The Importance of Self-Advocacy

What is Self-Advocacy?  How do people define it?  I set out to define it for myself.    Here is my interpretation of self-advocacy:

Self-Advocacy empowers, Self-Advocacy is collective, Self-Advocacy inspires, Self-Advocacy gives us hope for a better tomorrow. Self-Advocacy discerns us at times when others realize we do have a “voice.”  Determination, Strength, eagerness to do well, and knowing who you are and what you can do is Self-Advocacy.

You may ask why I suddenly decided to define self-advocacy.  Well, what inspired and sparked my desire to define it for myself was when I read  Melanie Yergeau definition in her recent article and Colorado State University’s definition which I found to be the most useful and encouraging.

Here you can read what Colorado State University says about Self Advocacy:


Definition of a Self-Advocate

A Self-advocate:

  • Knows him/herself,
  • Knows what s/he needs and wants, and
  • Knows how to get what s/he needs and wants.

Self-advocacy is based upon a holistic model which looks at all the areas of an individual’s life. For example, a college student’s life might include the following areas…Daily Living, School/Work, Health, Relationships, Recreation/Leisure, Spirituality/Purpose. Life is not one dimensional therefore, it is important to acknowledge how each area impacts the functioning of other areas. It is also important to strive for some type of balance between life areas. This doesn’t mean that the same amount of time is spent in each life area, but it does mean that each area receives some attention.

Self-advocacy skills are essential in the college environment and in adulthood. However, becoming a self-advocate does not happen overnight. It is a lifelong process that is perfected as an individual gains a solid sense of who s/he is and an awareness of how to maximize strengths and work with challenges. Parents and families can play a key role in supporting and promoting the development of self-advocacy skills in their children before and after they go to college.

Melanie wrote an interesting statement in her blog which reads:

We are not trained to self-advocate; we are trained to be passive. What able-bodied people are taught is a right, disabled people are taught is a burden.

When a child is growing up, it is imperative for their parents to prepare them to be a functional adult in today’s world.  In preparation for this transition, parents will have to explore what their child’s strengths are and help build on them. The next step is teaching their child how they can use their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses in order to function in society.  When a child has any disability or specifically on the autism spectrum, the earlier detection of this difference, the more parents can work harder at future successes in the child’s life.  For example, when choosing to work with your child to know when to speak up, the child will have an easier time growing up in to adulthood. By the time these children become adults, they can really work on who they really are and not be enabled to regress.

It is better to teach any one to speak up at the right moment, then to teach them to shy away, notwithstanding teaching a child to self-advocate can be a difficult task since every child learns differently. When a child learns passive behavior, this  usually leads to passive-aggressive behavior when they are not taught to speak up right away and out of nowhere explodes in raging anger.

Can any one imagine teaching any child regardless of who the child is, to build up their strengths? It seems like having a full time job.  After careful teaching and planning, hopefully the child regardless of any disability speaks up  throughout adulthood and can handle most of their life on their own.

In retrospect, there are some children who seem like they need more help than other children with autistic spectrum disorders. In the end, they may not become fully functional adults like Ari Ne’eman, Temple Grandin, Michael John Carley, myself, or the many other people on the autistic spectrum succeeding joyfully.  Society needs to move forward as much as we can to give these children with either classic autistic disorder (multitude of sensory problems, seizures, and/or constant stimming) or children with a lesser condition of an autistic spectrum disorder to live in the world with some kind of success with strength they do have. Can you imagine if the people mentioned above didn’t receive the support they had when they were younger? They probably would not have succeeded at many things. Strengths are important for any one to acknowledge and the parents who continue to try to teach their children the right to speak up are proactively stimulating these children to be who they are.  Speaking for oneself is an important quality every one needs to obtain because every one requires the freedom to tell others what they want and need. Rather than thinking about all what is wrong with these individuals and fix society, parents should realize the repercussions of this idea and instead prepare their children for the future.  Isn’t it better for any one to be unique and different with creative ideas? What about every one in society receiving their rights to live? Every one should be chanting the phrase the Autistic Self Advocacy Network has been saying all along “Nothing about us, without us.”

What more can I say? Well, I hope you learn from what I am saying.

posting more soon,




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One thought on “The Importance of Self-Advocacy

  1. C. S. Wyatt

    I’m glad you shared this post. It’s thought provoking, especially since I’m trying to establish supports for autistics at the university where I work.