Becoming a Self Advocate

To My Son’s Other Mother
May 16, 2017
May 30, 2017

Becoming a Self Advocate

Months ago my youngest, Jeremy, read a book called Beyond Ok by Susan Schenk. It resonated with him and he was eager to discuss with his tutor about his own learning and what works best for him. We had been trying for years to explain learning disabilities and how they affect him. We tried to determine what strategies would work best for him but he remained silent and reluctant to discuss it. We were at a loss. Then along came the book and he just opened up. I read it too and we had some good discussions about it. He was doing a book talk on her book so he reached out to Susan on Facebook and she was kind enough to answer his questions. He was thrilled to have spoken to an author, particularly one that understood what struggling in school was like.  Then a few weeks ago I asked Jeremy what he wanted to be when he grows up and he answered “professional gamer”. Of course. lol. Then a few days later he came back and told me “you know, I don’t remember what it’s called but I think I want to be a person that helps people with a disability to speak for themselves.” I answered “advocate” and he beamed, “yes, that’s it”.  So we talked about it and I told him one of the paths to becoming an advocate for others would be to learn to advocate for himself. 

Then we found out that Susan Schenk and Sperry Bilyea were hosting a conference called Shift Your Thinking in Toronto. Jeremy was excited to attend even though we knew it would mostly be adults. So we planned a family weekend away and headed to Toronto.  The day was great – filled with lots of information and wonderful speakers. Jeremy was so energized afterwards. We had some great talks and he was most excited that he had spoken in person to Susan and that she had asked him if he would be willing to help out with some teen content for next years conference.  That Monday at tutoring he spent time with Shelley, his awesome tutor, coming up with suggestions for youth at the next conference.

Thanks Susan Schenk for sharing your story and inspiring a young man in ways no one else was able to.

Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak
Tina Szymczak is a 40-something mom and wife with two spirited boys. She has worked in early intervention and as an advocate resource for families with a loved one with a disability. Now she also writes a blog about raising children with complex needs, trying not to lose your sense of self as you parent, and her struggles with mental health.

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