College Readiness and AD/HD: Self-Advocacy

This post is one in a series examining several facets of college readiness. According to Landmark College (, important readiness factors include: academic skills, self-understanding, self-advocacy, executive function skills, including time management and organization, and motivation and confidence. This post is looking at the subject of self-advocacy.

The transition from high school to college is accompanied my many significant changes, including the following:

-expectations of college professors differ from expectations of high school teachers
-legal requirements for support and accommodations differ between the two settings, and
– the role of parents changes from direct involvement on many levels during high school to a supportive caring “consultant” role during college.

Because of this, the need for well-developed skills in advocacy for one’s own interests and needs becomes crucial. Preparing for the role of a self-advocate is important in developing readiness for college.

What does self-advocacy mean to you?

Self-advocacy is all about taking control of your own life, getting “in the driver’s seat” so to speak.
The Education Quest Foundation ( describes the following characteristics of effective self-advocates. Self-advocates:

• make choices based on their preferences, beliefs, and abilities
• take control and make decisions that impact the quality of their lives
• take risks and assume responsibility for their actions
• advocate on behalf of themselves and others

Becoming an effective self-advocate is a gradual process that ideally begins during the high school years. The Office of Disability Services at Penn State University has developed a checklist that outlines suggested advocacy roles of parents and students over the four years of high school.

What steps have you taken to become a self-advocate? What additional steps could you take?

To explore becoming a self-advocate during high school, here are some areas of skill development to consider:

1. Understanding and articulating my strengths, challenges, and needs:
How well do I understand my strengths and challenges?
How clearly can I describe my learning issues?
How easily can I explain how my disability impacts my learning?
What strategies work best for me, and what needs do I have in the educational setting?

2. Engaging with others in efforts to advocate and meet my needs:
How often have I discussed my special needs with teachers?
How effectively have I used the guidance counselor’s services in my school?
How often do I arrange my own meetings and appointments?
How fully do I participate in my IEP or 504 meetings in high school?
What experience do I have being politely assertive?

3. Looking ahead and preparing for the transition:
What role am I taking in researching career options?
How fully am I involved in researching colleges?
How actively am I participating in the college application process?

4. Understanding my rights and responsibilities in college:
What have I learned about the differences in accommodations in high school and college?
(See resources below for a helpful overview of these differences.)
What have I learned about disability support services in the colleges I am considering?
How familiar am I with how to request accommodations in the college of my choice?

5.Setting goals and working toward them:
Have I set goals for myself?
How effective am I at motivating myself?
How experienced am I at problem-solving?
How confident am I with asking for help or support in meeting my goals?

The following resources may be helpful in developing self-advocacy in the teen years:

-A short learning module on becoming a self-advocate and the differences between high school and college online at the Heath Resource Center:

-A U.S. Department of Education document titled “Students with Disabilities Preparing for Postsecondary Education: Know Your Rights and Responsibilities

-A list of questions to ask a college disability coordinator online at Education Quest Foundation’s website.

If you are interested in working with a coach in developing your self-advocacy skills or other aspects of college readiness or AD/HD management, I’d be happy to talk to you! Please check my website at or contact me at

Subsequent blog posts will address additional key areas of college readiness with tips for success in each area. Check back! Or email me at to get my newsletter.

Posted in college, college readiness, self-advocacy

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