From One Self-Advocate to Another - Advice for Developing Advocacy Skills
Posted on 05/01/20 in Advocacy by Nera Birch
Advocacy is one of the most important facets of my life. I’m in a unique position where I can really explain to neurotypicals what having autism feels like. I can be a voice for a community that has always struggled with being heard. Being an advocate can mean a lot of different things. It can be as big as talking to your state’s representatives and serving on councils to as small as just standing up for yourself.
Advocacy doesn’t have to be large scale. The most important thing you can do is advocate for yourself. For me, personally, I find it much easier to stand up for others than myself, so being a good self-advocate is something I want to work on. You have every right to help make the decisions in your life. You can do this by sitting in on your IEP meeting or attending county board meetings. Being a self-advocate can be difficult at times. It has taken all my life and a lot of hard work to be where I am today. Never give up. You will find your people, your support system.
Something I wish I could tell my younger self is to never believe anyone when they tell me I can’t do something. I’ve accomplished so much recently by taking chances on things I thought I could never do. And yes, I have failed at some of the things, but it feels good to know I tried. I become my own best advocate when I truly believe in myself.
One piece of advice to those who want to advocate at bigger level is to just get out there. Find panels to sit on where you can talk to an audience. Speak and attend conferences like the Milestones National Autism Conference. For those who might not feel comfortable talking in front of people, write. For me, writing has been my favorite part of being a self-advocate. There are blogs where you can submit articles, such as The Mighty, for example. You can write to your political representatives. There are so many misconceptions and stereotypes that people define us with. When you tell your story, it helps everyone in the autism community.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Nera Birch is a self-advocate with a passion for bringing awareness and advocacy to the Cleveland area. She comes to Milestones as a former volunteer and speaker, with a long history of public speaking alongside the Milestones coaching team about topics important to the autism community. She is a regular contributor to The Mighty and other disability publications.