The Power of Self-Advocacy

Car’Melo Grau and Stephen Holden present The Power of Self-Advocacy on the first day of the ICare4Autism Conference.

The first day of the 2014 ICare4Autism International Autism Conference, which took place on June 30th, was focused on Global Autism Workforce Initiatives. These initiatives were supported by a wonderful presentation titled The Power of Self-Advocacy, which emphasized the importance of creating opportunities to empower those on the autism spectrum. This presentation was given by Car’Melo Grau, President of the YAI NYC Self-Advocacy Association, as well as member Stephen Holden. It was introduced by Tom Ott, Staff Support Member of the YAI NYC Self-Advocacy Association.

Car’Melo and Stephen highlighted the tools that permit each person to assist and advocate for themselves, as well as support others in their quest to live a full, happy, successful life. First, they described Personal Outcome Measures (POMs), which analyze if individuals have been given enough choices and opportunities to reach important goals in their lives. Twenty-one specific POMs were identified in interviews of people with disabilities, which were conducted by The Council on Quality & Leadership, in conjunction with YAI. POMs help individuals focus on where they currently are in their lives, and where they hope to be.

At YAI, practice interviews take place to help individuals express their goals and needs by analyzing their Personal Outcome Measures. The outcomes are measured by being “present”, or “not present”; the present qualities mean that the individual has full potential in that area. After the interview, feedback is given to the individual to help better assist them in their efforts to live fulfilling lives, including the goal of gaining employment. The POMS that are measured help YAI better assist the individuals to achieve their desired outcomes, and are used to see if the outcomes an individual wants to achieve improve over time.

In addition, Car’Melo and Stephen shared stories of times where they faced struggles, and how they were able to overcome them with the support of others who helped empower them. They emphasized that everyone should act as an advocate for those with autism disorders and other disabilities. They expressed that advocates should listen carefully, speak up for others, and look out for each other. These incredible self-advocates showed all of the guests at the conference how critical it is to give support to those on the autism spectrum, as it can help them achieve great things and live fulfilling, successful lives.

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