Summer Skills Series: 10 Self-Advocacy Activities in the Summer
At a Glance
In this series, we are going to focus on some activities that are oriented around different types of skills, from self-advocacy to broader life skills to executive functioning.
For part 1 of our summer activities series, our focus is going to be on self-advocacy activities.
We can break self-determination and self-advocacy down into some more manageable activities, so let’s dive in!
Summer is a time for rest and relaxation, but it can also be a time for all sorts of different activities. In this series, we are going to focus on some activities that are oriented around different types of skills, from self-advocacy to broader life skills to executive functioning.
The great part about summer is that there are lots of different opportunities to incorporate these types of activities into our days, but we can also go at our own pace and focus on the things that are most important to the student practicing their skills.
For part 1 our focus is going to be on self-advocacy activities. Self-advocacy is not just a crucial component of self-determination, it is a skill set covering a wide variety of skills that can all be practiced by individuals looking to navigate toward meeting their needs, preferences, or goals.
It’s not just communicating what you want, it’s identifying one’s own needs, strengths, and goals and determining how best to navigate situations to meet those needs, strengths and goals. Luckily we can break that down into some more manageable activities, so let’s dive in!
Identify Personal Strengths
Self-advocacy isn’t always about asking for an accommodation or assistance. It can often be about standing up for one’s own strengths, talents, and interests and seeking out spaces where those attributes are honored and utilized.
A great place to start or to practice is to encourage your child to create a visual representation, such as a collage or poster, highlighting their unique qualities, abilities, and interests.
Practice Common Self-Advocacy Situations
“Common” self-advocacy situations are going to vary from person to person, but knowing your child there is a good chance you will have a reasonable sense of situations in which self-advocacy will be a crucial component.
These could be situations involving a need to express preferences, opinions or boundaries. They could also be situations where they need to request an accommodation or more broadly for support/assistance.
Since you are in a unique position to know how these specific conversations tend to go, you can work on roleplaying those scenarios together and thinking through expression strategies for navigating them.
Goal setting is something we do throughout our lives, and summer happens to be a great time scale for practicing setting somewhat larger goals and working toward them.
Working with your child to set some large and small goals for the summer, then breaking the larger goals into more manageable steps, is a skill that easily translates into bigger goals and longer time scales.
You can also work together to create plans for achieving all of their goals and encourage them to track their progress and celebrate milestones.
Another important component of self-advocacy is making decisions, and while it can be easy for some people for others it can take some practice! One great way to approach potentially challenging decisions is to present some practice scenarios with your children and talk through the various options. Since it is summer, there are also potentially more opportunities to present challenging choices in real world but also reasonably low-stakes situations.
Create a Personal Accommodation Plan
For children who need accommodations, it can sometimes be tricky to keep track of all the little wrinkles of how their needs might change from location to location or from activity to activity. There are just so many little details to keep track of sometimes, from who to ask to whether anything has changed to managing the situation if it’s not fitting the usual schedule.
One way to proactively address this challenge is to create a personal accommodation plan that lists out needs in various environments and the best strategies for requesting accommodations. A strong accommodation plan lets us focus our energy on getting the accommodations we need rather than trying to remember exactly how we’re supposed to do it!
Self-reflection is often thought of as an executive functioning activity related to whether we are getting things done the way we want, but it’s also crucial in the realm of self-advocacy to do a check in every once in a while to make sure that the goals we are pursuing are still the ones we want to pursue and that we are happy with the way we are pursuing it! Taking some time to journal or scrapbook just to reflect on these areas along with areas for personal growth and progress can help ensure we are still putting our energy toward the things we want most.
Research and Present Topics of Interest
School reports can be a tedious task, but that doesn’t mean presentations can’t be a fun thing. It’s summer, which is the perfect time to throw the usual rules out the window and do little presentations on all of our favorite topics, and to present those topics in a way that feels fun and comfortable.
Want to talk about a favorite hobby over dinner? That’s perfect! Want to make a powerpoint about all of the latest Marvel characters? Sounds like an A+ to us! Sharing why the things we like matter is a crucial piece of self-advocacy and is a great way to build up our confidence around the things we love.
Create an “About Me” Portfolio
Another great form of practicing self-advocacy is being mindful of all the wonderful things you have already accomplished and strategizing on how you’d want to share some of those accomplishments with other people. An “About Me” portfolio is a great way for your child to remember all the wonderful things they have done and the ways in which they might want to present their achievements to the world. It’s not always easy to toot your own horn, and a little practice can go a long way!
Peer Support Group
Another important form of self-advocacy is finding spaces in which you can feel comfortable sharing your experiences, challenges, and successes. One great way to practice this over the summer is to facilitate a peer group in which your child can navigate those discussions at their own space. Such spaces are great for encouraging each other to offer advice and support, foster a sense of community, and build connections all through the lens of self-advocacy.
Meet with Role Models
Sometimes when it comes to advocating for our own interests it can be easy to see why we care so much about them but not so easy to explain those things to other people. If your child has specific interests or goals they wish to pursue, it may be worth seeking out potential role models who have succeeded in self-advocacy in those spaces who can help to offer some guideposts for success.
Similarly, if you want to strictly focus on self-advocacy or can’t find a role model who is able to do a personal interaction, following different autistic leaders online or watching videos can offer some great insights into the general practice of self-advocacy and some great strategies for navigating a broad range of situations.
We hope some of these ideas have inspired you to begin the conversation about how to approach practicing self-advocacy with your child and sparked some ideas for individualized self-advocacy activities this summer. Of course, we are just scratching the surface here of potential activities related to self-advocacy!
If you’d like to see more self-advocacy related activities, we’d love to hear from you! Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the meantime we will be continuing our summer series next week with part two focused on life skills!