By Erica Patino
In high school, it’s important that teens are advocating for themselves. It’s good practice for life after graduation when they start living as young adults. Here are ways to help your child become a good self-advocate.
Make sure your child understands what her learning and attention issues are. (“I have trouble reading and spelling.”) Also make sure she knows the name of her diagnosis, if she has one. (“I have dyslexia.”) You may want to have her practice describing her learning and attention issues to friends or other people in your family, so she can comfortably explain them. (“It takes me longer to read, but I do the same work as everyone in my class.”)
It may not seem like it to your child, but there is life after high school. And it will start sooner than she thinks! Give her a taste of the possibilities by taking her to college open houses, or encouraging her to try to line up a summer internship or job. Getting excited about the future can help your child feel more confident in high school.
If your child has been formally diagnosed with a learning disability or ADHD, she’s protected under federal law through IDEA. Help her understand what her rights are (“I can get accommodations—such as extra time on tests—from school, but I still need to take all my required classes”). It’s also important that she understand how those rights might change when she graduates from high school.
If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan, have her attend the planning meetings and participate in them. This gives her an opportunity to set her own goals for the year and to hear how the school plans to help her succeed. Throughout the process, keep her thinking about the future by discussing her plans for after high school.
Regardless of whether your child has an IEP or 504 plan, she can talk to teachers and school staff about her learning and attention issues. Encourage her to set up one-on-one meetings with teachers to get feedback. She can talk about what is and isn’t going well and work with her teachers to come up with new strategies. This will be good practice for when your child needs to do this with a boss at work or with college or postsecondary instructors.
Kids tend to be very self-aware by high school. Encourage your child to think about how things are going in her life, both academically and socially. What’s going well, and what can be improved? For things that she thinks can be improved, help her brainstorm possible solutions. (“I’m often late to first period. Maybe I can get up 10 minutes earlier so I have more time to get to school.”)
Self-advocacy skills can help your child deal with current challenges and the ones she’ll face after high school.
Learn more about the importance of self-advocacy. And consider other ways to help develop a healthy self-esteem.
It’s important for middle-schoolers with ADHD to learn how to self-advocate and ask for support. But kids this age may feel embarrassed about needing extra help. They may also not know how to ask for it. Help your child by rehearsing common situations like these.
Middle school is a good time for kids to practice self-advocacy skills. They might not be ready to handle everything on their own, but they can take steps in that direction. Here are some ways you can help.
Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.
Donna Volpitta, Ed.D., is coauthor of The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive, Not Reactive, Parenting.
4 Ways to Help Your Child Build a Support Network
Should I Encourage My Child to Go to IEP Meetings?
5 Things Your Middle-Schooler With Dyslexia Can Say to Self-Advocate
Video: Developing Self-Advocacy With a 3×3 Card
8 Steps for Helping Third and Fourth Graders Become Self-Advocates
The Importance of Self-Advocacy for Kids With Learning and Attention Issues
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