High school can present challenges for kids, both academically and socially. It’s important that your child be able to self-advocate in those situations. Doing it now is also good practice for life after high school. Here are ways to help kids speak up for their needs.
1. Encourage kids to explain their issues to others.
You’ve worked hard to be an effective advocate. You’ve spent time explaining your child’s learning and thinking differences to others. But in high school, it’s time for kids to take on some of that responsibility. Talk with your teen about the situations in which disclosing challenges might be a good idea — and how to do it. You can share with your child a video of one teen explaining why she tells her friends about her dyscalculia.
2. Encourage kids to work or volunteer.
High-schoolers crave independence. Having a job or volunteering is a good way to support that and provides an opportunity for self-advocacy. Discuss the pros and cons of telling an employer about learning differences. And reassure your teen that employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to help employees do their jobs.
3. Make sure kids know their rights.
A child who has been formally diagnosed with a learning disability or ADHD and who receives services at school is protected under federal law through IDEA. Help kids understand their rights. It’s also important that kids understand how those rights might change when they graduate from high school.
4. Involve your child in decisions about her learning.
Kids with an IEP or 504 plan should attend meetings and participate in them. It gives them a chance to talk directly with the team about goals, the transition plan, what’s working, and what’s not. It can also help kids think about their plans for after high school.
5. Practice how to talk to teachers.
Your child will have a number of teachers in high school and will need to speak to them about accommodations and services. Those conversations can be hard for teens to initiate. Practice conversation starters that can make it easier. It’s also good practice for when your teen needs to do this with a boss at work or with college instructors.
6. Help kids think about the future.
Self-advocacy isn’t just about speaking up. It’s also about knowing what you want to do and how to go after it. Talk to kids about their plans for after high school. Does your teen want to go to college? What type of school? How about learning a trade? Having these conversations can help your teen figure out how to approach the high school years and may ease some fears about the future.