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.

Adolescent students and teachers having a meeting around a table

Tips for Teens: Use Your IEP Meetings to Learn How to Advocate for Yourself

Self-advocacy is a key step in becoming an adult. It means looking out for yourself, telling people what you need, and knowing how to take responsibility. No one is born knowing these skills. Everyone has to learn them. Ready to begin learning? Here is some great information that can start you on your way. Learn more >>

Getting a Job

Working can provide you with independence, confidence, new friends, and money. It is important to feel safe and supported in your job, and find the right job for you and your abilities. The process of getting your first job or volunteer work with little or no experience will take some planning, learning, and patience.

Conversations: Employment and Career Goals

Having conversations with your family about your career goals can be hard to have when what you have in mind is different from what other people think you can do. This video offers tips for how to get started.

The Basics of Finding a Job

1. Decide what types of jobs interest you – What types of skills and experience do you have? What are your interests? What new skills would you like to learn?

Where Are You Going?
Choosing a career is one of life’s big decisions. Will your career excite you and fulfill you? Will it pay enough to support you and your family? Will it give you opportunities to grow?  Use this guide to help identify your interests and skills, and match them with careers, education or training.
Download the guide >

2. Narrow down the specifics for your job hunt – How far are you willing to travel? How will you get to and from your job? What hours are you available to work?

3. Search outside the box – Look into volunteer opportunities, internships, or start your own small business. Let friends, family members, teachers, and neighbors know you are looking for a job and ask for their help. Use the internet to search out available resources in your area. Visit How to do a Job Search from Kids as Self Advocates.

4. Prepare a simple resume even if you think you don’t have experience – List your skills and responsibilities, even if it’s only chores you do at home such as mowing the lawn or babysitting. Highlight how your skills will meet the needs of your prospective employers. Have references available.

5. Prepare for a job interview – Practice how you might respond to interview questions with friends and family. Find out as much as you can about your prospective employer. Look professional for the interview.

Tips from Seattle Children’s Center for Children with Special Needs 

Reasonable Accommodation at Work
Reasonable accommodation is any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the job application process, to perform the essential functions of a job, or to enjoy benefits and privileges of employment equal to those enjoyed by employees without disabilities.
Learn more about accommodations at work and the ADA >

Tips for Parents

Making That First Job a Good Experience for Your Teen
You and your teen can do a lot of things to help make that first job experience a good one. Some steps, like helping your teen adjust to his new schedule, can be done at home. On-the-job adjustments will take extra communication.
Read full article >

Job Interview Questions to Practice With Your Teen
Think back to your first few job interviews. Did you know what to expect or say? Interviewing can be a stressful experience for teens looking for their first job—especially if they have learning and attention issues. Practicing—first with you, and then with an adult she’s not as close to—can reduce the fear factor and build your child’s confidence. Use this list of common interview questions with your teen to help boost her chances for success.
Read full article >

Free Resource for Teaching Employment “Soft Skills”
What skills are employers looking for? How can we teach these skills to prepare youth for success in the workplace? The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) interviewed employers across industries to learn the “soft skills” they value most. Learn about this free curriculum that includes videos and lesson plans designed to engage middle and high school youth as they prepare for the world of work.
Learn more >

Setting Goals

5 Facts About Goal Setting

1. Specific, realistic goals work best. When it comes to making a change, the people who succeed are those who set realistic, specific goals. “I’m going to recycle all my plastic bottles, soda cans, and magazines” is a much more doable goal than “I’m going to do more for the environment.” And that makes it easier to stick with.

2. It takes time for a change to become an established habit. It will probably take a couple of months before any changes — like getting up half an hour early to exercise — become a routine part of your life. That’s because your brain needs time to get used to the idea that this new thing you’re doing is part of your regular routine.

3. Repeating a goal makes it stick. Say your goal out loud each morning to remind yourself of what you want and what you’re working for. (Writing it down works too.) Every time you remind yourself of your goal, you’re training your brain to make it happen.

4. Pleasing other people doesn’t work. The key to making any change is to find the desire within yourself — you have to do it because you want it, not because a girlfriend, boyfriend, coach, parent, or someone else wants you to. It will be harder to stay on track and motivated if you’re doing something out of obligation to another person.

5. Roadblocks don’t mean failure. Slip-ups are actually part of the learning process as you retrain your brain into a new way of thinking. It may take a few tries to reach a goal. But that’s OK — it’s normal to mess up or give up a few times when trying to make a change. So remember that everyone slips up and don’t beat yourself up about it. Just remind yourself to get back on track.

This article is from

What is Self-Determination?
Self-determination is the desire, ability, and practice of directing one’s own life. It is often referred to as “The BIG Picture” because it has so much to do with the person you are and the person you want to be.
Read full article >

Tips for Parents

Goal Setting for Teens
What do you get when you combine the talents, skills, learning abilities, and dreams of your teenager? Someone who is pointed toward success. However, one vital tool is missing – goal setting. With goal setting, you can help your teenager learn the skills necessary to help their dreams become reality.
Learn more >

Getting Organized

8 Tips to Use Your Time Efficiently and Stay Organized in High School
There are some simple ways to stay organized and schedule your time effectively. In fact, by employing basic time management skills and organization systems, you’ll be better prepared to prioritize your work and visualize the bigger picture ahead of you.
Get organization tips >

5 Memory Tips and Tricks
Do you struggle to remember and retain information taught in class? Try these tips to help you remember.
Read full article >

Tips for Parents:

Calendars, Clocks, and Confidence: Organizational Skills for School
When ADHD or learning disabilities are involved, organization challenges can go from tough to torturous — and the perpetually messy rooms, lost homework assignments, and missed soccer games can stress out everyone. Calm the chaos and build your child’s self-esteem by teaching organizational skills that last — starting with these basic rules.
Read full article >

Backpack Checklist
Getting your child’s backpack organized is a feat worth celebrating. But making sure he puts in everything he needs for the trip to school and back can take some work. A luggage tag checklist is an easy way to help your child keep track, without it being obvious to other kids.
Download the backpack checklist >

Managing Money

Jump$tart’s Reality Check
Imagine you’ve just graduated from high school or college, and you’re about to embark on your life as an independent, adult consumer. Answer these simple questions about what you think your lifestyle will be. Will you take public transportation or drive a new car? Will you cook your own meals or eat out?  You might be surprised at how much that life will cost.
Go to Reality Check >

Cents and $ensibility: A guide to money management for people with disabilities
Everyone needs financial skills to make smart decisions about money. As a person with a disability, there are some additional things you need to know to be sure you can get what you need to live independently.
Download the Cents and $ensibility booklet >

Tips for Parents

Teens and Money
As your kids get older, the decisions they make involving money become more important. Help teach your teen the value of money: how to earn it, how to save it, and how to respect it.
Go to Teens and Money >

Finance in the Classroom
Visit the Finance in the Classroom site to find links to a wide variety of free online interactive games that help kids of all ages build personal finance knowledge and skills.
Visit website >


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