I have to agree with this quote and I think it speaks to the
nature of self-advocacy. Many times our students with exceptionalities are
faced with the challenge of feeling sad, confused, humiliated or even inferior
for being considered different than their peers and needing support to be
successful. So many of the students I work with resist asking for help and
even accepting help in the general education classroom setting or within their
communities because the thought of being ostracized is just too much of a
burden to carry.
This was one of reasons I became a special education teacher.
I wanted to encourage all students in the learning process and share my belief
that any child can learn with the right supports in place. Most of all, the possibilities
of learning are limitless as long as we are willing to do the work and not
continue to create more barriers for our students. I always tell my students
how much I believe in them, and I strive to encourage and help them to set
goals for themselves. I tell them never to be afraid or ashamed to ask for
Easier said than done in most cases. Many times I find
myself pulling out my “super teacher cape” to advocate on behalf of my
students and their needs because it comes so naturally to me. It wasn’t until
recently being faced with a personal challenge of my own did I really realize
the importance of being able to self-advocate.
Over the last year, I found myself learning how to accept
and acknowledge for the first time in my life my very own disability. This was
something that I have probably lived with my entire life but was not identified
with until recently. For the first time, I had to pull out my “super teacher cape”
for myself. I have to admit that for me, like my students, it was not easy. I was used to
being the person who provided the assistance and not the one who now had to ask
for it. I would love say that it went okay, but I was faced with opposition and
resistance at times.
My own journey and understanding of self-advocacy has made
the need to teach it to my students all the more important. Now there is no
question that “being yourself is the best thing” and accepting yourself for who
you are is even better. I think the words of Dr. Seuss bear repeating: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no
one alive who is Youer than You.”
Continue to be encouraged
each and everyday. I plan to share tips to becoming an effective self-advocate
in my next post. Please, feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.