If your learning disability is identified before you graduate from high school, self-advocacy activities should include your active involvement in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) process. Getting the help you need to be successful later on at work or in post-secondary school settings will depend upon your ability to be an effective and outspoken self-advocate, and these are skills that you can and should develop as soon as possible.
The key to success is knowing about your leaning disability and being able to articulate what specific services and supports you need to be successful. Being an effective advocate also means that you will need to have lots of self-determination because once you leave high school, teachers, counselors and parents will no longer be in a position to make sure that your ongoing needs are being met. Effective self-advocacy comes from knowing yourself, valuing yourself, planning, acting, and learning from the outcomes of your actions.
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is an education plan, required by law, created for each school-age student with a disability who receives special education services through a public school. Your IEP must include current levels of academic performance and educational goals, as well as a discussion of how future progress will be measured and a transition plan for how to meet those goals.
As an individual with a learning disability, you have the right to advocate for conditions that will help you meet success. Your right to self-advocate is primarily supported by the following disability laws: the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Under these laws, in order to exercise your rights to accommodations and modifications at work or in education programs, you will have to:
- Disclose that you have a disability and provide current documentation
- Make a formal request for specific accommodations or modifications, based on your learning strengths and challenges