Self Advocacy

Adapted from “The Secrets of Self-Advocacy: How to Make Sure You Take Care of You” by Stephen M. Shore, Autism Advocate, 2006, Vol. 44, No. 4

Self-advocacy involves knowing when and how to approach others to negotiate desired goals, and to build better mutual understanding and trust, fulfillment and productivity. Successful self-advocacy often involves an amount of disclosure about oneself to reach the goal of better mutual understanding. In other words, it is sometimes needed in order to explain why an accommodation is necessary or helpful.

Ideally, it starts by setting the preconditions when the child is young. An important precondition for successful self-advocacy and disclosure is self-awareness. People with ASD need to understand how autism affects their interactions with others and the environment. Also, they need to be familiar with their strengths and challenges. A parent or caretaker can do this with a child from a very early age. In fact, the earlier a child has an explanation about his differences, the better off he will be.

Parents should let their child know of their strengths in any way they can. In addition to developing greater self-understanding, talents can be fostered for eventual courses of study and successful employment.

Teaching Self-Advocacy Skills

Just as teaching social skills and reading nonverbal communication is necessary for those on the autism spectrum, self-advocacy and disclosure requires direct instruction to develop skills.

Areas of instruction can include a variety of topics and skill areas, including:

• Use a child with autism’s IEP as a tool to teach her about self-advocacy and disclosure
• Teach children or adults about  the sensory systems and how to make requests for environmental accommodations
• Support a person on the spectrum in learning how and when to self-disclose
• Introduce a person with ASD to the basics of the Americans with Disabilities Act
• Assist a child or adult in creating self-advocacy scripts that can be used in a variety of settings and situations.

Self-Advocacy Organizations

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership

Self Advocates Becoming Empowered