In recent months I have had the opportunity to work directly with one of my clients children. When I first began advocating for him and his family, he had just entered a public middle school. Years of private school education in a setting that specialized in meeting his specific learning needs had set him up to be an academically strong student who continues to require extra time to complete work that relies heavily on reading.
His mother and I worked together to put supports into place that were appropriate to his needs through direct advocacy at all team meetings. Mom too, was learning what special education looks like in the public setting.
Now I find myself working directly with him as he is learning how to successfully advocate for himself in high school. This maturing student is the expert in what he needs to demonstrate his learning.
Together, with the push from his mom, he is moving towards complete competency in the ability to observe, inform and adjust the demands of high school. He gets stuck in overwhelm - that is where I enter the problem.
He feels overwhelmed at the amount of work, yet once he is able to articulate the particulars he becomes clear on a pathway to success. This week when I reached out to him to problem solve I discovered he had decided on a plan similar to the one I thought would work. Together we fine tuned the plan and discussed the best way to inform his teachers.
He decided how to attack his work load. He generally works slowly so he requires extra time. Then, he got COVID-19 which had him completely unable to do any work for a period of time.
Now recovered, he has decided to keep up with newly assigned work, and attack the previously assigned work as time permits. He believes he can get all the work in before the end of the semester. He identified what he could do quickly. The one subject that was reading dense would take longer to complete.
We discussed emailing each teacher separately, informing each of his plans including a timeline for completion in each subject. I offered to craft and email for him to send by the morning of the following day, if that would help. He decided to write the emails himself and send them. He did that the following morning.
He and his teacher in the most reading dense subject came up with a modified work load that will still allow him to earn his customary ‘A’ if what he turns in is up to his usual standards. This work will take the longest to complete. His other teachers were fine with his plan as is - and appreciated him letting them know what is going on.
This 9th grade student is learning to successfully advocate for himself. He has moved on from complaining to problem solving. Instead of needing his mom to ‘tell the teachers’ he has done that himself. I simply provided a framework and support for success.
This level of self-advocacy is what we all want for our children. It is a skill that needs to be taught and supported like any other. It has clear steps and check-ins to make sure progress is being made. Successful self-advocacy, when realized can bring life changing self-assurance in any situation.
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