Self Advocacy

ABILITY360 has programs to help you learn self-advocacy skills

Monthly Workshops

We provide monthly advocacy-related workshops, where together, people can learn self-advocacy skills and how the various systems work.  We usually provide two advocacy-related workshops each month. Check it out in this month’s  The Bridge newsletter calendar.

Peer Mentor Volunteers

Individuals can work with a Peer Mentor volunteer to learn advocacy skills – someone who can go along with them, cheer them on and practice with them ahead of time what they want to say and do on their own behalf.  The mentor might help them write letters to their legislators, or to their doctor.


• Don’t get mad – get passionate
• Don’t do it alone – take a friend (or three)
• Compromise is necessary – decide what is negotiable and what is not
• Spirituality is part of self-advocacy – pray for strength, pray for guidance, pray for harmony, pray for the benefit of all beings, and pray for your adversary.  Some people use a common prayer to stay calm:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

• Choose your team. Often, we’ll speak up for someone else before we will speak up for ourselves – be a good manager, ask someone else to speak up for you if you can’t do it yourself – that’s still self-advocacy – you’re in  charge – you choose who to help you.
• Rehearse what you want to say ahead of time, role-play with someone
• Fake it till you make it
• Figure out your strength or the role you’re comfortable with (i.e., go with someone else when they advocate first)
• Keep to the truth – don’t make things up – you need to be believable
• Take a tape recorder if you’re feeling intimidated or scared of them – you can tape the conversation
• If possible, know your issue and your adversary – If not, do it anyway, just name what you want, you don’t have to know everything to know what is right for you
• Don’t worry about knowing everything – it is OK to say “I don’t know either –let me look into that and get back to you.” Then do it, get help if you need to.

Start …

• With something little
• With something you care about
• Family may be the easiest or the hardest
• Just start

When dealing with people …       

• Ask for their name
• Ask for their supervisor’s name
• Write it down
• Write it down in front of them if possible, so they know you are keeping track

Keep a diary of your actions:    

• Names
• Dates
• What you asked for
• What they said they would do – and by what date
• Or what they did to you that was inappropriate

Use basic assertiveness skills:

• Acknowledge their point of view
• State your own case
• Keep to the facts
• Don’t make it personal – keep to the issue
• Avoid name calling
• Use the “broken record” assertiveness technique – keep repeating what you want
• Avoid using “but”, and use “and” instead


These are suggestions from experienced self–advocates representing a variety of personality styles

• Bluff back – stand your ground
• Stay calm, talk softer, listen to their storm, let them wind down
• Keep to the facts
• Judge who you’re dealing with – different strokes for different folks
• If you are worried or afraid to meet with someone for fear of attack:

• Take someone with you;
• Bring a tape recorder;
• Take notes;
• Remember you’re as valuable as they are.

Follow-up with action later (i.e., write a letter, do what you said you would, etc.)

Trainings in Self-Advocacy for Persons with Developmental Disabilities

Self-advocacy skills for people with developmental disabilities are very important.  Ability360’s This is My Life (TIML) program provides free training, which encourages people with developmental disabilities to speak up so they can make more life choices.  Click the above title for more information.