Cincinnati Family Magazine

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April 18, 2024

Self Advocacy for the Win

The Cone just re-opened for the season, and if you have been to the Cone, you know how exciting that is! My in-laws were visiting and they treated my kids to a tasty treat. Even though it was a pretty cold and windy day, they were excited to go to one of their favorite places.

We hustled to the window (it was really cold!) and my son read to my daughter all of the different options available. Meanwhile, the adults were trying to narrow down their choices … all of the options are so delicious! The next thing that happened made me stop in my tracks.

I should probably back track … imagine flashback music playing right now … I am a former special education teacher. I worked on teaching my students self-advocacy skills, “the action of representing oneself or one’s views or interests,” on a daily basis. Self-advocacy skills are necessary to be successful in society. It is the ability to understand and communicate your wants and needs to others. I have always believed that it is important that people of any age or cognitive level be able to communicate their wants and needs and not have someone “speak” for them for everything. Which then carried over into my parenting. So, ever since my children were itty bitty, we have had them place their orders at restaurants which started out with pointing to what they wanted, which led to repeating their order after mom or dad, and then ordering with prompting. As they have gotten older we have been able to reduce the support required for this task.

Fast forward to The Cone opening (again, think fancy music!) and I stopped in my tracks as I observed my son (6 yrs.) and daughter (3 yrs.) walk up to the window and place their order ALL ON THEIR OWN! My son asked for a small peanut butter twist in a cup with sprinkles and my daughter asked for a small blueberry “frosting” (aka, ice cream) with NO sprinkles and just ONE spoon … girl didn’t want anyone sharing with her. When they were done ordering they looked behind them to signal that someone else was next. Talk about a bittersweet moment. My children do not need me to place orders for them anymore. They don’t even need my support and prompting, but goodness, I know that they can speak up for what they like and dislike. This step in self-advocacy can lead to other acts of self-advocacy in the future … which hopefully helps them not fall for peer pressure.

I was hoping it wasn’t a fluke and they proved to me that it wasn’t the very next day. At First Watch they both placed their meal order (which was exactly the same … monkey see, monkey do) which consisted of a chocolate chip pancake, a dab of butter, a little bit of whipped cream, syrup, sausage, and orange juice … I decided to prepare for the sugar rush and let them get what they ordered as they again used their self-advocacy skills!

Parents can help increase self-advocacy skills by:

  • Helping children identify their interests and strengths
  • Teach problem solving skills
  • Encourage independence (but also remind child that it is ok to ask for help! Praise when child asks for help when needed.)
  • Encourage choice making
  • Support decisions made
  • Praise child for speaking up
  • Support and raise self-esteem

About the Author

Tina Pratt

Tina Pratt is the mom of two littles. She is a former PreK- 5 special education teacher that now works as a behavior coach. She enjoys being a tourist in her own town and finding ways to embed lessons into everyday fun!