Local Advocacy Training
To help ensure that the interests of all citizens in Texas are represented in public policy discussions and decisions, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families must have the opportunity to participate actively in the policymaking process. By serving as primary sources for information regarding the real-life impacts of legislative and policy decisions, they can provide legislators and other policymakers with an understanding of the needs of individuals with IDD and their families. Through advocacy training programs, people with IDD and their families can provide substantive input to policymakers about programs, services, and issues directly affecting their lives, and local advocacy networks can provide a range of support to individual advocates in their communities.
Focus on student involvement in developing Individualized Education Plans that include their individual strengths and needs and/or how certain accommodations can enhance their lives.
Boerne Independent School District (BISD) students and teachers who participated in the “Finding My Voice” project learned to become self-advocates and improve those skills across the different BISD campuses. Through this project, the students became accustomed to advocating for themselves and became more active in their own Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meetings. They increased awareness of their strengths and abilities and created presentations with this information.
With these newfound advocacy and leadership skills the students and teachers became involved in their local community. They observed the local chamber of commerce, district council, and engaged with business owners. Students spoke to the Boerne City Council after they circulated a petition requesting the city to join the National Organization on Disabilities’ Community Partnership Program. Through their advocacy, the Commissioners Court named the third week in May “People First Language Week.”
Teachers at all levels in BISD were trained in using the “Finding My Voice” workbooks with their students, particularly at the upper levels of Middle School and High School. Use of the workbook increased program sustainability.
Multiple workshops were presented, including the Guardian Instruction Workshop, Special Needs Forum, College Night, and several teacher training sessions where specialized speakers were invited to participate. Information on the “Finding My Voice” project was presented at four different state and organizational conferences—two of which were held in Texas. It was also presented to regional special education directors.
Students went to the state capital and met with legislators where they increased their knowledge of the public policy making process. PowerPoint presentations were developed for classroom use on topics including disability awareness and self-advocacy skills. A “Finding My Voice” website was also developed through the project.
- Students in BISD are better able to advocate for themselves
- Students became more active in their own ARD meetings
- Teachers at all levels in BISD have been trained in using the “Finding My Voice” workbooks with their students
- Students and teachers became involved in their local communit
- “People First Language Week” was established to be the third week of May