Teaching children with autism the fine art of self-advocacy

Teaching children with autism the fine art of self-advocacy

Once your child knows he has autism, it’s important to teach him how, and when to disclose that information and advocate for what he needs. (Bigstock Photo)

By Mari-Jane Williams | Washington Post

We recently wrote about how parents of children with autism can talk to their children about their disability. Once the child has a label for her differences, though, there’s another important thing to talk to her about: When and how to share that information with others, and how to express her own needs.

When our children are young, one of our biggest jobs is to advocate for them. And for those with disabilities, that takes the form of fighting with health insurance companies to get the therapy he needs or working with the school system to make sure she is in a setting that works for her. We become warriors on behalf of our kids. As they get older, though, it’s important for them to take on some of that responsibility.

“I’m not going to always be here,” said Sharon Fuentes, a blogger in Northern Virginia and the mom of a boy with Asperger syndrome. “My main goal in life, for any child, is to raise an independent, responsible adult who is able to function in the world and be able to contribute to society. We all have to advocate for ourselves. The reality is that with special needs kids, if they were able to learn these skills just by watching, they would. But they can’t, so we have to teach them.”

So what steps should parents take? “First, the child needs to be aware,” said Fuentes, co-author of The Don’t Freak Out Guide To Parenting Kids With Asperger’s
”You have to be aware of your own strengths, your own needs. You can’t advocate for yourself until you know what it is that you need.” Continue reading

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