The Benefits of Self-Advocacy

Self-advocacy is the act of speaking up for yourself and your needs. It is an important skill for everyone, but it can be especially important for adults with Cerebral Palsy (CP). This is because people with CP may have difficulty communicating their needs, they may not be taken seriously by others.

For many people, advocacy isn’t something that just happens. It is a skill that develops through childhood, into teens and then continues in adulthood. At the core of advocating for ourselves is communication, however, being able to communicate is only a part of the picture. We also need to develop the confidence to do this.

Self-advocacy fosters greater independence by enabling you to communicate your needs and make your own decisions. It can also improve your quality of life, as you are better able to access the services and supports you require. Self-advocacy can enhance self-esteem too, as it instils a sense of control over your life and future.

How to Self-Advocate

There are many ways to self-advocate. Here are a few tips:

  • Know your rights. This includes knowing about the laws that protect your rights, and knowing about the services and supports that are available to you.
  • Be prepared. This means knowing what you want to say, and knowing how you want to say it. It is also helpful to have information about your condition, and about the services and supports you need.
  • Be assertive. This means being clear about your needs, and being willing to stand up for yourself. However, it is also important to be respectful of others.
  • Be persistent. Sometimes it takes time and effort to get what you want. If you are not successful the first time, don’t give up. Keep trying until you get what you need. 

More Tips on Self-Advocacy

Self-advocacy can be challenging, so we asked a successful disability campaigner for her top tips:

  • Authenticity is key. Be true to yourself, knowing and honouring your strengths, weaknesses, values, beliefs, and interests. This involves honesty with yourself, confidence in your abilities, and the courage to voice disagreement when needed.
  • Know what you want. Until we know ourselves and understand what we want then it is impossible to share this with people.
  • Apply the principle of “Nothing about me without me.” This means insisting on your right to be involved in decisions impacting you, no matter how small or large. It is important to stay calm and polite when you are advocating for yourself. If you are angry or upset, it will be harder for people to take you seriously.
  • The ability to communicate effectively is integral to self-advocacy. Different communication methods can be used, depending on the situation, from personal letters and emails to delivering presentations.
  • Self-belief gives you the confidence to achieve your goals. When you believe in yourself, you are more likely to take risks and try new things. You are also more likely to persevere in the face of challenges.

Self-advocacy is an important skill for adults with CP. By following these tips, you can learn to self-advocate and improve your quality of life. Remember that you have the right to be heard. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself, even if you don’t feel confident. You deserve to be heard and respected.

Written in conjunction with Beth Moulam PLY.

Resources

Midweek Matters Speaker Session with Beth Moulam PLY

Midweek Matters – Panel

 

Scarlett Murray is a 22 year-old mother of one, and a talented writer who blogs about her experiences of living with Cerebral Palsy. Her form of CP is left-sided hemiphlegia. She tells us her story.

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Young woman with little girl (Scarlett Murray and daughter)

Clive Gilbert is a leading policy expert on assistive technology for disabled people, drawing in part, on his own experiences living with Cerebral Palsy. He tells us his story.

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Man using assistive technology (Clive Gilbert)