Self Advocacy

Conflict Resolution Top Level Options

Peer/Self Advocacy Training

Your role as a advocate in teaching self-advocacy skills is to assist the client in resolving his/her complaint at the lowest level, following their expressed wishes.

Steps for Teaching Self-Advocacy Skills:

  • Meet individually with the client in a place where you can talk confidentially.
  • Explain that you will be asking questions, but that they don't have to answer them. Explain that you will be filling out paper work together, that it will be kept confidential, and that the person will get a copy of all paper work. You will be keeping the records in a file and that s/he is welcome to read it.
  • Ask the person to tell you the situation in his/her own words. Ask for clarification if needed, but stick to their verbal complaint. Listen carefully to the words that are being said. Your interpretation is not required. We need to be faithful to the person's expressed intent.
  • Separate complaints into:
  1. Situations about which s/he is not happy - but are not violations; and,
  2. Violations of laws and regulations.
  • (Be sure to consult the law, and/or customs relevant to your region and/or culture, or other applicable laws and regulations.)
  • Show the person the section(s) of the laws or regulations pertaining to his/her complaint. Read it aloud and discuss how it applies to his/her situation. Give him/her a copy of it with the rest of his/her papers.)
  • Develop options with the person, explaining the Pros & Cons and possible consequences of each option.
  • Stress that the person should try to resolve the problem at the lowest level of authority, or with the other person involved directly, rather than escalating the problem with new challenges.
  • Give the person time to think about his/her situation. If s/he is not certain what s/he wants to do, suggest that s/he think about it and contact you the next day.
  • After discussing the situation and the available options, if the person chooses to do nothing, that choice must be respected.
  • Develop an Action Plan (Please see Problem Solving: Action Plan for more information.) .
  • List each step in order with a target date by which the person plans to have that step completed.
  • Role play if it will help the person. Give the person suggestions as to the most effective ways of presenting his/her complaint. Phrase all suggestions positively, i.e., "It may help to say it this way," rather than "That's a stupid way of putting it."
  • Offer to be present when the person makes phone calls or talks to someone, to offer support. Ask the person what, if anything, s/he would like you to say.
  • Give the person a call log to fill out as s/he is making phone calls. Be sure the person documents each call: when it was made, what was said, any agreements made.
  • Assist the person in sending a follow-up letter, if needed, to re-state the agreements made. Use a business letter format. An email will work too. The point is to use several forms of communication to confirm what may be in doubt.
  • Don't insist that the person do more than he/she is capable of doing. If he/she is too upset or intimidated to act on his/her own, show the person what to do by making the phone call with him/her on an extension, or use a speaker phone so he/she can learn by your example, and return to: Self-examination.
  • (Be sure that your advocacy is based upon the person expressed wishes, not what you believe they need.)
  • If you negotiate on the person's behalf, be sure to discuss with him/her ahead of time what the bottom line is. Be clear as to what is acceptable or not acceptable to the person as a solution.
  • Check-back with the person in a couple of days to see how things are going. If the original plan of action is not working, talk about why it isn't working and develop a new plan of action. Please see: Evaluation Form
Paraphrased from Lauri Shepherd, Circa 1998

What's Your Bottom Line?

Excerpts from PAI Publications - Self Advocacy and Self Advocacy Training

Define your issues and/or complaints. You need to become clear as to what the problems and goals are, and how to achieve your goals. Know the law regarding your issues.

Write down what the problems are, and what your desired solution would be to reach your goal. Select one or two issues that you would like to work on. Write each down as a clear statement, and follow through with your options and evaluation of options, or how you would like to see them resolved. Make a list of the possible options to your problem. Discuss the Pros and Cons for each options, and select the option you feel most comfortable with. Please see: Problem Solving Training, or PTSSS The Core Teaching for more information about how to do each step.

Develop an Action Plan. We already have a good idea of what the problem is, and what we would like to accomplish. How do we need to accomplish it? Write a list of actions we can take. Break each task down into something we know we can do. This may include documenting your case by keeping a log, or making sure you have a plan B (in case you need to change your strategy to get what you want).

Putting your plan into action: You may need to deal with people who are controlling the situation. This may include parents, lawyers, or agents involved in managing our lives. We will need to meet with them, and/or make phone calls, and write letters to be clear and concise about our needs, and be prepared to share the ideas we've already written down to resolve the problem. You'll find an example of how this is done at: PTSSS Core Teaching

Document all of your efforts. Add phone calls, and other efforts to reach out to your log.

Then evaluation evaluate your work. Review what you did, how you did it, and determine if you accomplish what you had hoped to. What steps do you need to take to be successful in getting want you want? If the solution you originally selected did not work out, what will you try next? Please see: Evaluation Form

We never give up! Even if our first attempt to change something doesn't work out. We may have to stop our plan and try other strategies, such as anger management so we don't loose our cool from time to time to achieve our goal, but remember to keep trying until you've resolve your problem and got what you want.

Thus is the universe alive. All things are moral. That soul within us is a sentiment, outside of us is a law. We feel its inspirations; out there in history we can see its fatal strength. It is almighty. All nature feels its grasp. "It is in the world, and the world was made by it." It is eternal but it enacts itself in time and space. Justice is not postponed...Take what you figure you will, its exact value, nor more nor less, still returns to you. Every secret is told, every crime is punished, every virtue rewarded, every wrong redressed, in silence and certainty...If you see smoke, there must be fire. If you see a hand or limb, you know that the trunk to which it belongs is there behind.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson