Self-Advocacy and Victim Blaming in Education

Certain elements of self-advocacy need to be in place.

1. The person on some level needs to be accepting of their disability AND be willing to talk about it.

2. They have to be able to identify when they need help.

3. They need to identify what they need help with and have the language to express it.

4. They need a trusted adult who has proved their willingness to listen to them over time.

5. The child needs to feel heard.

6. The child needs to feel that this trusted adult will believe them when they say they need help.

7. This needs to be repeated enough times and be predictable enough for the self-advocate to feel comfortable and safe to advocate for their needs.

Often school staff will say…..

Well _____________ happened, but if XXXX advocated for himself, this wouldn’t have happened.


Children since they enter school are socialized to believe they MUST follow authority or something really bad is going to happen. They think they will be disappointing all the adults in their lives, and kids deep down just want to make their loved ones love them.

All they want to do is to make the adults (especially their parents but also their teachers) in their lives happy so that they will feel worthy and good about themselves. We need to look at their situation through the lens of a child.

There is so much systemic ableism, that people don’t want to acknowledge it. If they do, they are now responsible for changing it.

Learning self-advocacy can take a lifetime. Adults have a hard time advocating. It’s stressful and anxiety-producing for all of us. We need to have realistic expectations for our children. Especially when they are navigating an oppressive system, based on hierarchy, and control. They live in this environment 5 days a week, we don’t.

We have a human rights decision on our side.

It’s easy for schools to make us think our kids share responsibility or are responsible for all of it.

Let’s keep in mind….

Self-advocacy expectations have been defined by the BC Human Rights Tribunal. In Student by Parent v. School District BCHRT 237.

[90]           Generally, it is the obligation of the person seeking accommodation to bring forward the relevant facts: Central Okanagan School District No. 23 v. Renaud1992 CanLII 81 (SCC), [1992] 2 SCR 970. This can be challenging for children, and especially challenging for children with invisible disabilities. I agree with the Parent that children who require accommodation in their school are in a different situation than adults seeking accommodation. Though they have a role to play in the process, that role will be age and ability-specific, and the burden cannot be on a child to identify and bring forward the facts necessary for their accommodation.

Communication Expectations in Education Defined by BC Government

Parents often wonder….

  • how much communication is too little?
  • Too much?
  • Am I allowed to…?
  • What can I expect?

Some parents have lots of communication with their children’s teachers and other parents are struggling not knowing any information or too little to even advocate for their children.

If you hit a brick wall or if you are not getting the information you need, having a policy from the government on communication expectations can be the key you need to get you through the door.

As of July 1st, 2023 this is the Reporting Policy from the BC Government.

Here are just a few clips from the policy statement. To read the full document click here.

Policy Statement

Meaningful and flexible communication of student learning across British Columbia’s K-12 school system ensures parents/guardians and students are informed about student learning.

All learners benefit from individualized descriptive feedback and personal involvement in the assessment process.

Communication of student learning is ongoing throughout the year. This Policy is designed to ensure school districts have the freedom and flexibility to communicate about student learning in a way that best meets the needs of students; this includes communication with students and parents/guardians that is inclusive, accessible, and culturally responsive.” 

Teachers provide timely feedback to parents/guardians and/or students that is responsive to student needs. The communication between home and school can take many forms.” 


Meaningful and flexible communication of student learning in clear and accessible language enables parents/guardians, students, teachers, and administrators to proactively work together to enhance student learning. This Policy ensures the student and parents/guardians are partners in the dialogue about the student’s learning and the best ways to support and further learning. Students benefit when they and their parents/guardians are made aware of their strengths and areas of needed growth and are provided support early.”