Self-advocacy is an important tool that can be used by adults with disabilities. It is important to to get one’s voice heard as to how he or she should be treated in today’s society.
It can depend a lot on how you use your voice to advocate for yourself. How did I learn to do this myself? I belong to an adult autism support group, and I am the group’s Chairman of our guest speaker series. I am the person who goes out and seeks guest speakers for our group’s monthly meetings. How did I do this? I sent out emails to important people in the greater Harrisburg area. When I first started, I thought I would not get anybody. It was a lot of hard work finding people who work with both children and adults in the autism community. But boy was I wrong! I think my first guest speaker was Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Vance. She came to our meeting, and we had a frank discussion with her about issues important to adults on the autism spectrum.
From that point to today, I have about eight pages of guest speaker contacts. They range from state senators to state representatives, from the director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Autism Services to two college professors and the Deputy Director of Developmental Programs in Pennsylvania. I have other contacts as well, including people who work at autism organizations.
Here are my tips for starting to self-advocate:
Use a phone book to look up your local city and state representatives, or find their websites online. They will have a place on their websites to contact them either by email, phone number or mailing address. Their websites might also include their office hours. I find the best way to contact my guest speakers is by email, but you can contact people by your own method of contact.
Once a person is contacted, keep in touch as often as possible so they know you mean business. That might mean going to the office, emailing, or calling. Get a discussion going as to what type of help you need.
Self-advocacy is important for someone who is disabled. There are many people who will help you. I have been advocating for our adult group for many years now, and I have become a pro at it. The first move is up to you — you can either write a letter, you can email an agency or person or make a phone call to your state representatives, people in Congress or anybody else who works with disability organizations.
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