Self-advocacy is the crucial trait of “Standing up for yourself”. Though it is a quality we must encourage in all, those coping with Dyslexia have to acquire it particularly. Before we discuss how to go about learning self-advocacy, we must first understand the concept step-by-step.
In this blog, we will explore in detail about self-advocacy, how it is related to Dyslexia, and why should people with dyslexia be self-advocates.
What is self-advocacy?
We live in a community that is built by individuals with varied perceptions and likings. However, as exciting and crucial as this difference is, it can often lead to a few people going unnoticed and unseen. Hence, communication skills and speaking up when it matters are needed.
Once a student is able to achieve this, we can stand for ourselves and for others with similar challenges. This is the essence of self-advocacy. By definition, Self-advocacy is the ability of a person to communicate their needs, opinions, and beliefs in a civil and cognizable way. Some fail to self-advocate because of hesitation and fear.
Self-advocacy is all about knowing your strengths and weaknesses, strategizing to overcome them, and, finally, being able to use both your strengths and weaknesses to your gains.
There are broadly two types of self-advocacy:
- Individual Self-advocacy
The attribute of a person with special needs is to communicate their needs.
- Group Self-advocacy
A group of specially-abled people coming together to advocate for their challenges. Here, people with similar challenges join to get life-changing opportunities.
For a group of people to speak up for themselves, individual empowerment and self-advocacy have to come first. Only then can we speak for others when we have mastered the art of standing up for ourselves.
Self-advocacy and Dyslexia
There is no in-depth research that shows a direct relation between Dyslexia and Self-advocacy. However, research conducted at the University of East London shows that people with dyslexia usually require external support for communication and social interaction. They have actively requested being taught skills that can help them find that support within.
Dyslexic students recognize the benefits of self-advocacy, and given a stressful transition that every kid goes through in their adolescence; it becomes all the more important.
Why should people with dyslexia be self-Advocates?
Self-advocacy brings in the ability to communicate needs. Apart from this, dyslexics must be advocates for self because of the following reasons –
- Teaching self-advocacy in school will prepare specially-abled people for real-life situations like job interviews or visiting a doctor by helping them make their own decisions.
- Self-advocacy makes sure people with dyslexia form alliances and take support from organizations like ASHA and NCLD when needed.
- It is often seen that people with dyslexia face bias. Self-advocacy makes them reach out for what they need and push higher, thus bridging the gaps if any. Self-advocacy helps people with dyslexia experience teamwork. It also helps them learn conflict resolution and creative problem-solving skills.
- Living a dream life without any constraint leads to independence. People with dyslexia enjoy a sense of freedom by asking for and getting what they want.
How can parents and teachers encourage self-advocacy?
Caregivers play crucial roles in a child’s personal and academic development. Mentorship given at the right age and time makes a big difference. Here’s how parents and teachers can push the conversation ahead:
- Mentors should work together to keep dyslexic students free from ill-treatment and misleading.
- The style of guiding can’t be the same for all the students. Parents need to follow their children and observe what they like to do. Teachers should also look at the child’s tastes and styles besides his academic performance. A mentor’s approach must be at par with the child’s likings and talents. It is observed that authoritarian (high supportiveness and high demand) is preferable to improve self-advocacy.
- Students with dyslexia should be taught what self-advocacy exactly is. It is not only about asking for what you need but doing so respectfully while also analysing what others say too. This can be done only when people around them take care of it.
- Knowing about self helps a student evaluate what they need and what to ask for. Mentors can help here by asking their children questions about themselves.
- Saying no to everything may kill self-advocacy. Thus, Parents can agree to a few things but say no, whenever there’s a valid reason.
- Educators should give quality time to each dyslexic student to ensure there is no bias, and it will also help improve their bond.
- Students with dyslexia should get the right opportunities needed to experience, prove, and finally shine on their own. Educationists and parents are responsible for creating these opportunities. \
Best practices to encourage self-advocacy
If you tend to a dyslexic ward, it becomes a part of your chores to involve their self-advocacy training in your schedule too. Here are some small things you can do to make them self-reliant, confident, and great advocates for self:
- Be motivating
Having a positive attitude towards life is the first step to achieving our goals. People with dyslexia can be taught and encouraged to be self-reliant, independent, and sufficient. It is found that motivated children do well in academics due to their improved self- advocacy.
- Becoming friends and then mentors
Parents and teachers are the finest mentors who actively help these students in their initial years. But, for kids with special needs, mentors often forget patience and kindness are fine virtues. Many dyslexic people are hesitant, thus, stepping back from taking assistance for themselves. It is here that a mentor should choose to be a friend and gain their trust first so that your ward can and will confide in you at rough patches. When they begin conversing with you, it will allow them to express themselves better, in general.
- Creating and Maintaining allies
“The strength of the wolf is the pack”. Encourage friendships and build communities where your child is understood, promoted, and required to participate. Friendships are important for anyone’s mental development. Having a strong sense of community will be a quick stress buster and will help them continue their practice of forming alliances later.
- Conquer your place
Due to bias, a dyslexic person can get low and thus, lose confidence. Demanding for equal rights and conquering places equal to others will bring the required motivation, and thus, self-advocacy. We, as wards, can encourage our kids to partake in challenges and excel. However, we must also educate them on how to be gracious if we lose.
One has to learn how to stand up for themselves, particularly when others may not. Considering the prevailing bias against dyslexic people at workplaces and the world in general, we must educate them on how to speak up and recognise themselves. That can be done using self-advocacy methods. Parents and teachers should be there every time they are needed. Practising communication is the key.
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