advocating for inclusive communities

How to advocate for yourself using a person-centered design

Learning to fly with full wings

by Bridget Brown, Self Advocate

Vision and Mission
The first step in designing your life is to have a vision and mission. This sounds easy but it takes some thinking on your part. Once you create a vision/mission for your life then you can start every meeting or presentation with your own personal mission. A mission gives clarity and purpose to your life. It describes who you are and how you will live your life. It identifies what you think is important and your values.

Some ways to get started are:

  • Think of your values and make a list. Look at the list and then pick out four of the most important values.
  • Think of your purpose in life. What is uniquely yours to do? Make a list and pick out the top 4 things.
  • What is most important in your heart? Write down some ideas and pick the top four.
  • What and who are you making a commitment to in your life.
  • Look at other people’s mission/vision statements and get an idea about how they wrote them and follow a sample or model you like.
  • If you need help ask a friend or family member help you.

I think it is important for people to have dreams. Dreams force you to stretch yourself beyond your limit. Sometimes it is hard to have dreams when you have a disability. The disability can limit some of the things we want to do in our life. It can be frustrating, and we can let others judge us or put limits on our potential because of our disability. S0, it is important to dream and to dream big.

When I look at my life, I always start with my BIG DREAMS. I am excited when I think about all the wonderful things I want to do in my life. People who live with a disability often hear “you can’t” from other people who don’t dwell in the possibilities. Find people who believe in you who can dream big with you.

My life has been designed from dreams. My family started out with the dream that I would be included at my home school and be in classes with my neighborhood peers. That dream was so strong that they worked to make it come true. I was included and I was way more successful than their original dreams.

Some of my dreams include

  • being in a movie with Miley Cyrus - That dream came true for me!
  • having my own consulting and advocacy organization. - Now I have “Butterflies for Change,” and I have a PASS plan to help me start my own business
  • growing my business to include many other butterflies who want to change the world for people with disabilities - Thi is happening now!
  • going to college – still working on it!

So, I encourage you to dream big and share your dreams with others. Don’t let “dream breakers,” tell you that you are unrealistic. Ask instead: “what is positive and possible about this dream, and how can I take a chance to make it come true”?

“To Deny dreams is to disable the human spirit."

Gifts and Strengths
We all have gifts and strengths and they are the blessings in our life that help us be successful. Sometimes they are the gifts, talents and strengths we are blessed with. Some of our gifts are external blessings that can include material things or family and friends. Gifts and strengths can be things we are good at doing or things we enjoy.

Make a list of your gifts and strengths and always share these with others who are on your team. This is a good activity to do with people you know who are on your team. Sometimes other can help you identify your strengths belter than you can.

You can make a picture poster presentation of your gifts, fill in a picture of a gift box, use a powerpoint presentation, or have a friend help you share your gifts.

Some questions that might help you find your gifts and strengths:

  • I have been successful ….
  • I love to …..
  • I am good at …..
  • I am blessed to have ….
  • Things that I enjoy are ….
  • I like …
  • People say I am good at …
  • Some of my favorite things are …

“Everyone is gifted - but some people never open their package”

Take a close look at your future search and the ideas you came up with that would happen if it next year was the best year ever in your life. We all need something or someone to help us achieve our goals and dreams. What do you need to make the best year ever happen?

Here are some questions to help you think about your needs:

  • I know I am successful when …..
  • I need help in these areas….
  • I personally need to …..
  • Other people in my world need …..
  • Things I have struggled with before that I can plan ahead for so that I can be successful …..

 A Plan
Take a look at your dreams, gifts, future search, and your needs and make a plan to and actions that need to be done to move you towards the positive and possible ideas from the future search.

  • What needs to be done?    
  • Who needs to do it?       
  • When?

Now What?

  • Get a team of people who care about you and who you care about and invite them to be on your “Success team”.
  • Be grateful and thank them for being on your team.
  • Share your dreams and hopes with them. Or Invite them to help you plan and they can be a part of the dreams and the solutions.
  • Get some ideas of who is going to do what and then who will they report back to and share the information.
  • Ask people for help.
  • If you have an IEP meeting this is the perfect time to present on behalf of yourself. Let people know that you are interested in presenting and tell them how long you will need to present.
  • Be respectful
  • Be proactive and not reactive.
  • Prepare ahead of time and be professional
  • Be patient

This is very important

If you are presenting on behalf of yourself using this process at your meeting (IEP meeting or any meeting that is about you) plan to start the meeting with your presentation. Let the person who facilitates the meeting know ahead of time that you will start the meeting and tell them how long you will need to present. Be prepared and be professional. Start the meeting by thanking everyone for coming and for helping you be successful this last year. Name people’s names if you can. This is a great time to encourage people and share your gratitude for their help and support.

Do this process every year and you will be surprised as to how much you can accomplish and more towards your dreams.

Here are some additional questions:

  • What is my history ?
  • I am so proud of ….
  • These are things that help me be successful….
  • I am afraid of …
  • The best way for people to help me is….
  • I am strong when …

Keep your notes and presentations and look at them every year. Highlight the things that you accomplished. Put a star next to things you still need to do.

Erase the things that you no longer need on your plan. Bring the best forward and add new dreams and plans so that your life continues to move forward.

Remember to find a team of people who you care about and who care about you. We all need other people to help us! Have the courage to ask!