Life & Social Skills

Life & Social Skills

Ages: 18 - 21

How to Build Strong Self-Advocacy Skills as a Young Adult

How to Build Strong Self-Advocacy Skills as a Young Adult

It is important for you to learn how to advocate for yourself, to share your needs and challenges, and to ask for help when you need it. This will also help you avoid people bullying or taking advantage of you.

We offer strategies and tips here to help you think about what you already feel confident with and what you need to develop. Consider what you need help with to advocate for yourself in school or at work in an appropriate way.

Learning how to express yourself and what you want and need will help you succeed. Yet you want to be respectful and understand the rules and culture of your school or workplace. If you feel you are being treated unfairly, learn the procedures to get help and talk to a trusted family, friend or therapist for advice. These education and employment articles in the Milestones Autism Planning (MAP) Tool have further information.

It takes time and practice to develop these skills. The best way is to pick one or two skills to discuss with your family, therapist, counselor or developmental disabilities agency advisor.

If you’re still in high school, you can ask to include these skills as an Individualized Education Program (IEP) goal. Keep in mind that you will leave high school by the time you turn 22 years old, so it’s good to use whatever school services you can before then.

Self-Advocacy Skills to Learn and Practice

Here are key skills to work on over time with someone you trust. Pick one or two at a time. Milestones has more information to help you develop self-advocacy skills here, including "Top 10 Tips for Becoming Your Own Best Advocate" and "Building Self-Advocacy Skills at Different Stages."

Learn how to ask for help from the right person when you don’t understand something. You can make a chart for who to ask for help at work, home, school or for other specific issues.

Practice expressing your needs, strengths, challenges and goals with teachers, your boss or people you work with. Identify the right person to go to and then make a goal to share your needs and an issue you’re dealing with 1 or 2 people.

Understand your unique sensory issues and needs. It’s common for autistic people to be over or under sensitive to sounds, lights, smells and tastes. Make a plan to share your top 2 or 3 sensory needs with 1 or 2 people who could help, such as family, therapist, other autistic individuals, human resources at work or disability services at school. This Managing Sensory Issues article in the MAP Tool written by two self-advocates may be helpful.

Sense you may be headed for a meltdown. Try a self-calming strategy which could include going to a quiet place away from what is overwhelming you (letting the people you are with know you are leaving). This 5 Point Scale is a tool you can use working with your therapist, family, disability provider, etc.

Participate in your medical appointments. This AASPIRE Healthcare Toolkit for Patients and Supporters offers useful tips, forms and worksheets, including accommodations you can ask for in a healthcare setting.

The Milestones free autism Helpdesk is here to support you and connect you with resources and information.

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