Self-awareness is generally the first step in self-advocacy. As you become an adult and seek independence, it is important to determine what is important to you. You can begin by determining what it is you need, speaking up for yourself and learning how to describe your needs and wants.
Know your rights. There are laws and regulations to provide guidance and clarification about what must be provided to you. A number of federal laws address accessibility and protect the rights of persons with disabilities. These laws cover access to a wide range of facilities and services, including housing, transportation, employment, telecommunications and voting. Knowing your rights under the laws, or complying with their requirements, means getting the right information from the proper source. Don’t be afraid to ask for help at navigating this process!
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was the initial legislation that gave individuals with special needs the right to get an education that would give them the best possible opportunity to learn.
The Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) is an independent 501(c)3 organization committed to empowering families as advocates and partners in improving education, health, and mental health outcomes for infants, toddlers, children and youth. SPAN is a "first stop" for New Jersey families. SPAN is New Jersey's Parent Training and Information Center; Family to Family Health Information Center; Family Voices State Affiliate Organization; Parent to Parent USA affiliate; and a chapter of the Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health.
The ARC of New Jersey is the state's largest organization advocating for and serving citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. There are different offices in each county (i.e. Camden, Gloucester, Burlington, etc.).