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

By Erica Patino

44Found this helpful
44Found this helpful

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.

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Help your child understand his learning and attention issues.

Make sure your child understands what his learning and attention issues are (“I have trouble reading and spelling”). Also make sure he knows the name of his diagnosis, if he has one. (“I have dyslexia.”) Let him practice explaining his learning and attention issues to other kids. (“It takes me longer to read, but I do the same work as everyone in my class.”)

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Help your child be aware of his strengths and weaknesses.

By middle school, it’s important that your child be aware of his strengths and weaknesses. If he needs accommodations to succeed at school, he needs to understand those, too. Let him practice what he’ll say to teachers. (“Writing down notes takes me a long time. Can I use voice-activated software to take notes in your class instead?”) Make sure he understands his areas of strength and how those help him succeed. (“I have good visual memory skills so I can visualize pictures to help me remember.”)

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Talk to him about his teachers.

Kids usually have more teachers in middle school than they did in grade school. And the teachers may all have different teaching styles. Talk to your child to find out if there are particular teachers he’s having trouble with. (“Mrs. Smith assigns too much reading, and I can’t read that fast.”) Then help your child brainstorm approaches for these issues. (“Can you ask her for an extension on reading? Can we talk to her about using audiobooks instead?”)

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Encourage him to talk about how he learns best.

By this time, your child may already be familiar with strategies that help him to learn. Let him know it’s OK to talk to teachers about these strategies. Have conversations about when it’s appropriate to talk to teachers (before or after class or during lunch). Help him rehearse what he’ll say. (“Can you show me the steps in these science experiments instead of telling me? I think that will help me in your class.”)

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Build his self-esteem.

Kids in middle school are going through a lot of changes, socially and academically. Help your child develop a healthy self-esteem by acknowledging when he’s worked hard. (“I see that you stayed up and finished your English homework, even though you were tired. I’m proud of you!”) Praise him when he advocates for himself. (“Nice job going to your teacher to ask about the extension. I know that can be tough.”)

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Let your child know you are on his team.

Kids in middle school are still learning to self-advocate. Ask your child to tell you when he needs more help. And assure him that you’ll advocate for him when he needs you. Self-advocacy skills can help your child deal with his current challenges and the ones he’ll face in the future. Learn more about the importance of self-advocacy, and consider other ways to help boost his self-esteem.

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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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