Self-advocacy begins with students understanding how they think and learn. Research indicates that students with learning and attention issues are four times more likely than other students to struggle with self-confidence, which is also an important predictor of success.26 For these reasons, it is important to ensure that students are given opportunities to develop a strong sense of self-acceptance and self-worth.
Parents and educators can help with this by fostering a culture of acceptance. Giving students opportunities to explore and understand how they learn can help them begin to develop a “can-do” attitude and a growth mindset, which allows them to persevere when faced with challenges in school and life. Children and young adults need to be taught—and need to practice—self-advocacy skills in a safe place, knowing they will be supported, with teachers and other caring adults and peers by their side.
More colleges are creating programs to help young adults with learning and attention issues stay in school and on track to graduate. These programs not only help students adjust to the changes in expectations and responsibilities that occur during the transition from high school to higher education—they also ensure that faculty are prepared to work with students and provide accommodations as needed.
In 2015, NLCD surveyed young adults with learning and attention issues to discover which factors contribute to successful transition outcomes. Participants in the Student Voices study were asked to reflect on their experiences in the years immediately before and after leaving high school. Three common themes emerged among those who had successfully transitioned to college or the workforce: a supportive home life, a strong sense of self-confidence and a strong connection to friends and community.27
The study points to the critical importance of factors beyond academic achievement in understanding the characteristics and needs of this population. The findings, which are consistent with data about dropout rates, emphasize the role of social and emotional factors in supporting school completion.
In highlighting self-confidence as one of the keys to success, Student Voices reinforces the value of encouraging students to help lead transition planning and the importance of self-advocacy in general.