Blindness and low vision are low incidence disabilities; the majority of our children’s and teens’ teachers will not know their specific needs and necessary accommodations. Parents are expected to suit up and get on the field; to play an active role in advocating for their children’s educational needs and services.
But in time, roles shift.
A parent starts in the driver’s seat of the family car and transitions to the passenger seat, allowing the (fully-sighted) teen practice at the wheel; likewise, a parent steps back as the primary advocate to make room for the teen to self-advocate. Yes, it’s scary and most parents would rather remain in control; however, we know this transition period prepares teens to fly solo in college and employment.
So here’s what your teen can begin to take on in effort to practice self-advocacy:
- Your teen can lead IEP Meetings. He can consider important-to-him long-term and short-term goals and guide the education process, ensuring it is meaningful and motivating to him. He can make use of AFB CareerConnect’s Student-Led IEP Meeting lesson.
- Your teen can dialogue with teachers prior to the start of the school year. She can discuss her vision, strengths, and necessary accommodations. Take for instance the information in Good-Bye Grade School!
- Your teen can request/ accept/ decline assistance. He needs to learn it is okay to request, accept, and decline assistance, as well as how to do so appropriately. Guide your teen through theRequest, Accept, and Decline Assistance lesson plan.
- Your teen can show appreciation. Being a good self-advocate includes recognizing those who are supporting, teaching, mentoring, and coaching you, as well as those who are encouraging use of your accommodations. As Helen Keller said, "Live each day with gentleness, a vigor, and a keenness of appreciation".
Teachers and parents, what else would you add to the list? I know we agree self-advocacy is crucial to our children; how can we urge and encourage them to step up and advocate?