Age appropriate self advocacy

  • It is widely considered that self advocacy is one of the key ultimate goals for persons with autism.

    I found a website which has age-wise self advocacy tips (All the other places were too generic – one size fits all types. Am editing and outlining the ones which appealed to me in the Indian context

    Ages 2-5
    • Teach how to communicate “yes” and “no” . After that to the extent possible, honor their choice. 

    • Identify, and Encourage child’s special interests (likes) and incorporate those interests as motivators and reinforcements 

    • Similarly make a list of extreme dislikes and avoid them. It can be revisited later when the kid is a bit more grown up if needed

    • Expose child to problem-solving thought patterns by saying out-loud how you will handle a problem the child is aware of (like not having an ingredient to make a meal) 

    • Always demonstrate calmness and an ability to self-manage emotions when dealing with a problem, it will help your child to do the same later on in life

    • Encourage ability to communicate preferences for clothing, food, activities 
    Examples By offering the option of choosing between two good choices (t-shirt or regular shirt, apple or banana, pizza or burger reading or playing a counting game etc. We need to give the kid a “voice” in what he/she needs/thinks/wants. He/she has to learn to communicate his needs, and we as parents need to learn and listen to them. Then to the extent possible and feasible, we need to satisfy these needs

    Ages 6-10
    • Foster an awareness of the child’s strengths and challenges 
    o Teach child to request help appropriately
    o Praise child’s strengths and foster development of those strengths

    • If cognitively appropriate, foster an awareness of what Autism Spectrum Disorders means 
    o Exposure to words such as autism, Asperger’s, disabilities
    o Talk with child about common characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorders and how they impact them

    • Help child develop a self-awareness and understand when they need a break 

    • Teaching to negotiate and collaborate 

    • Role play scenarios that may come up at school and how to deal with them
    o Teach your child how to appropriately ask for a closer seat, different partner for a project, help with a bully
    o Help child develop the ability to manger anxiety or anger, particularly in public settings, by teaching ways of communicating causes for anxiety or anger to adults that can help them
    o Foster consistent use of same communication methods at home, school and in counseling sessions

    Ages 11-13
    • Encourage your child to order at restaurants using own communication system 
    o Help write a script for practice and take to the restaurant. Remember to include when to say “Please” and “Thank you” in the script.
    o If child uses an assisted communication device, encourage them to be patient with your server who may not be familiar with someone using assisted communication devices.
    o If something is wrong with the food, coach your child on how to get the server’s help.

    • Have child participate in planning weekends and free time. 
    o Help guide the choices so child learns reasonable options such as: “First you play a game or talk with a friend, then you can play video games.”

    • Take child with you when running errands and make sure you allow for teaching time. 
    o When you go to the bank, teach child steps of making a deposit
    o When going to the store, have child be responsible for finding, unloading and paying for items (with parent’s money and supervision)

    Ages 14-18
    • Make decisions about personal items to purchase and learn about budgeting skills for those items 
    o Selecting and purchasing (with earned money) hygiene products, clothes, food
    o Being responsible for keeping track of when personal items need to be purchased

    • Write an Accommodations Letter to your future teachers or employers. 
    o Explain how your disability impacts you and any reasonable accommodations you need to be successful in school or in the workplace.
    o Highlight your strengths and the value you can contribute to a team.

    • Ask for help finding possible mentors in your community. 
    o Learning from someone with a similar disability who is older and has achieved some successes will help you make choices about your future and will provide another support.

    Ages 19-22
    • Register to vote if you are eligible and exercise it 
    (Even if your parents choose to remain your guardian you still have the right to vote)

    • Be in charge of managing all of your benefits, and bank account cash flows

    • Keep up-to-date on legislation that affects you. Read news, attend community meetings, join online advocacy groups

    • Make your own doctor and other medical appointments. 

    • Pay all bills, with assistance or independently, that are solely yours (cell phone, transportation) 

    • Continue to foster relationships with mentors, those with ASD and those without. 
    o When you are unsure about how to handle a problem discuss your possible options with your mentor(s) for advice and support.

    • Be responsible for asking for all accommodations you use at the workplace and in the community. 
    o Know who to talk to when you feel like your rights are being violated.


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