Self-Advocacy in Action

Thato Moseme is an 8th-grade student in American International School of Johannesburg. She was born and raised in South Africa. Outside school, Thato is part of Dancers Avant Grade, a dance school that specializes in teaching modern, contemporary, and jazz.

“As part of the Learning Support Program we’ve been discussing the importance of self-advocacy and the Language Arts speech was a good chance to speak up about this issue. I wanted to raise awareness about learning support and that this is not a class that makes it unfair for other students but helps us to understand the lessons with extra support and strategies. Not everyone has the courage to speak up about their learning disability and this will show a lot of people that even when they find some days challenging at school that they are not alone.”

This I Believe…

Today, I finally got my math test. I had a sigh of relief because I initially thought I would get developing as I stared at the rubric. Developing is basically your teacher telling you that you know how to write your name and the date and well done for participating and that’s pretty much it. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the word proficient. Just as I was ready to celebrate, a classmate asked me, “What did you get on the math test?”

“A proficient!” I said with pride

She quickly replied, “Well, we all know you got that because you are in learning support.” I instantly heard a pinging sound in my ears and my heart was racing and I start to feel my blood boiling almost like I was on a stove

I don’t think people notice or even realize how insensitive these comments are. It’s like saying to a visually impaired person, “Oh my gosh you’re so lucky you have those glasses.” or “Ohhh my gosh you’re so lucky that you need a wheelchair and you can play on the ramps.” This is how it feels when people think it is lucky to have something that you generally need. You might wish you had learning support but you don’t wish you had a learning disability. In my case, learning support is my eyeglasses or wheelchair. Learning Support helps me to survive school because of my slow processing speed.

I wish that everyone knew the hard work that I had to do for me to get proficient. Spending time with a tutor at home, staying after school to get extra help. Spending a lot of time on my homework. Asking friends for feedback but mainly I wish I didn’t have to explain all of this over and over and over again because it is exhausting.

I wish that our school is like Hogwarts just like when wizards are sorted in their houses and celebrated for their good stuff. Like how Gryffindors are seen as adventurous and brave even though they are always in trouble.

I wish that people would appreciate how Khanyi is open-minded and not judged by her height. I wish people would know how Noah is a good listener and would not be afraid to approach him because he is sometimes quiet. I wish people would not judge Ingrid because she’s the new girl but just know her as a nice girl.

I wish people were more kind because disabilities are something you can’t change but our reactions and the way we treat people could change. Then maybe we could all be exceeding in treating each other better.

We are calling all members of the SENIA community, if you have any students’ work that exemplifies a student’s self-advocacy skill, ownership of their learning or any celebration of their hard work that you wish to be highlighted or shared with a greater audience. Please send it to