You’re Never Too Young to Learn to Self-Advocate

say itSelf-Advocacy is the act of taking ownership and responsibility for your own choices and learning how to ask for guidance from those who can help shape your goals in a positive and practical way. It’s a term whose origins stem from the civil rights movement, specifically for those with intellectual disabilities or cognitive impairments. But really, all it means is that you’re learning how to stand up for yourself and your rights. I encourage even my youngest students to begin self-advocating so that they can get a jump-start on navigating their own educational and life goals.

Now, even as a tiny child I had a natural knack for arguing, but learning to effectively advocate for my position came much later in life. I credit my law school training for teaching me how to remove emotion from very emotional situations, as most litigation turns out to be. As with any family dynamics, emotions run high too. I find that those who are part of the family are unable to truly have a clear, unbiased take on the troubles that their child or their family as a whole are undergoing. That’s why I’m such a proponent of having a third-party advocate (therapist, religious counselor, education advocate) who can come into a sticky situation and help each individual member feel heard, respected, and vital to the family as a whole. They can also teach you the skills necessary to learn how to advocate for yourself because, really, who is a better advocate for your own needs than you?

The fact of the matter is no one can advocate for your position better than you can because you are living it! You’re on the front lines: deciding which path to take, making small decision after decision that can either lead you towards success or failure. Note that, there’s nothing wrong with failure. In fact, failure has the unique ability to wake us up from a lackluster existence and put some spring back into our step. Because I’m working with families whose kids are on the verge of expulsion in school or have sadly already been kicked out or suspended indefinitely, what is perceived as failure becomes an opportunity for a reality check and readjustment of behavior, academic, and family goals. I use every perceived failure as an opportunity to teach grace under pressure and instill honesty in the face of defeat.

Self-Advocacy is often overlooked in children because most adults are so used to coordinating care on their behalf, so much so that we often forget to even ask the child for his or her input and hear their side of the story. A sure-fire way to teach your child the beginnings of self-advocacy, however, is to take a step back and let them try it on their own. Yes, they may not get it the first time but at least they’ll learn how to do it better the next time. After all, isn’t that really the bigger life lesson here: If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. It may sound trite but trite, in this case, is true.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder of Terry Tutors and Creator of the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student. Want to Know More? Head on over to

Links We Love!

Resources1If you’re a parent of a child with Learning Differences, Behavior Challenges, or Social Skills Needs then you know that one of the most difficult things to search out is a trusted service provider– a “child whisperer” who has their “finger on the pulse” of the L.D. community at large, and, above all else, treats your kid like their own.

We’ll, you’re in luck because this past year we, at Terry Tutors, have spent the bulk of our time researching, meeting, and compiling resources for our clients. Throughout this process, we’ve found ways to seamlessly work together with teams of providers for each of our students and families in need of a little or a lot of help. We happily collaborate because that is the only way to coordinate proper care and ensure that needs are met and things get done! We work not only in the home but at the school and with the state too, providing cross-over services because a child’s challenge doesn’t magically go away when the bell rings.

Anyone who has tried to find special education services or the like has received the run-around more than once, where frustration ensues and time is inevitably lost. We’ve been fortunate, however, to make this process as painless as possible for our students and their families, working diligently to create connections so our kiddos are not the ones who lose out in the end.

For example, SSTs and IEPs are often thought of as nightmarish meetings, laden with government bureaucracy–stretching for days on end with little accomplished. But that has not been our experience. Instead:

  • We do our homework! We’re educated, knowledgeable, and passionate about advocating and providing the right support for our students and their families.
  • We extensively prepare our clients for realistic goals, being mindful of the emotion involved throughout the process of evaluation, social/emotional/academic findings, and the tough decisions parents must make.
  • We make it a priority to respectfully maintain open communication with Teachers, School Psychologists, OTs, SLPs, Resource Specialists, Principals, and Administrators.
  • We followup in a professional, timely manner to ensure what is written on paper is implemented in the classroom.

It is through this process that we’ve been able to meet all of these amazing service providers, who are passionate about serving your child and helping you support and advocate for their needs.

Review all of our Free Resources & Recommendations:

  • Terry Tutors: Serving the Whole Student with Private Tutoring, Family Coaching & Education Advocacy
  • Links We Love: a free resource list of providers we’ve met and services we recommend
  • Terry Tutors Facebook: Resources galore for the typical and atypical developing student
  • Terry Tutors Twitter: Connections with like-minded outlets for education: reform, inspiration, and know-how
  • Terry Tutors Blog: Honest Approaches to Serving the Whole Student
  • Terry Tutors Pinterest: Hundreds of pins from healthy kid-friendly snacks to education case law
  • Terry Tutors YouTube: A Series all about the psychology behind school and how you can do better just by changing your mindset

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to