Ask a Self-Advocate: How did you self-advocate while working at MAC?
This is the final post of MAC’s “Ask a Self-Advocate” blog series. This series was written by “JOSO*,” MAC’s 2017-2018 Young Adult Leaders Fellow, who is an autistic young man. The Young Adult Leaders Fellowship provides an opportunity for young adults aged 18-26 with intellectual disabilities and/or autism to learn the professional skills needed to advocate on behalf of other youth with disabilities. “Ask a Self-Advocate” was JOSO’s final project for the Fellowship.
*Name changed to protect privacy.
My suggestions are based on my own experience. I realize that what worked for me may not work for everyone else.
At Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC), I disclosed my disability to my supervisor and requested accommodations at work. Some of my accommodations are wearing noise-cancelling headphones when it gets too noisy and previewing agendas before staff meetings.
Additionally, I ask questions when I need clarification on things. I ask how I should dress for different events, such as the MAC gala, state house meetings, community trainings, and team meetings, and when I am just in the office. I alternate between business casual and business formal depending on the event. I also tell people that I take the MBTA Ride to and from the office and work events and that it is sometimes early or late. I let my supervisor know when I will be late to work because of the Ride. I also ask for the address, start time, and end time of all work events so that I can schedule the Ride in advance. Furthermore, I ask for help with tasks, clearer instructions, and more work when I need to.
Self-advocacy at work: The MAC gala
The best example of when I was able to advocate for myself at work was during the MAC gala. I went to the program director and asked her what would happen during the event, what the event would be like, how I should dress, and what my role would be. She told me that the event would be a bit loud, so I could wear my noise-cancelling headphones. She told me to dress in business formal. She said that my role would be to greet the guests and sit at a table with past MAC fellows. Since I was coming to the event from Tufts, a co-worker picked me up because I explained how unpredictable the Ride can be.
What I learned
I learned self-advocacy skills by following the advice of the law interns. I had weekly meetings with the law interns at MAC. We talked about asking for help at work and providing feedback to supervisors and co-workers. I learned that it is okay to ask for help when I need to even if I need help with the same type of task. I just have to let people know that certain tasks are hard for me. I learned that giving feedback is important because it lets people know which tasks I find easy and which ones I find hard. They also said that I can tell people “I don’t know right now. Can I get back to you?” when I am asked questions that I do not have an immediate answer to.
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