A Guide to Practicing Self-Advocacy: From Lindsey’s View

Lindsey has an important piece of advice to share with the world: “A closed mouth doesn’t get fed!” In other words, to get what you want, you have to speak up! Following this mantra at only 23 years of age, Lindsey is setting an example for what it truly means to self-advocate. She openly shares that she has faced many challenges over the years; however, this hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her goals. She recently presented and impressed her Individual Service Plan (ISP)team with ten pages—front and back—of progress reports and changes she wants to see in her life. With support from Summit DD and one of the Agency’s partnering providers, Blick Clinic, she is well on her way to achieving her dreams.

When talking about her journey, Lindsey bravely shared the behavioral struggles she faced before receiving day program services at Blick Clinic. “I used to have a smart mouth,” she confessed with a reflective chuckle. “I dealt with a lot of verbal aggression, and I knew I didn’t want to live my life that way because it was stressful. Then I came to Blick and things got better.” Through services provided at Blick Clinic, Lindsey has been able to take courses focused on developing coping skills. She is also involved in a craft group where she knits and sells blankets and hats. “These things have really helped me, and I wanted my team to know that—so that’s when I wrote the ten pages.”

“Lindsey is amazing,” shared Amy Hodgekins, Lindsey’s Service and Support Administrator (SSA) at Summit DD. “When she came to the meeting with her stack of papers, she immediately took charge. At first, some of the team thought we should stop her so we could start the meeting the way we usually do—but then I thought, ‘no, let her go. Let her do it. This is her meeting.’”

Passionately penned across Lindsey’s ten pages are progress reports she gathered from her team, a self-evaluation of her strengths and weaknesses, and a list of solutions to issues she has been facing. She said she got the idea to write the ten pages after reading a book about self-evaluation and meeting preparation. “I thought to myself, ‘This is it! If I do some self-reflection and I know what I need to work on, then I can make a plan to make my goals a reality,’” Lindsey explained.

“That’s when I went around to all of my instructors and had them write down how I’ve been doing,” she continued. “I want everybody to see the improvements I’ve made—not just by what I’m speaking, but what they’re reading.”

“We were all really impressed,” stated Amy. “Not only did she tell us what issues she was facing, but she also presented us with solutions.” After reviewing Lindsey’s report, she and the team discussed and prioritized her requests. Together, they began to determine a course of action to help Lindsey achieve her goals.

IMG_7876_ISP team smile

“I think that bringing those ten pages to the team shows that Lindsey was comfortable enough to share that information with us. She trusted us to listen and help her, and that’s what we’re here for,” Amy remarked. Lindsey’s Counselor and ISP team member Laura Pletcher added, “It’s so exciting to see the change she has made in discussing issues to now advocating for herself—we’re all just so proud of her.”

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without everyone’s support,” Lindsey expressed. “My team has really helped me. They have been my listening ear and they gave me a lot of verbal praise, and that’s been encouraging.”

It goes without saying that Lindsey has made a lot of progress over the years. She ultimately aims to get a job in the community, while also being an example to others who want to make a difference in their own lives. “I am a self-advocate,” Lindsey proudly declared. “My advice to others who want to self-advocate is to write down what you want. It will help you remember what you want to say in your meetings, and you can give your team the papers if you’re having a hard time explaining your thoughts. But most of all, it will show everyone how serious you are about what you want.”

At the end of the day—whether you have ten pages or no pages at all—we all have a voice! As Lindsey suggests, “Use it!”

Want to know more about practicing self-advocacy? Check out Summit DD’s self-advocacy resources.

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