Self Advocacy

How to Self-Advocate

  • Don’t get mad – get passionate
  • You don’t have to do it alone – take a friend (or three)
  • Compromise is necessary – decide what is negotiable and what is not
  • Choose your team. Often, we’ll speak up for someone else before we will speak up for ourselves – be a good manager, ask someone else to speak up for you if you can’t do it yourself – that’s still self-advocacy – you’re in charge – you choose who to help you.
  • Rehearse what you want to say ahead of time, role-play with someone
  • Fake it till you make it
  • Figure out your strength or the role you’re comfortable with (i.e., go with someone else when they advocate first)
  • Keep to the truth – don’t make things up – you need to be believable
  • Take a tape recorder if you’re feeling intimidated or scared – you can tape the conversation, but make sure they know they’re being taped
  • Know your issue
  • Don’t worry about knowing everything – it’s OK to say, “I don’t know either – let me look into that and get back to you.” Then do it, get help if you need to.

Start with:

  • Something small
  • Something you care about
  • Family and friends — who may be the easiest or the hardest
  • Just start

When dealing with people:

  • Ask for their name
  • Ask for their supervisor’s name
  • Write it down
  • Write it down in front of them if possible, so they know you are keeping track

Keep a diary of your actions:

  • Names
  • Dates
  • What you asked for
  • What they said they would do – and by what date
  • Or what they did to you that was inappropriate

Use basic assertiveness skills:

  • Acknowledge their point of view
  • State your own case
  • Keep to the facts
  • Don’t make it personal – keep to the issue
  • Avoid name calling
  • Use the "broken record" assertiveness technique – keep repeating what you want
  • Avoid using "but", and use "and" instead

How to handle verbal attacks or scary advocacy situations:

These are suggestions from experienced self–advocates, representing a variety of personality styles

  • Stand your ground
  • Stay calm, talk softer, listen to their storm, let them wind down
  • Keep to the facts
  • Judge who you’re dealing with – different strokes for different folks
  • If you are worried or afraid to meet with someone for fear of attack:
    • Take someone with you
    • Bring a tape recorder
    • Take notes
    • Remember you’re as valuable as they are
    • Follow-up with action later (i.e., write a letter, do what you said you would, etc.)

Trainings in self-advocacy for persons with developmental disabilities

Self-advocacy skills for people with developmental disabilities are very important. We provide free training which encourages people with developmental disabilities to speak up so they can make more life choices.