I have to agree with this quote and I think it speaks to the nature of self-advocacy. Many times our students with exceptionalities are faced with the challenge of feeling sad, confused, humiliated or even inferior for being considered different than their peers and needing support to be successful. So many of the students I work with resist asking for help and even accepting help in the general education classroom setting or within their communities because the thought of being ostracized is just too much of a burden to carry.
This was one of reasons I became a special education teacher. I wanted to encourage all students in the learning process and share my belief that any child can learn with the right supports in place. Most of all, the possibilities of learning are limitless as long as we are willing to do the work and not continue to create more barriers for our students. I always tell my students how much I believe in them, and I strive to encourage and help them to set goals for themselves. I tell them never to be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.
Easier said than done in most cases. Many times I find myself pulling out my “super teacher cape” to advocate on behalf of my students and their needs because it comes so naturally to me. It wasn’t until recently being faced with a personal challenge of my own did I really realize the importance of being able to self-advocate.
Over the last year, I found myself learning how to accept and acknowledge for the first time in my life my very own disability. This was something that I have probably lived with my entire life but was not identified with until recently. For the first time, I had to pull out my “super teacher cape” for myself. I have to admit that for me, like my students, it was not easy. I was used to being the person who provided the assistance and not the one who now had to ask for it. I would love say that it went okay, but I was faced with opposition and resistance at times.
My own journey and understanding of self-advocacy has made the need to teach it to my students all the more important. Now there is no question that “being yourself is the best thing” and accepting yourself for who you are is even better. I think the words of Dr. Seuss bear repeating: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
Continue to be encouraged each and everyday. I plan to share tips to becoming an effective self-advocate in my next post. Please, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.