Steps to Self-Advocacy


“I can’t read your mind,” I told my son when he was a teenager, “so give me a little help here.  What would make school better for you?”  His shrug and blank stare told me that he didn’t really know how to describe what he needed.  So he slogged on through grades 7 to 12, sometimes challenged and interested, frequently not.  

Years later as a gifted education coordinator, I still got that blank stare from many of the kids I worked with who didn’t know how to ask, didn’t know what to ask for, didn’t even know they could ask.  So I developed a plan to help them create a more successful, satisfying school experience through self-advocacy. 

By definition, self-advocacy has to be the work of the individual.  But we adults, parents and educators alike, have the role of teaching our gifted children how to effectively communicate, negotiate or assert their own interests, desires, needs, and rights. 

Self-advocacy is the process of 

recognizing and meeting the needs 

specific to your learning ability 

without compromising the 

dignity of yourself or others.


Step 1
Understand your rights and responsibilities

You have the right to a rigorous education, which stretches your skills and thinking every day.

You have a right
  • to be in classes that are challenging and interesting
  • to know about giftedness and why you’re in or should be in an enriched or accelerated class
  • to make mistakes and “not do your best” if you feel like it
  • to be with other kids who really understand you
  • to be treated with respect by friends, teachers, and parents
  • to be different.
     Judy Galbraith, Gifted Kids Survival Guide
All students are responsible for acquiring the attributes of good character
  • Turn in work on time
  • Work hard
  • Listen with interest
  • Work well in a group 
  • Be neat
  • Complete assignments
  • Be accurate
  • Enjoy school
  • Be alert
  • Be considerate
  • Enjoy learning
  • Be organized

Step 2
Develop your learner profile by assessing your abilities and interests, strengths and weaknesses, learning styles and habits 

      Areas of assessment for learner profile 
      (Karen Rogers, Re-Forming Gifted Education)
  • Cognitive Functioning Information
  • Learning Strengths Information
  • Personality Characteristics and Traits
  • Learning Preferences
  • Interests

Step 3
Become aware of available options and opportunities

      A short list of options
  • Classroom  Differentiation
  • Independent Study
  • Compacted Classes
  • Credit by Exam
  • Co-op Classes
  • Online Courses
  • Accelerated Classes
  • Subject Acceleration
  • Mentorships
  • AP and honors courses
  • IB Diploma Programme
  • Youth Options
  • Summer Courses
  • Clubs and Organizations

Step 4
Connect with advocates who can help you accomplish what needs to be done

  • GT Coordinator
  • Teachers
  • Counselors
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Coaches & Advisors
  • Principals
  • Administrators
  • Superintendents
  • Regional G/T  Group
  • WATG
  • Midwest Talent Search
  • NAGC
  • SENG
  • Davidson Institute