We all want our children to be able to self-advocate: to speak up for themselves and their rights, to stand up to those who would bully or use them, to know how and where to ask for help when needed. In general, to go forth into the world as adults without needing a parent or teacher to negotiate and smooth every bump in the road for them.
We know they’re good enough; most of our children with autism have a strong sense of integrity, a basic, innate goodness of spirit, and a heartfelt desire to do the right thing.
We may even know they’re smart enough; some of our people on the spectrum score much higher on IQ tests than many of their peers who seem to have no difficulty making their way in the world.
But we also know that, unlike typical young people their age, our young adults are seldom prepared to make important choices, to follow through on necessary steps to reach a goal, or to cope with those unexpected surprises life has a tendency to throw at us.
Most of us have assumed that our children would gain these skills over time as they mature, much the way their typical siblings and classmates do. By the time we realize it’s not happening automatically (meaning without direct instruction from us or their teachers) it’s a little late in the game.
But it’s not too late.
We’ll be discussing some of the things we, as parents, can do to help our children learn to advocate for themselves. If they are still in school, we’ll talk about some ideas to bring up at the IEP meeting regarding transition and self-advocacy. Wherever your child is right now along that path (or even at the very beginning about to step or be pushed onto the path) there are steps to take.
In the meantime, leave a comment, a question, or especially tips for others in our shoes – what was most useful in helping your child learn to stand up for himself? What advice or book or guidepost can you share? Don’t keep it to yourself.
(Next post: Self-Advocacy 2: Where do we start?)