How to Raise a Self-Advocate


April 9, 2013 by Marj Hatzell

I’m fairly certain I’m doing SOMETHING right.

Bug Boy is learning to advocate for himself, see. If he’s having a rotten day and knows he’ll bomb a test because he’s too stressed out? He’ll ask his teacher for an extension for the next day.

If he doesn’t like his current speech group and wants to go with his friends to THEIR speech group and the teacher is all, “No, I’d like you to stay in your group.” He’ll come back with, “But I’m SUPPOSED to be learning social skills and if I’m with my REAL FRIENDS I can practice better, right? So I should be in the OTHER group.”

Can’t argue with that.

This is the same kid that went to school last year in the middle of an OCD crisis and lobbied to wear gloves in all of his classes. He even had a pair of gloves for orchestra with the fingers cut out so he could still play. His art teacher even gave him special vinyl gloves to use for his projects.

Now he’s hitting adolescence. And he’s still asking for what he needs (when he realizes he needs it), like extra time, a computer to type, a different seat, etc. HE’S asking for it. HE’S doing it himself.

I’m so proud of him, y’all.

Now he has more and more questions about autism. He has things he wants to say. We’re having detailed, lengthy discussions about the nature of disabilities, how it affects him and his friends and what it means to him. He’s asking about his brother. He’s asking about the future. He’s thinking about the way people with disabilities are and should be treated.

He even told me, “I’m so glad we’re talking about this, Mom. I love talking about Autism with you!”

Last night at the end of a discussion, when he told me how he felt about having autism and how he perceives things, he mentioned, “I like having autism. It’s a good thing. I like that about me.”

I was proud of him. Because I like that about him, too. No, it isn’t always easy. It isn’s easy for his brother and it sometimes isn’t easy for his parents. Sometimes we’re just plain exhausted. But I had to ask him, “How about your brother? Do you think it’s a good thing for him, too? Do you like his autism?” Loaded question. Unfair of me? Maybe. But it’s something I wanted him to think about.

His reply?

“Of course, Mom. His autism is just, well, autism. It gives him his super powers (speed, strength, etc). ”

Indeed it does.

He’s well on his way to becoming a great advocate for himself. And someday, when he needs to, for his brother. He’ll excel because he sees past disability and into the person.

The way it should be.

12 thoughts on “How to Raise a Self-Advocate

  1. jimreeve says:

    That’s pretty special for a youngster to be that self aware. My son has started to develop the same thought pattern himself. Maybe one day, both our boys will be accepted for who they are, and successful at whatever they try o do.

    • It’s been a long road. This year things changed dramatically. I cannot even tell you how much he has changed. Middle School has been full of positives so far. I know the bumpy road will come but so far? Smooth sailing. πŸ˜‰

  2. Heather says:

    Love that! We haven’t really discussed it much with my 11 years old tomorrow autistic son because he doesn’t retain it and doesn’t really care. He will tell me that he just loves to stim. My 5 year old is lactose intolerant and will come home and say “I was an advocate for me today because …” (usually it’s her grammy wanting her to have something she’s not supposed to ::bangsheadondesk:: )

  3. Bec says:

    Oh Marj, I love this so much. I’ve been having these kinds of chats with one of my sons a lot lately too. I find he’s so naturally inclined towards acceptance, of everyone. When he was at school he would advocate for other kids who needed it too.

  4. kantal113 says:

    I just love this. You must be one proud mama. It’s great to see a positive post from you! xoxo

  5. It’s all that great parenting paying off. πŸ˜‰ Someday he’ll be writing books about autism and speaking at autism workshops!

  6. PS-This post made me smile. πŸ™‚

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