Self-Advocacy Strategies
SUNY Jefferson
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Self-Advocacy Strategies


  • Work with others to inform and sensitize the student body, faculty, administration, and staff about disabilities. Organize public lectures, student panels, and films. Write articles for the student newspaper on your campus.
  • Become a student member of and/or provide input to policy-making university committees.
  • Find out if there is a support group for students with disabilities on your campus and become an active member in this group. At such group meetings you will find out you are not unique nor are you alone in your struggles. In addition to the comfort that provides, you will learn studying and test taking strategies and about instructors whose teaching style will be most compatible with your learning style.
  • Provide peer counseling and support to other students with disabilities on an individual basis or through a support group on campus.
  • Join professional organizations as a student member advocating for rights of adults with learning disabilities. The Learning Specialist on your campus can put you in touch with local, regional, state, and national organizations.



Building self-confidence is not an easy task. Many people benefit from the assistance of a counselor or therapist on a one-to-one basis or in a support group. You should explore options available through the campus Counseling Center. In addition, the following strategies may prove helpful:

  • After preparing as well as you can, tell yourself as you go in to take an exam or to make a presentation that you will succeed and you are well prepared.

  • Identify a realistic goal and work toward it. When you succeed in accomplishing it, identify the strategies that you developed that contributed to your success. Building self-confidence is a step-by-step process in which you meet increasingly difficult challenges and take credit as you accomplish each one.

  • If you don’t achieve your goal on the first attempt, sit down with a friend, faculty, or counselor and analyze and refine your strategies. Identify new strategies and intermediate goals that will prepare you better to achieve your final goal. Tell yourself, “Next time I know I’ll do better.”

  • Develop a time line to accomplish each goal. Build in extra time for the unexpected. Remember, there is no point rushing toward failure. Take a long-range perspective on your life, rather than focusing on just one semester.

  • Keep a list of your past successes and accomplishments and read this list over frequently.

  • Take credit for your achievements and work well done. Accept compliments with a simple “thank you.” A compliment is like a gift. When you reject a compliment, you are rejecting not only the compliment but also the person giving it. How would you feel if you bought a gift for someone and it was rejected? If your performance did not meet your expectations, you can critique it at a later time with your faculty, counselor, or friend.

  • Identify your strengths and keep expanding the list of things you do well. Your disability gave you some special talents as well as difficulties. Identify your talents, develop them and enjoy them.

  • Keep disappointments in perspective; a “D” on one quiz does not mean you will fail the course; a “D” in one course does not mean you will be dismissed from college.

  • If you do poorly on a paper or exam, find out why rather than condemning yourself or rejecting the good along with the ineffective strategies that you may have used. By analyzing what went wrong, you will be better able to avoid such mistakes in the future.

  • Look at your friends. What do you admire and respect in them? Because they also chose you as a friend, you share in their attributes and have other qualities that they admire and respect in you as well.

  • Dress for success. IF you are unsure of the appropriate dress for a specific occasion, setting or social event, check ahead with a knowledgeable person.

  • Smile. People who smile send a message to others that they are comfortable with themselves and are self-confident. Smiling is contagious. You will find people will reflect your facial expression, be much more pleasant, and have confidence in you when you smile.

  • Look at those who have expressed confidence in you, provided you with opportunities and given you responsibilities. These people know you well, have observed your past performance, and have confidence in your abilities and potential to succeed. As you accept new challenges, keep them and their confidence in you clearly in mind.