Case Conference as Self-advocacy Training Ground

This week’s Transition Tip comes courtesy of Adria Nassim, research assistant with the Indiana Institute on Disability and Community. Her blog, Adria's Notebook, focuses on her experiences as a young adult with disabilities and touches on topics of independent living and community involvement in teens and young adults with disabilities. She is in frequent demand for her lectures and presentations on autism and developmental disability.

I started participating in my case conferences at 14. The assembled adults would talk for a while and then I would give my opinion on any changes I wanted to see made to my schedule. Looking back, I see that case conferences were an excellent introduction to advocating for myself.

What is a Case Conference?

A case conference is a meeting where students, parents/guardians, and school staff gather to discuss the student’s goals and needs for accommodation support in the special and regular education classrooms. Typical participants in a case conference include school administrators, teachers, and staff such as physical therapists, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, aides—anyone who works with the student regularly to give them the best educational experience possible.

Look and Leap

Encourage your student to take the leap and speak up for themselves, because they know their needs better than anybody else. Circumstances vary, of course, and so will the student’s ability to advocate in the conferences. As the teacher, begin early to ensure that your student has as much active participation in the planning process as possible.

Whichever situation may fit the life of your student the future belongs to them—if they can learn to advocate for themself.

Self-advocacy Tips and Things to Know:

  • Self-advocacy is a learned skill; it takes practice.
  • Include students in any process with active participation and decision making, particularly when the issue at hand affects the things they care about.
  • Teen years are prime time to practice self-advocacy skills.
  • Students practice self-advocacy by asking for help with things and giving help to others.