One of the most important things we ask students is when we start working with them is whether they ask their teachers for help when they don’t understand something. Given that the teacher’s job is to help students learn, you might be surprised by how often the answer is “no”!
But asking for help is much bigger than just being willing to put a hand up in class. It is a facet of a life-skill called self-advocacy.
What we are really trying to find out in asking that question is: Does this student need to develop their self-advocacy skills?
Very often, the answer is “yes”.
What is self-advocacy and why does it matter?
*self-advocacy* : speaking up for oneself
Advocating for yourself means representing your own needs or interests to other people.
This is an especially important skill for students with diagnoses such as ADHD, ASD or dyslexia, who need to be able to communicate their needs to people who may not have experience with or understanding of their diagnosis.
However, in order to learn, all students need to be able to communicate when they don’t understand something so that their teachers are able to give further assistance. And if something comes up in their lives that is inhibiting their learning or their ability to meet some learning requirements (e.g. getting sick and needing an extension on an assignment), they need to be able to liaise with their teachers about it.
There are a few common reasons that students might be reluctant to self-advocate and ask for help. These include:
- Bad past experiences of asking for help, e.g. being directed to find the answers themselves.
- Not wanting to expose themselves in front of the class.
- Wanting to be independent and help themselves first.
All of these reasons for reluctance are understandable. But, with the right encouragement, a plan for how to to ask, and a growth mindset, students can take important steps towards becoming confident self-advocates in whatever situations school and life might throw at them.
For more information about self-advocacy skills and how we can assist your child in developing them, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.