Please respond to the questions: 1. Why is self-advocacy important for students with ASD? How can educators incorporate this in their lesson plans, even in an inclusive classroom?
Respond to student discussion:
(EL) Self-advocacy is important for any individual, with or without disabilities. Individuals should be able to voice their opinions, preferences, wants, needs and most importantly, make choices and decisions on matters that affect them. However, self-advocacy is harder for some than others. I teach students with moderate to severe disabilities and many are functioning below 2 years old. Most are able to advocate for themselves in very tangible, functional ways. Ways of self-advocacy are expressed through things like what foods they like or don’t like to eat or protesting against a non-preferred task. It would be difficult for my students to advocate for themselves in the IEP development process or in many other areas of life.
As an educator for a population with moderate to severe disabilities, I incorporate principles of self-advocacy in daily, functional things. Students pick what they want to eat for lunch, whether they want white or chocolate milk. Students can pick where they want to sit within their small groups and what books they want to read during reading centers. At recess and play times, students are able to choose their own activities of choice, go where they want to go, just like any typically developing child.
This year, it’s easier for this to be accomplished because of the low student to adult ratio. With proper supervision, our students can be more independent and practice self-advocacy as much as possible.
Read “The Importance of Advocacy,” located on the National Autism Network.
Question 2: Why do you think many parents of children with ASD hire advocates? What is the role of an educational advocate in the school setting? How does this role differ from that of the role of an ASD specialist as an advocate?
Please respond to student dicussion:
I have only encountered two families with an advocate and both cases were over placement and how School Districts were not in compliance with Special Education laws. I recently learned from our text that the Handicapped Children’s Protection Act (HCPA) in 1986, an amendment to the IDEA, clarifying that parents can be reimbursed for fees paid to attorneys or advocacy in appropriate circumstances (Rothstein & Johnson, 2014, p.65). Rothstein and Johnson (2014) also states that “Expert fees…are not available, and this can be a cost barrier to parents in deciding whether to seek legal help in advocacy efforts.” (p. 65). One family I encountered paid out of pocket for every meeting they wanted the advocate to attend.
In the two cases I’ve encountered with advocates to support families of children with disabilities, both were hired because families were not in agreement with the District’s process and/or decisions regarding their child’s education. I see the benefits of having someone who is familiar with Special Education processes and laws to support families, but not all families know their rights and may feel that they are not financially capable of paying for this added support.
According to Rothstein and Johnson (2014), “The role of advocates continues to be a vital part of the implementation of special education law. Advocates are not only necessary to press for implementation but in many cases can be valuable resources for information.” (p. 64) Educational advocate in the school setting is there to make sure that Districts are offering FAPE in the least restrictive environment and providing services that will support and benefit individual with ASD. An ASD specialist as an advocate may be familiar with ASD but perhaps not be as familiar with Special Education laws and fine details specific to counties or local plan area. On the Autism Speaks website, it states “Our advocacy protects the rights, services, and supports of people with autism” (Autism Speaks, n.d.)
Autism Speaks. (n.d.). Advocate. Retrieved July 11, 2019, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/advocacy
Rothstein, L. F., & Johnson, S. F. (2014). Special Education Law (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.