Celebrating Self-Advocacy

“Although we are incredibly busy supporting the many learners in our classrooms, every student is worth it. Help all students understand themselves as a learner and push them to find their voice. By supporting each student in their growth and self-advocacy, we will create strong, confident young men and women who will gain perspective about everything they can accomplish!”

- Julia Osborne, Special Education Resource Teacher, York Region DSB

In this section of the module we have collected a selection of student and teacher voices to show the impact that self-advocacy can have on the lives and school experiences of students with LDs.

Jenessa Dworet (TDSB) speaks about her grade 11 student Alexis:

Picture of AlexisThroughout her years in school, Alexis learned to become a self-advocate; she feels comfortable to ask for help early on when needed and communicate to her teachers what she needs in order to be successful in the classroom. However, being able to self-advocate isn’t always easy:

“Asking for support is complicated – the student first needs to know what the issues are and how to articulate them. Then, the student needs to find a way to keep asking the teacher until the explanation makes sense. That’s really hard! On top of that, students face some teachers who are not receptive to supporting students.”

Although Jenessa has only known and worked with Alexis for one year, she has watched her develop strong self-advocacy skills:

“Alexis found her voice and faced even the most ‘fearsome’ teachers, only to find out that they were in fact eager and able to help her.”

Click here to read Alexis’s entire Success Story.

Elisa Blasi, a former student and Learning Disabilities Association of York Region Ambassador:

Picture of Elisa Blasi"If you are a high school teacher and reading this, then you have your work cut out for you. The problem is that by the time students get to you, they have been the elephant in the room for far too long. Many will be resistant and most will not even understand what a learning disability is. I suggest that high school teachers work together with their students with an LD to create a plan toward self-advocacy and understanding of their learning disability. Some will take longer to come around to the idea, but what is important is that you make yourself available for when they do."

Click here to read Elisa’s entire Success Story.

Abigail, a grade 4 student:

Photo of Abigail"It is important [for teachers and students] to know each other well and to help each other. For example, in science, my teacher left because she had a baby, so even though it was difficult, I stayed behind after class with the new teacher to tell her I am dyslexic. She was very nice and she was able to help me because she knew I had trouble with reading and writing. She finished writing my answers if I ran out of time so that I could study for my final. I had a scribe for the exam so I could prove I had the correct answers in my head!"

Click here to read Abigail’s entire Success Story.

Matthew, a grade 12 student:

Photo of Matthew"I think the most important thing a teacher should know is to never give up; students with learning disabilities may not always appear to try their hardest or have the greatest confidence but to have someone fight for you, to make you try, and do your best is the greatest thing you can ask a teacher to do. The reason I say this is that a teacher can support you and push you to become a better learner; they can support you to become a self-advocate and help you to understand how you learn and make you more confident. This commitment to a student with learning disabilities is the most important thing – it is something that will stay with the student forever."

Click here to read Matthew’s entire Success Story.

A.J., Ava, and Mason, high school students:

Click the play button below to listen to a clip from the TalkLD podcast episode, “The Journey to Becoming a Self-Advocate: Three Students’ Perspectives”. In this clip three students, A.J., Ava, and Mason, discuss their journeys with self-advocacy and explain how their school experience has change since they began advocate on their own behalf:

Click here to read the transcript of this clip. 

Click here to listen to the entire podcast.

With the right support and an inclusive environment, all students can develop self-advocacy skills, including those with LDs. Helping students develop self-advocacy involves being able to help them understand their own learning strengths and needs, and encouraging students to speak on their own behalf. Self-advocacy is especially important for students with LDs. It will help them achieve maturity, confidence and a sense of identity to be successful in school, and in their future.