What is Self-Advocacy?

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Self-advocacy is understanding your strengths and needs, identifying your personal goals, knowing your legal rights and responsibilities and communicating these to others. Being a good self-advocate helps you obtain what you need, make your own choices and express disagreement respectfully.


Self-advocacy means taking the responsibility for communicating one’s needs and desires in a straight forward manner to others.  It is a set of skills that includes:

Speaking up for yourself.
Communicating your strengths, needs and wishes.
Being able to listen to the opinions of others, even when their opinion differs from yours.
Having a sense of self-respect.
Taking responsibility for yourself.
Knowing your rights.
Knowing where to get help or who to go to with a question.

Start Early

It is never too early to start teaching a child how to advocate for one’s self. Self-advocacy is a critical tool needed to set and achieve goals, increase self-sufficiency and become a successful adult. It is a lifelong process that begins with a child learning by watching parents and caregivers be a good example. Encouraging children and youth to participate in meetings and activities helps build skills. It is important to practice these life skills by:  

Learning about one’s own disability.
Gaining an understanding of one’s own strengths and needs.
Developing an ability to speak up for one’s self.
Learning how to ask for and accept help from others.
Practicing goal setting or participating in a process of resolving differences.


Increasing participation in meetings help youth become more comfortable in self advocacy. Options to increase participation include:  

Writing down ideas, questions and concerns before a meeting.
Rehearsing or practicing what you’d like to say in a meeting.
Introducing one’s self and leading the meeting.
Talking about one’s interests, strengths and desires for the future.
Explaining one’s disability and needs.
Asking for explanation when needed.

Resources | Pacer, Be Your Own Best Advocate | Pacer, How You Can Help Your Child Learn to be a Good Self Advocate