Youth Leadership

What is a Self-Advocate?

A self-advocate is someone who speaks up for his or her self. Self-advocates ask for what they need and want, and try to have as much of a say as possible in making their own life decisions.

Why Should I Become a Self-Advocate?

Until now, adults have made most of the decisions about your life for you. However, now that you are becoming an adult yourself, you should have a say in what you do, in what you want, and in where you are going. Being able to make your own decisions is important because it allows you to:

  • Live as independently as possible
  • Do the things you like
  • Pursue goals after high school
  • Get a job in the career field you want
  • Have healthy relationships
  • Control your own body and health
  • Manage your own money
  • Get the services and supports you need

Being a self-advocate is especially important if you have a disability, because you need to:

  • Understand your rights in different education settings and the workplace
  • Know how and when to ask for accommodations to do your best
  • Know how to navigate the community and access the services and supports you need
  • Advocate for friends and family members who also have disabilities

Adapted from Youth in Action! Becoming a Stronger Self-Advocate, National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability.

Self-Advocacy Video for Students
A must-see, fresh and entertaining video created by the Figureheads in collaboration with the youth attending the Young Self-Advocates of Wisconsin 2013, features the song Speak Up for Yourself!

Steps for Fixing a Problem Where Everyone Is Happy
Conflicts (when people disagree) can happen when advocating for change or when people are trying to work together. Here are tips on how to fix a problem where everyone can be happy with the solution.

Self-Advocacy Online
Check out the Learn About Self Advocacy section for videos on topics such as Speaking Up, Relationships, Getting Organized, and Living a Healthy Lifestyle.  Visit the Self-Advocacy Online website at

4 Steps for Stronger Self-Advocacy
A self-advocate is someone who speaks up for themselves. This fact sheet includes steps will help you become a stronger self-advocate.

“Going to Work” Video Series
What’s next for you after high school? Need cash? You’re probably either going to go right to work, or to college and then work.

Meet six young people with diverse interests, perspectives, talents, and disabilities who have learned about networking, disability disclosure, interviewing, and job accommodations through first hand experience. They tell it like it is in the brand new “Going to Work” video series by Wisconsin Youth First.

Each brief video focuses on a different employment topic:

  1. Meet the characters
  2. Understanding your disability/ self advocacy
  3. Disclosing your disability
  4. Job interview skills
  5. Asking for accommodations on the job

Building a Resume: Tips for Youth with Disabilities
The resume is the main tool employers use to review the qualifications of prospective employees, and what they use when deciding who to interview or hire. Everyone who is looking for a job should have an up-to-date resume that shows employment, education, and volunteer history. Use this helpful guide to put together your resume.

How to do a Job Search
Whether your transition to your first job takes place during high school, after high school, for the summer, or during or after college, finding a good job may not be that simple and easy. It takes a lot of planning and organizing to get the job you want. This tip sheet will give you ideas on how to get a job, where to go to find a job, and how to use the internet to help you.

Building Your Interview Skills
Filling out a job application and creating a resume are only two parts to getting a job. Another important part is how you interview. Making a good impression during a job interview doesn’t only include how you answer questions. Here are some other ways to shine during the job interview process.

Youth Fact Sheets on Employment

A series of fact sheets written by youth, for youth having to do with employment:

Youth Rules!
Youth Rules! is a site for teens to get quick info on federal and state labor laws like how many hours you can work, jobs you can do and how to prevent workplace injuries.

Beyond High School: Your Rights at College, Trade School, and More
Now that you are out of high school, your rights in post secondary education settings are not covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 are the two main laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities in such institutions. In Texas, Chapter 121 of the Texas Human Resources Code provides additional protection to people with disabilities.

Your Employment Rights as an Individual with a Disability
If you have a disability and are qualified to do a job, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990) protects you from job discrimination on the basis of your disability. This online booklet explains the part of the ADA that prohibits job discrimination.

Tips for Parents

Power-up! Empowerment as a way of life
The challenge – for us – and for our kids, is to live empowered lives – not just at a conference – or some day in the future – but right now – today – every day. Here are some questions we can ask – and practical things we can do – to make empowerment a way of life. Read full article >

PYLN Transition Toolkit
This toolkit engages youth in getting to know themselves well, setting goals, and taking action for their own future. The toolkit includes three sections: Phase One – Accept Yourself, Phase Two – Declare Yourself, and Phase Three – Empower yourself. Download the toolkit >

4 Ways to Help Your Child With Special Needs Find Meaningful Employment
My son Matt is living with a disability, and as he transitions from high school, he’s exploring what it means to be an adult. Matt, like so many people with disabilities, wants to contribute to society, and he’ll thrive in the right career. As a parent, it’s my responsibility to help him find it. But finding his right fit will require knocking on doors, embracing opportunities and keeping a positive outlook.  Read blog post >

Set an Employment Destination and Map a Course to Get There
People usually plan journeys with a specific destination in mind and map the way accordingly. Your young adult needs a place to start, but parents need to also help their son or daughter realize that it’s okay to change the destination and select a different job. Many people change careers several times in their lives. Read full article >

Your Rights, Your Voice from Disability Rights Texas
This resource was written to help transition age youth learn about their rights and provide a tool to help them successfully move into adulthood.  While this guide was specifically created to help youth living with a mental health concern, the information presented is beneficial for all youth with a disability transitioning into adulthood. Download Your Rights, Your Voice >

College Information For Students With Disabilities
Students with disabilities are protected by certain laws. These laws are meant to ensure that a student is not discriminated against because of his or her disability. It is important that students understand these laws so that they may ensure they are receiving the education that they deserve.  Read full article >

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Youth Fact Sheets