5 Tips for Helping Your Middle-Schooler Learn to Self-Advocate

By Amanda Morin

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52Found this helpful

Middle school can present challenges for kids with learning and attention issues. That makes it more important than ever for your child to practice self-advocacy skills. She might not be ready to be her only advocate, but here are steps you can take to lead her in that direction.

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Talk openly about learning and attention issues.

Your child knows how her issues impact her at school and at home. But it may help to have more context. Talk to her about having learning and attention issues, making sure to put a name to hers. You don’t have to use too many clinical terms, but knowing the name can help reduce stigma and empower your child.

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Discuss her needs and her learning plan.

It’s important for your child to be aware of what her needs are. Knowing that allows her to advocate for things like accommodations to help her succeed at school. If she has an IEP and doesn’t yet go to IEP meetings, share the plan with her. You can help her role-play situations to learn phrases to use to self-advocate.

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Talk to her about the challenges of middle school.

The transition to middle school can be tough. Kids usually have more teachers in middle school than they did in grade school. And the teachers may all have different teaching styles. Your child may be worried about speaking up to some of the teachers. Remind her that the teachers are there to help and should be familiar with her IEP or 504 plan. But it might help for her to make a 3×3 card to share with her teachers as a quick reminder.

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Help your child play to her strengths.

It can be tough to feel different in middle school. But your child’s learning and attention issues aren’t the most important things about her. Help her to identify her strengths and interests. She can join sports teams or other extracurricular activities that play to her strengths. It’s a good way to build self-esteem and make friends. Feeling more confident can help your child feel better about self-advocating.

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Let her know you’re on her team.

Kids in middle school are still learning to self-advocate. Assure your child that you’re still going to advocate for her and jump in when she needs you. Also, let her know that not only are you on her team, but you’re continuing to learn how to be an effective advocate, too. It’s something you can work on together.

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About the Author

Portrait of Amanda Morin

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Donna Volpitta

Donna Volpitta, Ed.D., is coauthor of The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive, Not Reactive, Parenting.

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