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Tips for Self-Advocacy

Self-advocacy is an essential skill to have in school, especially for a student with a learning disability. Unfortunately, a lot of students struggle with self-advocacy either because they are nervous about talking to teachers or don’t know how to bring up the topic of their learning disability and ask for help. Here are some tips from my experience that I hope will help other students in similar positions.
Self-advocacy in general:
•    Think about what you want to say to the teacher ahead of time.

  • Figure out the message you want to get across, what you need the teacher to understand.

•    Pick an appropriate time

  • We all know those people who disrupt the class by asking to use the restroom or asking a personal question when the teacher is in the middle of talking

  • Ask the teacher if you can talk with them before or after class for a short conversation or after school for a longer one

•    Always be polite

  • Treating teachers with respect makes them more likely to want to help you succeed in their class

  • Always remember to thank the teacher after talking with them or at the end of an email

•    If you have a question, ask!

  • Ask if you have a question about the material, teachers love answering questions about their subject and it demonstrates your interest in learning

  • It is always better to ask for clarification on an assignment than to do it the wrong way and lose points for it

  • Asking questions is actually a sign of intelligence, it shows curiosity and a willingness to learn

•    If you are absent, contact the teacher

  • Try and keep track of the work you missed in each class; teachers have a lot of students, so they might not remember what the class did on the days you were absent

  • If your school uses an online resource, check to see if your teacher has posted anything

  • If your absence was pre-arranged, always talk to the teacher a couple of days ahead of time so they can give you the work you will miss. Try and schedule tests before you leave so you don’t forget the material

  • If your absence is unexpected, email the teacher to explain that you were absent and ask how you can make up any missed work​

•    Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself

  • If you have a problem or need help with an assignment, always ask rather than letting your grade suffer for not saying anything

Talking to a teacher about convergence insufficiency:
•    Talk to teachers the first week of school

  • Try not to talk to them on the first day, the second day is a better bet

  • Introduce yourself and explain a little bit about CI

  • Something along the lines of: “Hi, my name is ______, I just wanted to let you know that I get accommodations for a condition I have called Convergence Insufficiency. It’s a visual processing disorder that causes my eyes not to want to work together to focus on things that are close to me…” and go on to briefly explain how it affects you

  • It is particularly important to talk to the teacher about this in the first week if you have preferential seating and need to change where you are sitting to be able to see the board more easily

•    If a teacher refuses to give you accommodations or trouble about your disability after you have tried sorting it out yourself, get your parents involved and possibly the guidance councilor

  • Teachers are required by law to give students accommodations specified in their special education plans

  • Teachers are also not allowed to tell students confidential information, such as a learning disability, about another student.   

•    Be the one to initiate the conversation about CI

  • You are the person with the condition, the person who will benefit if the teacher understands your challenges

•    Don’t let your parents be the only ones who care if you get the correct accommodations

  • Make sure you are paying attention to when you get accommodations. Your parents aren’t in the room and some teachers may forget what accommodations you require if they have many students

•    Spend some time thinking about what accommodations would benefit you the most. 

  • Have an idea of what you want to change about your accommodations before going into your IEP or 504 meeting

  • Talk to your individual teachers if there is something about their specific class that can be approved with accommodations

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