8 Steps for Helping Third and Fourth Graders Become Self-Advocates

By Amanda Morin

65Found this helpful

As your third or fourth grader moves into a new phase of learning, it’s a good time to start teaching self-advocacy skills. Understanding and talking about her challenges can help her start to identify and ask for what she needs. Here are some steps to begin that process.


Define the issue.

Talk with your child about her learning and attention issues. Help find her own words to describe the issues so she can explain them to other people.


Describe the difficulties.

Ask your child to think about how her issues affect her in daily life. Self-awareness—tuning in to what’s working and what’s not—is an important step to self-advocacy.


Pinpoint issues and needs.

Ask your child to try to describe exactly what she’s having trouble with. Are there specific things she can ask for that might help? The more detail she can give, the better she can self-advocate.


Identify learning strengths.

Help your child examine what helps her feel and be successful. Does she learn best by listening or reading? Or does she do better when there’s a video or demonstration to watch?


Identify effective strategies.

Help your child think about the learning strategies that work for her. Make a list of things that are helpful. Does she need to sit in the front of the class? Does she need to be able to take breaks?


Create a script.

With your child, develop a script she can use to talk to teachers and classmates about her learning and attention issues and the strategies that work for her. Practice it so she’s confident sharing with others: “Noise on the school bus is a problem for me. I wear these earphones to feel better.”


Work through who to talk to.

Once your child can identify a problem and some solutions, help her figure out who is the best person to approach for help.


Discuss where and when to ask for help.

Teach your child when it’s OK to ask for help in the moment—if she feels threatened, for example—and when it’s better to schedule a more private conversation (like if something comes up during class).

Get more tips on how to help grade-schoolers learn self-advocacy skills.

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.

Did you find this helpful?

What’s New on Understood