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Welcome to “Ask a Self-Advocate!”

This is the initial post in the “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 and will include 13 posts published through the end of the year.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

I am the 2017-2018 Young Adult Leaders Fellow at Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC). I am an autistic young man. I am a junior at Tufts University, a four year liberal arts college, majoring in Africana Studies. I will be writing about my experience with my IEP meetings and transition services in high school, how I found out that I had autism, and how I advocated for myself in college and at MAC. I hope this series can help others learn the importance of self-advocacy and how this skill is used during and after high school.

I will define some terms here. An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a document that describes the needs and goals of students with disabilities in elementary, middle, and high school each year. Transition is the period of time between high school and adult life activities, such as college, work, or living on one’s own. Self-advocacy is the ability to voice one’s needs and concerns to other people.

I think learning self-advocacy skills is important because this helps people without disabilities understand the needs of people with disabilities. Additionally, when a person with a disability asks a question, the answer can help clarify information for everyone. Also, self-advocacy skills help improve a person’s self-confidence because they enable people to make their own decisions and make sure their voices are heard.

Young adults have to advocate for themselves and disclose their disabilities in order to receive accommodations in college and at work. In elementary, middle, and high school, children may receive accommodations because parents advocate for their needs on their behalf, but when children grow up and become young adults, they have to advocate for themselves.

My suggestions are based on my own experience. I realize that what worked for me may not work for everyone else.

In the next blog, I will talk about how I found out about my rights as a student with a disability.