Self-Advocacy & Self-Reflection for Students with Learning Disabilities

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  • 0:03 Self-Advocacy
  • 1:15 Self-Advocacy Strategies
  • 2:27 Resources & Problem-Solving
  • 3:30 Time and Place
  • 4:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Susan Nagelsen

Susan has directed the writing program in undergraduate colleges, taught in the writing and English departments, and criminal justice departments.

Helping students with learning disabilities become self-advocates and build on self-reflection skills is a critical step in their education. Teachers play an important role in these steps that will help students become independent learners.


Students with learning disabilities have had many people helping them along the way. Their parents have most likely been their strongest advocates throughout their elementary and middle school years. Most parents have a complete understanding of the nature of the disability, the student's strengths and weaknesses, and the accommodations necessary for their child to succeed.

This is helpful when the child is young, but as the student reaches upper middle school and high school, it is time for them to take on the role of advocate. There are a number of things that need to happen for that 'passing of the torch' to take place.

It is absolutely necessary for students with learning disabilities to be a self-advocate. This means being able to understand the nature of their disability, articulate their strengths, and understand their weaknesses. In order to self-advocate, students need to be able to know what accommodations work best for them, and they need to be able to speak with teachers about these needs in clear and succinct ways.

As a teacher, your role in the acquisition of self-advocacy and self-reflection skills is vital because you can model the best practices and help the student reinforce them by using them. Teaching self-advocacy and self-reflection go hand in hand.

Self-Advocacy Strategies

Self-advocacy helps students gain confidence and develop the skills necessary for independence. These are incredibly important for the learning disabled student, because the disability often makes the student feel as though they are less than other students. Our goal as educators is to help the student build on their weaknesses by capitalizing on their strengths. The student who self-advocates is:

  • Aware of their strengths and limitations
  • Knowledgeable of their interests and preferences
  • Able to take action when needed
  • Able to set goals
  • Able to manage time effectively
  • Able to evaluate and regulate behavior
  • Aware of their rights
  • A problem solver
  • Persistent
  • Responsible for their actions or decisions
  • Able to reflect and review

In order to help the student achieve these skills, we must develop strategies that will help them learn to self-advocate by becoming self-reflective. Taking the time to work with students in a methodical way will allow them to gain the skills necessary to achieve success and gain independence.

To help this student, take the time to have the student work through the process of learning how to self-advocate. Asking them questions that will help them reflect is what will make all the difference.

Resources & Problem Solving

Ask yourself, what does the student need to know to be successful? The list is endless, but the more you try to anticipate what the needs might be the more you can build in opportunities for the student to practice. What would help? Ask the student to consider the situation then tell you what he or she would do. Perhaps you could role play or offer language that might be used.

Try to anticipate what the questions might be so you can help the student understand how to approach the situation. For example, the student might need to know if the professor will allow more time for an assignment as an accommodation.

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