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Submitted by: Lynn Ziraldo, Executive Director, LDA York; Dr. Sue Ball, Co-ordinator of Psychological Services, York Region DSB; and Liz Ablett, Consultant, York Region DSB

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  • Teach students the four phases of advocacy: stop, think, act, and check it out.
  • Teach the use of clear, direct requests or directives rather than hinting, being indirect, or presuming.
  • Promote a classroom atmosphere of support, encouragement, and acceptance by:
    • using strategies such as co-operative grouping, learning, and play
    • direct teaching of the necessary social skills
  • Teach the appropriate use of assertive behaviours through strategies such as modelling, role-playing, and co-operative group learning.
  • Remind students that body language is very important and practise in a mirror. Assertive body language uses eye contact, head nodding, a relaxed posture, and an even-toned voice.
  • Teach students the appropriate language and remind them it’s not what they say but how they say it.
  • Relate problems to real life situations the student may encounter. Brainstorm possible scenarios the students may find themselves in. Practice the advocacy skills by using games, short stories, social problem-solving stories, pictures, role-playing, and group discussion.
  • Provide opportunities for relevant problem solving in context through themes, games, and small group activities.
  • Teach the appropriate language for assertive communication.
  • Discuss with the student their strengths and needs, so that they may:
    • understand their own strengths, needs, abilities, and interests
    • set goals for themselves
  • Take ownership and responsibility to advocate for themselves

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Empower the Student!

horizontal line tealFor more information on helping your students develop self-advocacy skills, please visit:

Click here to access an article about "Unlocking Potential: Key Components of Programming for Students with Learning Disabilities" Alberta Education.

Click here to access  an article about "Self Advocacy", canLEARN Society. 

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As a special education consultant for the York Region District School Board, Liz Ablett has the opportunity to provide support to a variety of individuals involved in the education of students with exceptionalities. Liz supports students, families, teachers, school and board support staff, and community partners.  Support is provided through consultation, liaison, professional development, and resource development. This support is always provided with the Board’s vision in mind:  “We recognize all learners as our learners and work together to ensure the discovery of potential each and every day”.

Dr. Sue Ball is the Chief Psychologist at the York Region District School Board. Her areas of interest include student advocacy, learning disabilities and mental health. Her Ph.D. was completed at OISE/UT on the interrelationship between cognitive and language skills as they impact the development of reading and writing skills for first and second language learners.  

Lynn Ziraldo is the Executive Director of the Learning Disabilities Association of York Region.  She has been involved with the association for 34 years at the local, provincial, and national levels.  She has represented learning disabilities and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder on numerous committees/task forces, work groups on education, health, social, and legal issues throughout York Region, Ontario, Canada, and the United States.  She is currently the advisor and past chair of the Minister’s Advisory Council for Special Education in Ontario; also, Vice Chair of York Region SEAC.  Her work also has been acknowledged through several awards locally, provincially and internationally.

Lynn has led numerous workshops and training on learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, advocacy training, communication skills, SEAC, legislation, volunteer board development, strategic planning, etc. to parents, professional groups and community agencies.  Her involvement in the LD Association has led her to be an effective advocate for her sons, who have LD and ADD, as well as other people with disabilities at the local, provincial and national level.