Instruction in self-advocacy
(Instruction in self-advocacy which may include peer mentoring)
Self-advocacy refers to: an individual's ability to effectively communicate, convey, negotiate or assert his/her own interests and/or desires. Self-determination means that individuals with disabilities have the freedom to plan their own lives, pursue the things that are important to them and to experience the same life opportunities as other people in their communities1. It means taking the responsibility for communicating one’s needs and desires in a straightforward manner to others. The development of self-advocacy skills should be started at an early age. These skills will be needed in education, workplace and community settings.
Self-advocacy skills include:
- self -awareness
- disability understanding
- disability disclosure
- decision making
- set goals
- evaluate options
- identify independence
- request & utilize accommodations
- know your rights & responsibilities
- know how to request & accept help
- intrinsic motivation
- taking a leadership role
- in support plans
- listen to others opinions
- problem solving
- monitor progress
- positive self-talk
Self-determination is a concept reflecting the belief that all individuals have the right to direct their own lives. Students who have self-determination skills have a stronger chance of being successful in making the transition to adulthood, including employment and independence. To accomplish this goal, students must be prepared to participate in planning for their future2.
Information on accommodations is available through many learning disability organizations. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN)3 has qualified people to help you find the best accommodation solutions. Another resource is Learning Disabilities Association of America4 that provides tips on becoming an effective self advocate in the workplace.
Peer mentoring is a process through which a more experienced individual encourages
and assists a less experienced individual develop his or her potential within a shared area of interest. The resulting relationship is a reciprocal one in that both individuals in the partnership have an opportunity for growth and development. Peers are individuals who share some common characteristics, attributes or circumstances. These may relate to age, ability, interests, etc. Peer mentors are individuals who have more experience within that common area along with additional training in how to assist another in acquiring skills, knowledge and attitudes to be more successful5.
Mentoring relationships may take different forms6 :
- Peer Mentoring: A person close in age to his or her mentee may act as a sounding board for ideas and plans and provide guidance in an informal manner.
- Disability Mentoring: A person with a disability mentors another person, usually with a similar disability. The relationship generally focuses on a specific area such as living independently, recovering from a traumatic event, obtaining employment or being new to the workforce. The mentor serves as a role model and provides information and guidance specific to the mentee's experience.
- Group Mentoring: A mentor may work with a group of mentees.
- E-mentoring: An adult mentors a young person through email or the Internet.
When identifying potential mentors, the following factors should be looked at:
- Expertise in a particular career area or occupation
- Good people skills
- Comfortable with youth and young adults
- Able to identify potential problems and find solutions
- Provide constructive evaluation and feedback to nurture learning
- Perceive possible benefits to mentoring
- Ability to pass background check
Mentoring relationships can keep students from special populations in school, contribute to positive self-esteem, and identify realistic career and academic goals. Research indicates that mentoring is especially effective in helping youth with disabilities transition into the workplace and adulthood.
2Bremer, C. Kachgal, M., Scholler, K., (April 2003). Self-Determination: Supporting Successful Transition.
5Gillman, D. (2006). The Power of Peer Mentoring. Wisconsin Healthy & Ready to Work: A Series of Materials Supporting Youth with Special Health Care Needs, Waisman Center, Wisconsin Council on Developmental Disabilities, University of Wisconsin-Madison.