Self-advocacy is defined as a person with the ability to identify their strengths and limitations, assess what they require in order to achieve their goals and be able to communicate this to others. This is an important skill for all young people maturing into adulthood, however, for those with special educational needs (SEN), this is particularly necessary for their development throughout school and the early stages following education.
Encouraging young people to self-advocate gives them independence, ownership and confidence to make their own decisions throughout their education and beyond. Without the right support to nurture this though, there could be detrimental consequences for those with SEN. Dr Valerie Paradiz, a leading expert on self-advocacy, says that, “If we deny kids this very important aspect of identity, we limit their ability to become the successful adults we want them to be.”
Nasen believes it is crucial for both parents and school staff to provide students with opportunities to control situations through effective choice and decision making. That way, young people with SEN will be able to successfully grow and contribute towards their long-term success.
According to Community Care, “Self-advocacy enables people with a learning disability to speak for themselves and to make decisions about how they want to live their own lives.” This is particularly relevant during school, as there comes a point when a young person will need to start making judgements and decisions for themselves, without having to rely on advice and guidance from others. Jane Friswell at nasen says, “As a parent of a teenager with SEN, I am proud of the young adult he is developing into. His views are often very different to mine, but it means he has an opinion of his own, he knows what he wants and can often construct effective ways of achieving his ambitions.
“There are times when I find having to keep tight-lipped challenging, but I console myself knowing that he will ‘hold his own’ in the world and he has the temerity and tenacity to succeed independent of his parents. And for me, this is what all parents should strive for.”
Schools and parents have a duty to deliver this support as early as possible, so that students with SEN are able to leave education with the confidence to work out what they need to do in order to achieve their goals. It’s vital for peers and school staff to be as supportive as possible to help them understand how to appropriately communicate and self-advocate. This will then give them the independence to make effective choices and appropriately map out their future.
Educater can help schools utilise the effectiveness of self-advocacy, through regularly monitoring the progress of SEN pupils’ development. Having a central management system will reduce the time staff spend on administration, so they can focus on supporting young people with SEN – a benefit both for the school and the pupil.