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Adaptation, Accommodation, and Advocacy....oh my!



Moving Generation Me to We

Teaching Generation Accommodation Advocacy Skills


by Megan Meuli, M.A., Adler Graduate School Adjunct Faculty, Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program

In the 1970s, Tom Wolfe coined the term, “Generation Me” while Christopher Lasch described a rising culture of narcissism. In the spring of 2006, author Jean Twenge, Ph.D.’s book Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, and Entitled—and more miserable than ever hit bookshelves around the world and was updated again in 2014. Dr. Twenge continues to research and write on this topic and has a new book in the works that continues the narrative of a generation that is focused solely on itself.  

For the past two years, I have been diligently researching accommodation requests and requirements for individuals born between 1995—present and their impact on our future workforce. Most popular literature calls this group of children Generation Z, but I call them Generation A because of the myriad of words that begin with the letter A used to describe the overall experience of individuals currently aged 18 and younger. Gen A is growing up in an age of abundance (technology, information, food, toys), anxiety (especially parental anxiety), artificial intelligenceassessments, and ailments (Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, addiction, asthma, attachment disorder, anxiety, anti-depressants, allergies, anaphylaxis, autoimmune disorders just to name a few). Accommodations are a quantifiable aspect of Generation A and never before in history has a group of individuals received so much assistance in their schooling or required their environment to adapt to them versus the other way around. What does this mean for our workforce in the next five to ten years?  How will recruitment, retainment, and the role of leadership need to shift to adapt to the accommodation needs of their incoming workforce?   

My research on Generation Accommodation finds that in the span of only eight years (2006—2014), there was a 69% increase in the total amount of IEPs for students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder throughout Minnesota schools. There are many ramifications for all of these As and I continue to gather incredible data supporting my work.

The role of parental advocacy has never been so visible and I would argue important. For example, a very young child with a severe and life-threatening food allergy needs a parent to advocate for them within their school setting to make sure they are not accidentally exposed to a minute amount of food that could kill them. A kindergartner with a food allergy likely does not have the ability to read food labels and may not know how to speak up for themselves to explain their situation to teachers, substitutes, paraprofessionals, kitchen staff, and other students. The significance of parental advocacy in this situation is life-saving.  

Advocating for students diagnosed with ASD, ADHD, anxiety, and other ailments is just as important and sometimes more complicated than speaking up for children with allergies. Parents and family members are typically the most influential advocates. Busse (2012) writes, “For many people, especially those identified with autism at an early age, the families become the advocate for services and change.” Given this increasing role of parental advocacy and focus on individual needs at schools and daycare settings throughout the U.S., is it possible to avoid following the Generation Me trends cited by Wolfe, Lashe, and Twenge? How do we assist our young clients in developing the ability to demonstrate social interest to not only advocate for themselves but for others in order to move our growing Generation Me to a more inclusive and contributive Generation We that creates a sense of belonging for all of its members

I would argue that the antidote to this dilemma is to teach our children and teens much needed advocacy skills. Reid writes on the topics of self-advocacy and autism, “Self-advocacy is a concept most commonly associated with the Adlerian tenant of soft-determinism. She cites the work of Test, Fowler, Wood, Brewer, & Eddy (2005) correlating the employment success of an individual with strong self-advocacy skills and their post secondary outcomes. Reid concludes, “An individual’s ability to self-advocate is a step toward self-determination and social success.”

What is advocacy? Busse (2012) cite Shore’s 2003 definition of advocacy as, “realizing what a person needs in order to maximize his or her functioning in life and knowing how to arrange the environment or obtain necessary accommodations to do so.” The foundation of advocacy is knowledge of one’s rights. Secondly, attainment of communication and leadership abilities is essential for explaining needs and influencing individuals with both authority and decision-making capabilities. Reid writes, “Being able to communicate effectively with others through negotiation, assertiveness, and problem-solving in individual and group settings is necessary to self-advocate."

Test, Fowler, et. al. take this one step further by noting that, “leadership skills which involve awareness of common needs and desires of others, group dynamics, and accepting responsibility, enable a person to move from individual self-advocacy to advocating for others as a group with common concerns.” Meanwhile, Caldwell (2010) notes that individuals with an ASD diagnosis developed self-advocacy skills within disability communities and family relationships. Volunteering, contributing in committee environments and workshop settings is the most effective way to build self-advocacy skills.

Adler’s concept of soft-determinism helps us to understand that individuals are not completely produced by heredity or environment but rather, “genetic possibility and environmental opportunity” as Powers and Griffith (1987) explain. The ability of an individual diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder or other accommodation needs are to be encouraged to consider the ways in which they can adapt to their environment and request adaptation from their environment through accommodation. 

Adler Graduate School Associate Faculty member Sarah Robinson-Hudson, PsyD says, "We often don't give ourselves enough credit for the many things we can do when we focus too much on our genetic limitations." Self-advocacy is most effective when an individual attempts to adapt to their environment as best they can while communicating specific ways in which their environment can adapt and accommodate them based on their needs. Dr. Hudson emphasizes that, "both adaptation and advocacy are vital to not only surviving but thriving for anyone with accommodation needs."

Generation A adaptation requests and school accommodations are at an all time high and growing each day across the U.S. for individuals born between 1995—present.  Self-advocacy is a vital skill for individuals with accommodation needs and are best gained in group settings where they can be demonstrated and practiced as children ages 18 and under learn to adapt, ask for assistance, contribute, and advocate for others. This appears to be one formula for helping move Generation Me to We.

                                                                          References

Busse, K. (2012). Self-advocacy and Autism (Unpublished master’s summary paper). Adler Graduate School, Richfield, Minnesota, U.S.A.,
http://alfredadler.edu/sites/default/files/Busse%20MP%202012.pdf andhttp://alfredadler.edu/library/masters/2012/kimberly-k-busse

Caldwell, J.K. (2010). Leadership development of individuals with developmental disabilities in the self-advocacy movement. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research54 (II), 1004—1014.

Minnesota Department of Education. (2017). Data Reports and Analytics. http://education.state.mn.us/MDE/Data/index.html

Powers, R.L. and Griffith, J. (1987). Understanding life-style: The psycho-clarity process. Port Towsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates. 

Reid, A.M. (2012). Self-Advocacy, Autism, & Adlerian Psychology (Unpublished master’s summary paper). Adler Graduate School, Richfield, Minnesota, U.S.A.,
http://alfredadler.edu/sites/default/files/Amy_Reid_MP_2012.pdf

Shore, S. (2003). Beyond the Wall: Personal Experiences with Autism and Asperger Syndrome (2nd ed). Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Company. 

Test, D.W., Fowler, C.H., Wood, W.M., Brewer, D.M., & Eddy, S. (2005). A conceptual framework of self-advocacy for students with disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 26(1), 43—54.

Twenge, J.M. (2014). Generation Me - Revised and Updated: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More Miserable Than Ever Before. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Generation-Me-Revised-and-Updated/Jean-M-Twenge/9781476755564

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