6 Tips for Helping Your High-Schooler Learn to Self-Advocate

By Amanda Morin

66Found this helpful
66Found this helpful

High school can present challenges for kids with learning and attention issues. That’s true both academically and socially. It’s important that your child be able to self-advocate in those situations. Doing it now is also good practice for life after high school. Here are ways to help your child speak up for her needs.

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Encourage her to explain her issues to others.

You’ve worked hard to be an effective advocate for your child. You’ve spent time explaining her learning and attention issues to others. But in high school, it’s time for her to take on some of that responsibility. Talk with her about the situations in which she might want to disclose her issues and how she can do it. For ideas about how to do that, you can share with your child a video of one teen explaining why she tells her friends about her dyscalculia.

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Encourage her to work or volunteer.

High-schoolers crave independence. Having a job or volunteering is a good way to support that and provides an opportunity for self-advocacy. Discuss the pros and cons of telling her employer about her learning issues. And reassure her that employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to help her do her job.

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Make sure your child knows her rights.

If your child has been formally diagnosed with a learning disability or ADHD and receives services at school, she’s protected under federal law through IDEA. Help her understand what her rights are. It’s also important that she understand how those rights might change when she graduates from high school.

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Involve your child in decisions about her learning.

If your child has an IEP or a 504 plan, have her attend meetings and participate in them. It gives her a chance to talk directly with her team about her goals, her transition plan, what’s working and what’s not. It can also help her think about her plans for after high school.

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Practice how she can talk to teachers about her issues.

Your child will have a number of teachers in high school and will need to speak to them about her accommodations and services. Those conversations can be hard for a teen to initiate. Practice conversation starters she can use to make it easier. It’s also good practice for when your child needs to do this with a boss at work or with college instructors.

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Help your child think about her future.

Self-advocacy isn’t just about speaking up. It’s also about knowing what you want to do and how to go after it. Talk to your child about her plans for after high school. Does she want to go to college? What type of school? Does she want to learn a trade? Having these conversations can help your child figure out how to approach her high school years and may ease some of her fears about her future.

View the tips again

5 Things Your Grade-Schooler With Dyscalculia Can Say to Self-Advocate

It’s important for grade-schoolers with dyscalculia to start learning self-advocacy skills. But it can be hard for them to know what to say and when to say it. Here are some ideas you can use to help your child practice speaking up for what he needs.

6 Things Your Grade-Schooler With Dyspraxia Can Say to Self-Advocate

It’s important for grade-schoolers with dyspraxia to start working on self-advocacy skills. Here are some ideas you can use to help your child practice saying these kinds of things to you and to her teachers.

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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