As outlined by Stephen Shore (2006), whenever possible, it is important to teach self-advocacy and negotiation skills to children and young people with autism.
By doing so, this may help to develop capacity in terms of building confidence in the child or young person with autism so that he or she is empowered to make requests, to seek help and ultimately to feel that he or she is part of the wider community.
What is Self-advocacy?
Self-advocacy involves recognising when and how to approach others to agree desired goals, build better trust and mutual understanding, and achieve contentment and output. (Shore 2004).
Self-advocacy is defined by Autism Speaks as,
- Speaking up for yourself
- Asking for what you need,
- Negotiating for yourself (working with others to reach an agreement that will meet your needs),
- Knowing your rights and responsibilities,
- Using the resources that are available to you,
- Being able to explain your disability either by the use of written words, pictures or gestures.
Dr Stephen Shore, an adult with autism, says,
“Self-advocacy involves knowing when and how to approach others in order to negotiate desired accommodations, so as to achieve mutual understanding, fulfillment, and productivity. In the process, some degree of disclosure about oneself is usually necessary, particularly if the accommodation(s) requested requires further explanation. In other words, being a successful self-advocate requires one to be not only literate about one’s needs, but also knowledgeable about how to get them met in an appropriate manner.”
Effective self-advocacy can involve disclosure about oneself to order to reach the goal of improved shared understanding. To achieve this, it may be necessary for the child or young person to be empowered to clarify that he or she has autism, the impact autism has on him or her and how and why adjustments are required or helpful.
Parents and caregivers are in an ideal position for building the foundations for self-advocacy when a child is young. A key prerequisite for successful self-advocacy and disclosure is self-awareness.