Adulting, Independence

Adulting: What Makes Self-Advocacy

On this day of age, we hear this new buzz-word, Self-Advocacy. I am always a firm believer in advocating for yourself and in fact I at times am considered one, however there is an appropriate way to do it and it is important to understand that all needs should be considered when doing so.

When the term Self-Advocacy is brought to light in the autistic community, it can have quite the distaste by some, particularly those that care for those autistic individuals that are unable to advocate for themselves. Sometimes, self-advocates do not value the voices that family members or others that care for these fragile individuals bring to the table. I have been pretty seasoned and been around the system long enough to understand the perspective of both myself as an autistic individual and those caring for one, as I often co-regulate with the one who has advised me well over the years, my mother.

Granted, there are select situations where autistic or other individuals with challenges are not able to speak up for themselves to get what they need and in fact they really need it because the individual is not doing well or in a delicate situation. In that instance, they very much should garner the courage and skills (and I know from years ago, it can be alot to muster) to advocate for themselves However, there are times that an individual may not completely understand that they are in their safest environment at the given moment and ias long as they get what they need/want, their rights are protected, good choices are made and they can be as independent as they can, then that sometimes is all that matters.

It takes being aware, informed and brave in advocating and knowing the whole story behind why something has to be the way it has to be. Being assertive, yet not aggressive, while being respectful to yourself and those you are advocating to are paramount in making your point come across, otherwise oftentimes, you will be disregarded or obtain a distaste in your advocacy and this can be seen as being demanding. 

When advocating, it is imperative to choose the right time and place, yet stop and think, Be calm, yet clear while paying attention to your body language and always use “I” statements. “I” statements are about expressing yourself, while respecting yourself and others and are things like, I feel….because…when….what I need is …, 

It is important to understand that there are things in life that just can not happen just because you want them to happen the way you want to. Self-advocacy is not about getting what you want, but getting what you need in order to have your rights met and be safe. It is about having a level playing field for all involved and sometimes that can mean having necessary accommodations in order to get the things you need to participate,but it is important to remember that self-advocacy is never being demanding, aggressive or mean towards anyone, ever.

Sometimes, we don’t always get what we want in life and we have to understand that sometimes it is going to be that way or things happen out of our control and as an autistic person, that can be hard to grasp sometimes because of the way our brain is wired to think. It still takes me alot to be flexible in life, even after years of practice, but I know that I cannot be demanding or angry when I do not get what I want as long as my rights are met and I am respected and safe, that is all that maters.

Some material for this Blog Post was derived from a presentation Self-Advocacy 101, by Goodwill Southwestern Pennsylvania and is available on my website. A Video recording of this presentation can be found here and going to the second video down.

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