Self advocacy is the ability to speak up for yourself and others. It is an important life skill that we must teach our young people so that they can thrive in all aspects of their lives. It has positive benefits in relation to developing independent and self confident individuals who are self aware, able to make informed decisions and clearly communicate with others.

As we support young people to understand and develop their point of view so that they have the confidence to advocate for themselves, it is important to remind them that self advocacy includes asking for help when you need it.

When we teach the skills required for self advocacy, we are providing the tools needed for young people to help themselves. Teaching young people to speak up; understanding and expressing their opinions, requires them to be able to actively communicate and seek out support. As parents, we want to step in to assist our children and advocate for them; however, we must support the development of these skills by allowing them to navigate challenging situations with our guidance.

"Teaching young people to speak up; understanding and expressing their opinions, requires them to be able to actively communicate and seek out support" - Fiona Wines.

How can we support these challenging situations ?

Talk through challenging situations with your children. It is difficult for some adults to advocate for themselves and so, it is understandably challenging for young people. Ask them questions to clarify their thinking and role play conversations to assist them to develop these skills.

Self advocacy is developed with time and practice so we must provide opportunities for students to practise these skills in a safe and supported environment.

There are a number of skills that underpin self advocacy including communication, critical thinking and decision making which sit alongside self awareness and empathy. For young people to be able to actively and successfully engage in their community, whether it be at school or throughout their lives, we must explicitly teach these skills and support our students to develop them throughout their school journey.

There are a number of important points to share with young people as they develop self advocacy skills.

1. Ownership

They have a right to express their thoughts and opinions and take an active role in choosing their path. Self determination is important for developing independence.

2. Informed Opinions

It is essential to be informed and self aware so that they are able to consider and evaluate important information and formulate their own
views and opinions.

3. Active Listening

Recognising that it is important to listen to others and respect their point of view but also to ask questions to enhance their understanding is an important part of building empathy.

4. Clear Views

Having a clear understanding of the information or situation, will assist them in articulating and effectively communicating their point of view or their needs.

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