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Caregiver/Parent Guide to Self-Advocacy


Caregivers/parents must know how to advocate effectively for themselves if they are going to teach their child/young adult self-advocacy skills.

Here are some tips to follow when teaching your child to become a self-advocate:

    • Research the best ways to teach and transfer these advocacy skills to the child/young adult.
    • Discuss/process the importance of advocacy with the child/young adult and have them agree to work on self-advocating.
    • Role-play/practice self-advocacy at home in a safe, private setting for common situations or before an event.
    • Be consistent.
    • Be patient.

When starting out, it can be helpful to model advocating for yourself and afterwards process/explain how you advocated during the interaction/event. Remember, when advocating, it’s important to figure out the “who, what, when, where, why, and how.” Careful planning with each of those questions while role playing self-advocacy will help when using these skills in public in the future.

Later, after the child/ young adult feels more comfortable, you can have them practice with you before they try advocating for themselves in the community/in public.

    • Start with low-pressure situations.
    • It can be helpful to be nearby to offer help if needed.
      • Make sure you pay attention so you’re available to support as needed.
    • With increasing experience and success, you can increase the level of difficulty and at the same time, increase the distance so you’re further away.
      • It’s still important to pay attention to the interaction but only offer support if it’s truly needed.

Having your child/young adult specifically practice these skills on you, the parent or caregiver, provides a great opportunity for them to increase their confidence in their self-advocacy skills. Giving positive and helpful feedback to their self-advocating attempts is both validating and can help improve their self-esteem.

In all cases, process the event/interaction afterwards and ask them how they thought they did. This is a good time to express how you thought they did, reviewing what was done well and what also needs more practice.

Role play, practice, and repeat the self-advocacy skills in a variety of different settings/situations.

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This information was developed by the Autism Services, Education, Resources, and Training Collaborative (ASERT). For more information, please contact ASERT at 877-231-4244 or info@PAautism.org. ASERT is funded by the Bureau of Supports for Autism and Special Populations, PA Department of Human Services.