• Lindsey O'Neill MA, CCC-SLP

Self-Advocacy in the Classroom

Here in Ohio, it's back to school for many kids this week! Whether you've been dreading this moment or waiting in anxious anticipation since school let out (don't worry, no judgement), there are some things you can do to help your child succeed in the classroom.

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Prior to starting my private practice, I worked as a school-based SLP. One of the most valuable tools I learned is that in order for children to succeed in the classroom, we must teach them how to advocate for themselves. Many children with speech and language disorders do not inherently know how to ask for help. This leads to many frustrated "I don't know" responses, or worse, children silently sitting in a state of confusion.

I want to offer some tips for talking to your children about what to do when they need help at school. In order to start the conversation, I would directly ask my former students, "What can you do if you're in class and you don't understand something?", to which I would often receive the reply, "I dunno", or a shoulder shrug.

This is precisely why I recommend having an explicit discussion about phrases and/or questions that your child can use in the event that he or she needs a little extra help.

It could go something like this..."If you aren't sure what to do in class, here are some ideas of things to say" (step 1: always raise your hand rather than blurting out):

1. Can you tell me how to do it again?

2. Can you explain it in a different way? I don't understand.

3. Can you show me an example?

4. I need more time to think about it.

5. I need help with...

If your child is able to read, you could write the phrases you generate from this conversation on an index card to take to school. Then, if they find themselves confused, they can take out their index card and quickly see various ways in which they may ask for assistance. Visuals, such as a photo card of a child raising their hand may also be a useful tool to help your child remember that it's ok to ask for help!

This is not to say that we want to teach our children to never attempt a task on their own, but as adults we should know that in order to successfully carryout a task, we have to first understand what is being asked of us. Don't be afraid to start this conversation with your child. Self-advocacy is a vital tool for academic success and it is one that you can help your child achieve!

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week :)

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