How to encourage Self-Advocacy

Last week, my 7 year old and I went to his class to talk about his disability. Here’s what I learned:

1. Humor is a great way to connect with people and keep it light.

Even when we are talking about heavy topics, everyone appreciates some comic relief now and then!

2. This time was for my son to share his story, not for me.

We prepared together and though he wasn’t sure if he wanted the spotlight, I left many openings for him to comment or take over as he was ready. At one point, he stood up and walked across the front of the room to demonstrate something I was explaining!

3. Although we shared information specific to my son’s disability, I realized this presentation was not about his disability.

It was about empathy. It was about imagining the world through someone else’s eyes and appreciating that we all experience and interact with the world differently.

4. It’s never too early to introduce the concept of neurodiversity.

Our brains are unique and that is a very cool concept to explore!

Our brains are different with text
5. Finally, photos!

My son was very proud to show photos of his life, and his classmates were happy to see them. I stepped back and observed how photos provided everyone with a common language as they shared similar experiences with one another.

At the end of our presentation:

An older child came up to me, introduced himself, told me he has autism and that he’s “really into different disabilities”. This made my heart so happy! Let’s advocate, celebrate and inform one another! If you are thinking about talking to a group with your child about their disability or disabilities in general, I encourage you to keep it simple and remember that this is an opportunity to start a conversation. Think about sharing a hands-on activity to get kids moving and experiencing what others may feel or think in a given situation. Often we don’t know what the end result will be, but with awareness and connection we find acceptance and inclusion. Enjoy!