What an 11-year old girl taught me about self-advocacy

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A few weeks ago, I had the honor of working with an 11-year old girl from a National Guard family. Victoria, whose father will be deploying to Afghanistan in a few weeks, introduced herself in a way I doubt I will ever forget.

“Hi, I’m Victoria. I’m eleven years old,” she said, confidently. “And I have a cleft lip. It’s okay if you look at it. But I just want you to know that I’m totally okay with my cleft lip because it makes me who I am.”

This 11-year old girl’s self-advocacy skills blew me away. This kind of self-advocacy is what special education teachers dream of instilling into their students.

But, how?

By believing that all students can learn and participate productively in society.
By integrating self-advocacy skills into pre-existing curriculum.
By keeping the student at the center of planning, instruction, and assessment.
By always beginning with the student’s strengths.
By providing leadership opportunities in the classroom.
By encouraging thoughtful and critical reflection.
By guiding students in learning their education, consumer, community, and human service rights.
By providing opportunity for the students to interact in their community.
By teaching communication skills.
By encouraging students to seek out help.
By listening to them.

Victoria, I’m so glad I listened. Victoria, if you’re reading this, you’ve inspired me!
And I’d love to meet your teachers.

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What are your tips for fostering self-determination and self-advocacy skills in your students? Comment below 🙂

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