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Speak Up: Teaching Self-Advocacy Skills at the Communication Center to Students with Disabilities

Debra Holzberg, Brianna Ferraro


According to the National Council on Disability (2015), an estimated 2 million undergraduates have an identified disability and are, by law (i.e., the Americans with Disabilities Act [1990]), entitled to accommodations. The use of academic accommodations is positively correlated with increased grade point average (GPA), higher persistence rates, and shorter time to degree completion. However, a plethora of data indicate students underutilize their accommodations for a multiplicity of reasons. One reason cited by students is a lack of confidence related to their inexperience with requesting accommodations. Therefore, it is imperative to facilitate access to communication skills related to self-advocacy. Communication centers (CC), and the consultants working there, are equipped with the expertise to instruct students to effectively advocate for accommodations. Additionally, an abundance of research indicates the efficacy of peer supports in teaching new skills making the CC an ideal venue for teaching self-advocacy skills. The current study utilized a multiple probe across participants design to evaluate the effect of self- advocacy instruction and visual prompts conducted at a university CC on the ability of three college students with hidden disabilities to request academic accommodations from their instructors. Results indicated a functional relation between the use of the self-advocacy skills and students’ ability to request accommodations from their instructors. Social validity data indicated students felt the instruction was helpful and gave them the language and confidence to speak up and request their accommodations from instructors.



Self-Advocacy; Peer Mentor; Accommodations; Postsecondary Education

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Communication Center Journal