Building Self-advocacy in Children with Autism

Therapies and Resources for Children with Autism & Families

As a parent, you are your child’s greatest advocate. In many situations, whether it is related to school, friends, or family, you may find yourself speaking up on behalf of your child’s unique needs. While this is normal and perfectly acceptable, it is also very important that, as your child’s advocate, you also encourage him or her to learn how to advocate on his or her own. There are times and situations when it may be important for your child to express needs, concerns or questions. Here are some ways that you can help your child become a self-advocate:

  • Encourage questions. One of the best things you can do for your child is to let him or her learn that asking questions is OK. Questions signal your child’s curiosity and are children’s way of learning and comprehending how the world around them works. While you may grow weary of endless questions, it is important to encourage your child’s discovery. Also, if your child knows that she can ask her teacher or an adult authority figure a question, she may be more inclined to speak up when needed, rather than hesitating for fear of asking a question.
  • Help your child learn how to talk about and describe his or her special needs. If your child is going to be an advocate for his own needs, much like you are on his behalf as a parent, your child first needs to be able to understand and describe his unique needs and challenges. Second to this is helping your child learn when it is appropriate to share this information with others. Some children with autism find it difficult to determine when a social situation warrants sharing certain facts or information with others, or they may be prone to “over-sharing.”
  • Allow your child to make some decisions. Simple decisions like choosing which outfit to wear to school, selecting a dinner item or a family activity can give your child a sense of control and pride. Decision-making everyday can help your child have the confidence to make larger decisions later on.
  • Help your child understand when speaking up is OK. There are some situations, if your child feels threatened or unsafe, that he or she should ask for help immediately. Other situations, such as a friend or classmate being mean on the bus ride to school, can be dealt with later on, during a discussion with you or in a meeting with your child’s teacher.
  • Practice scripted conversations. While you definitely cannot plan for every interaction, you can practice those common day-to-day situations in which your child may need to speak up.

If you need advice or have questions about developing self-advocacy in your child with autism, contact the caring team at Peak Potential Therapy. Call today!