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

By Erica Patino

62Found this helpful
62Found this helpful

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.

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Have your child explain her learning and attention issues to others.

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.”)

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Encourage her to plan for the future.

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.

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Make sure your child knows her rights.

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.

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Involve your child in decisions about her learning.

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.

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Have your child talk to teachers about her learning and attention issues.

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.

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Encourage your child to evaluate how things are going.

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.

View the tips again

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

Self-advocacy is an important skill for even young kids with dyslexia to develop. But sometimes it’s hard for grade-schoolers to know what to say. You can help your child by rehearsing common situations she may face.

10 Ways to Help Shy Children Self-Advocate

Self-advocacy is important for kids with learning and attention issues. It helps them ask for what they need. But shy kids may find it especially hard to request help or speak up for themselves. Here are some ways to help your shy child ease into being a self-advocate.

About the Author

Portrait of Erica Patino

Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.

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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