According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers”, one key to a person’s success is learning how to self advocate when they are young. Gladwell dives into a memorable exploration of a single question: what makes some individuals so successful? Self Advocacy is crucial. Gladwell discusses other answers to the question including 10,000 hours of practice creates an expert. As a parent, I highly recommend reading “Outliers” so you can explore how to best help your child become successful.

How to Teach Self Advocacy Strategies

I’d like to zero in on this one idea that children need to be taught how to self advocate. Teaching strategies that generate self advocacy skills are a must for kids. Self-advocacy is knowing how and when to speak up for yourself and make your own decisions. It’s being able to problem solve, knowing when to ask for help, and having the ability to listen to others. Good self advocacy requires kids to know themselves. Self Advocacy is knowing what your interests, wants, and needs are, and being able to know when to act on them. Students who are transitioning to middle school, high school, and college should focus on cultivating these valuable skills. This is when your children’s lives are changing, and they need to be able to help themselves get through it.

Understanding How to Self Advocate

An easy way to teach students how to self-advocate is to give them a real-life scenario that they can connect to and understand. This will help students understand what self-advocacy is. Here is an example that you can share.

Alexa just got a pair of glasses to help her see far away. However, Alexa is still getting used to them and feels she needs to sit in the front of the classroom. One day Alexa came to school and her teacher had switched her seat to the back of classroom. Alexa stayed after class to talk to her teacher about moving her seat to the front of the classroom.

After you have read this scenario to your child, ask the following questions to make sure they understand why Alexa had to speak up for herself.

  • Why was it important for Alexa to talk to her teacher after class?
  • Did Alexa do the right thing?
  • What would you have done if you were in Alexa’s situation? Why?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you had to self-advocate?
  • Did you find it difficult to speak yourself? Why or why not?
  • How did standing up for yourself impact your future?

Once you discuss these questions, have your child generate five places or situations where they will have to self-advocate.

Implementing What Children Learned About Self-Advocacy

Here is a life threatening example of what can happen when we fail to self advocate. As another exercise, go through this video with your child and answer the following questions.  Use this video to teach them how to implement their new found self advocacy skills.

  • Why was it important for the hang glider, Chris Gursky, to advocate for himself?
  • Did he do the right thing?
  • What should he have done to protect his safety?
  • What would you have done if you were in his situation?

One thing that really needs to hit home with kids transitioning to middle school, high school, or college is that their role as a student is changing. They are becoming more and more independent each day, and with that comes challenges. Students need to have self-advocacy skills so they are better able to deal with any situations or challenges that come up in everyday life. By having kids partake in these activities, you are ensuring that they will be their own successful advocate.

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