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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.

How to file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights