Instilling Self-advocating in the Classroom: Personal Responsibility for Success.

While parents, teachers, principals and resource teachers may all be collaborating and doing their best to ensure the success of a student with learning disabilities or exceptionalities, instilling a student with the skills to help themselves will strengthen their ability to learn. As well as this, in our experience we have found it creates confidence and ownership over learning.  Your child, especially if they have an IEP, should be a self-advocate in the classroom.

Know their strengths and challenges. With the new approach to assessment, as seen in the document Growing Success: Assessment, Evaluation and Reporting in Ontario Schools continual assessment by students of themselves can be a powerful learning tool in setting goals and self-monitoring. Some teachers help students understand their learning style preference by simple questionnaires, which can help students produce statements like “ I learn best when I work on my own” or “I use pictures to help me understand”. If a child isn’t sure about their strengths, or is too young to have that internal conversation, Merry Gordon, writer for suggests that reviewing a teacher’s comments on previous work is a good way to find areas of success. Once areas of strength and weakness are identified, and acknowledged by your child, knowing when to ask for help or accommodations becomes much easier.

Make sure accommodations are in place.   Just because an accommodation is in a child’s IEP, doesn’t mean it happens 100% of the time. For example, if a child has preferential seating at the front of the class in order to better hear the instructions, make sure you child knows they can ask to move if this isn’t happening. Sometimes group work requires a switch of seating for brief periods, but if there is valuable instruction happening, your child should be able to ask to move. Also, if Assistive Technology has been suggested, from pencil grips to Kurzweil, asking to use these can help make a task easier, and the teacher may not think to offer it every time. Knowing how to, in an appropriate way, ask for what they know will help them will increase their ownership in the learning process, and instill a sense of self-motivation.

For more tips on self-advocacy by Mary Gordon, see website: For more information about individualized learning and academic support, contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space (416) 925-1225 or visit


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