it at home tonight, and still have some time on the computer today?”

At home: “Teacher wouldn’t let me have free time today because I couldn’t get all of my classwork done. Can you talk to her about it?”

  • When your child needs to ask for audio books

The teacher tells the class: “By now you all should have read the book and we will start working on our projects next week. If not, please make sure you read it over the weekend.”

At school: “The book is tough and it’s taking me longer than I expected. Is there an audiobook version I can use?”

At home: “Can we read this book together? It’s too hard for me, but I don’t want to be the only one who hasn’t finished it.”

  • When your child is having trouble copying the notes in class.

Your child couldn’t finish copying all the notes on the board. This is very common for many dyslexic students.

At school:  “I couldn’t read fast enough to get the notes down. Do you have a copy I can take home with me?”

At home: “I have trouble copying the notes from the board before class ends. Can we ask my teacher for a copy of the notes?  Or maybe a copy from a classmate?”

How can you use these at home?

There are a few ways to help your child get started on self-advocacy. You can role-play situations, ask your child open-ended questions, spend more time listening than trying to solve problems, and talk about what may happen as a consequence of a decision (ask for help or not ask for help). Be sure to get your child’s teachers involved too so that they can support this new skill.

Your next steps?

Choose one self-advocacy skill that you can help your child with for the next few weeks. Practice with your child for the rest of this semester.  Let your child’s teacher know you are working on it at home and ask for her support at school.  Then in January check-in with the teacher to see if she can tell a difference.  REMIND your child when to use the new skill and how.

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