Q: Let’s say a student is struggling with a subject or school in general, but feels like that is getting lost in the shuffle of the class or that it is being seen as a lack of ability. How do kids advocate for different approaches to learning?
A: Self-advocacy is a skill that children, not only those who struggle academically, should learn from the earliest age possible that it is appropriate. To become a good self-advocate, the child needs to be able to understand what they are good at and what they need some help with so that they can succeed at school and reach their full potential. I find psycho-educational assessments to be exceptionally helpful in this matter. The goal of the assessment is to identify areas of strengths and weakness in a child’s learning profile to diagnose the root cause of their academic or behavioural difficulties. The results from the assessment assist in developing individually tailored educational plans to meet child’s needs. For example, some children may require a quiet space far from distractions when working on their exams, some may need more time to complete assignments or use assistive technology when working on Math problems or when writing an essay. When children know what they need to succeed, they should be able to communicate that to other people. It may be difficult, especially for these students who struggle to find confidence and speak up. Parents and teachers may help children practicing self-advocacy skills by talking with them about strengths and weaknesses, as well as learning and thinking differences. Encouraging independence and praising a child’s efforts is an important part of this process. Role-play and advocacy cards may help the child feel more comfortable about asking for help.