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Self-Advocacy Activities for Adults with Learning Disabilities

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Individuals with learning disabilities often face challenges when it comes to making decisions, communicating with others, and living independently. Let's look at some activities you can use to help adult students practice self-advocacy skills.

Self-Advocacy

Leaving home and entering post-high school life usually requires that we find a job and a place to live, figure out what to eat, where to do laundry, who to hang out with, and what to do in our free time, among other challenges. These decisions may come easily for some people, but adults with disabilities usually require more explicit practice and instruction to develop self-advocacy skills.

Self-advocacy means learning how to speak up for yourself in order to become more independent and involved in life decisions. Individuals who have learned to how to be self-advocates usually:

  • Understand how to get information they need
  • Build support systems of family and friends
  • Make decisions
  • Learn about things that are important to them

Individuals with learning disabilities often have a difficult time making the transition to adulthood. Unlike their typical peers, adults with learning disabilities have academic and social challenges that make post-high school life more difficult for them. Some of these challenges may include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Difficulty finishing what they started
  • Attention problems
  • Difficulty learning new information
  • Trouble reading, writing, and speaking

It is important to note that while people with learning disabilities have their challenges, they also have the same potential for learning as other people. They just need to learn specific skills to help them develop their strengths and cope with their weaknesses. Self-advocacy is one of the skills that can help individuals with learning disabilities become successful, independent adults.

Self-Advocacy Activities

Activities you can use to help adults with learning disabilities develop self-advocacy skills include reading and discussing case studies and practicing self-advocacy and self-awareness. Keep in mind that every learner is unique. Most likely, your adult students will come from different backgrounds and have different levels of understanding, strengths, and goals. Adapt the following ideas to fit your individual classroom and students.

Reading Case Studies

It may be helpful for students to read through case studies of actual people faced with adult decisions. These case studies may be based on students with whom you've worked in the past, current students, or scenarios you find through online research. Have students read a case study as a group, then lead a discussion to identify the problems the featured individual is facing, along with some possible solutions. The goal here is to help students look at a situation, find applicable ways to help a person self-advocate, and then see how the issue and solution relate to their own personal experiences.

A simple example of a case study might look like this:

Mary has just been accepted to a nearby community college. She is interested in becoming a teacher and would like to work towards earning a 4-year degree. She realizes that her learning disability causes her to become easily overwhelmed in school. Additionally, she's not sure how to proceed with class registration.

Some discussion questions may include:

  • What is Mary's main problem?
  • Who could Mary speak to in order to get some good advice?
  • What might Mary's options be as she works towards becoming a teacher?

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