Self-Advocacy by Children with Disabilities

Self-advocacy by children with disabilities is empowering to the child, the family, those assisting them, and, ultimately, the community. Molly Jones of Galion, Ohio, pictured left, offers a great example of what may be accomplished when our children educate themselves about their disabilities, and act as their own advocates.

Molly is a seventh-grade student at Galion Middle School who lives with Type 1 diabetes. Until recently, her mother, Jennifer, acted as the “fighter” on her daughter’s behalf: Jennifer wanted the school to work with Molly; she wanted the school to educate the faculty and staff about Molly’s condition; and, she wanted to know her child was getting what she needed from the school. For the last three years, Molly, like any middle-schooler, was embarrassed about being different and didn’t really talk about her disease—until recently.

Molly decided to learn about her disease and take ownership of educating those around her. She swallowed her embarrassment and gave a speech to her entire middle school to inform them about diabetes, and tell them about how it affects people just like her. She talked about the way she felt about diabetes: “tacky, very painful, and embarrassing.” She spoke of the pain of the thousands of shots and the pain of the loneliness, the tackiness of feeling different, and the embarrassment of living a life others cannot really understand.

In the face of Molly’s courage, her school hosted a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. Molly went to area businesses to educate them about diabetes, and rallied the community to support her cause. The community support was “huge” and Molly raised almost $1,000 in donations to help find a cure for her disease.

She has also made discoveries about herself along the way, and finds that she “really loves to advocate!” To that end, Molly has written an article about diabetes for the local newspaper, emails back and forth with the President of the Ohio Senate, and has met with the Governor to lobby for better health care standards for those with Type 1 diabetes. Her middle school is proud of her and her family is proud of her. Her mother says, “It has been awesome to watch Molly advocate for herself and others.”

– Posted by Attorney Judith Saltzman and Anne Smith

Posted in Blog, Special Education.