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Podcast 15:Justify Why They Need Me

Updated: Feb 29

How often do you justify or explain yourself to others? Justification can be an excuse or a way to self-advocate for yourself. Are you a good self-advocate? Try the Tips from Podcast #15 to see for yourself....


Justification can be defined as: “a reason, fact, circumstance, or explanation that defends something we do" (Grant, 2019). It's an interesting concept because it can either have positive or negative connotations. For example, you could justify to your friend why you missed her birthday party at the last minute, because you had to rush your child to the hospital. Or, you could tell your boss for the third time: "Sorry I'm late, but my alarm clock didn't go off ." Both are examples of justification, but they can have very different consequences.

One thread that runs through both types of justifications is the need to explain yourself to others (Grant, 2019; Schram, 2023). For instance, you may have a legitimate reason that requires an explanation. Or, your need to explain yourself can be caused by fear, guilt, self-doubt, or trying to change someone else's mind about who you are or what you do (Schram, 2023). It can also involve standing up for yourself by being clear about exactly what you want and need--and how to get it. All of these are legitimate reasons for explaining yourself to others, but, especially for people with invisible disabilities, justifying yourself often falls into another, important category--learning how to effectively advocate for yourself. In these situations, you're trying to connect and communicate about yourself with very different people with dissimilar agendas. That's where effective self-advocacy and justification become invaluable.


Reflecting through self-justification often leads to insights about yourself that you never thought about before. For instance, if you want that promotion, you may have to focus on your vocational goals and carefully examine just exactly what an asset you are to your company. You may have to look at yourself carefully to see if you still want to be where you are or move to a different job. You may even decide to quit and start over entirely. No matter what your decision--it's yours. Such self-advocacy clearly helps you move forward in ways that will definitely impact your life.

Spiller (2023) echos this by saying that effective self-advocacy will: a) help you understand your own needs, b) encourage you to request help, clarity, or accommodations, c) force you to recognize your own personal worth, d) get you to stand up for yourself or others, e) say "No" when you need to and "Yes" when you want to, f) foster your leadership skills and problem solving abilities, and g) increase trust and connection with people around you.


An interesting, but often unknown, connection to self advocacy and justification is resiliency. What is resiliency? As folks at Emory University (2023) explain: "Resiliency is the ability to bounce back when you’re facing challenges, setbacks, or other unforeseen circumstances that might otherwise cause problems. In essence, it’s the ability to cope with the issues in front of you and even thrive despite them." While we never teach this in school, it can be an extremely valuable trait to have in adult life--especially if you have invisible disabilities. For instance, Stuntzner and Hartley go one step further when they say, "Learning to live with a disability can be a significant transition, and many individuals struggle with the complex challenge of examining how the disability will affect who they are and what their role is in society" (2014, p. 1).

A second, but equally fascinating, connection between invisible disabilities and justification is the area of excuses. Have you ever met someone with a disability who has a great case of "victim mentality"? As Hayes (2020) explains,"The idea of not being able to do something because of your disabling condition is very real and very legitimate. However, we also sometimes fall into a trap of letting our conditions limit us too much or using our condition as an excuse not to do something that we aren’t sure about or don’t want to do". She goes on to stress that this clearly doesn't apply to most people with disabilities. But, Czarielle (2021) goes one step further by saying that the trap of victim mentality comes from deep feelings of insecurity, anger, frustration, a sense that "the world is against [me]". He believes that this is a "socially conditioned" mindset inherent in the disability experience, where others may often take care of you or make decisions for you. Such self-limited thinking can backfire and make you your own worst enemy.

So, do you see yourself as a "victim" of an invisible disability that no one knows or understands? Or, can you see yourself as someone ready to take the responsibility to make your own choices and live with the results? Are you ready for success? If you're ready to be your own self-advocate and move forward in your own life, the Tips in this Podcast are for you.


(A) Judy saw Joe during Spring Break and was immediately attracted to him. Even though she had just met him, she was blown away by all the things that they had in common. For instance, they both hated Mexican food, loved jazz, and grew up in New Orleans. In fact, he was still living there, just like her. They kept in touch after vacation and saw each other occasionally. Judy is convinced that he is the one and has been dropping hints about moving in together. She keeps thinking that they could save a lot of money on rent, since she is a student and he's a waiter trying to start his own company. She wants to say this just right. But, she's always had problems orally communicating with others due to her LD. This is important, as she finally feels she has a shot at happiness.

(B) Dexter really, really needs a notetaker to write down and understand the concepts and vocabulary in his biomedical engineering class. He was able to struggle through his biology and math classes without assistance, but now has hit a wall as this class takes the information to a new level. Dexter is a very smart guy, but has always had major trouble reading, writing, and following directions. He was bullied and made fun of throughout his childhood because he stutters and has LD. He swore to himself that if he got through high school alive, he would never ask for help again. For instance, Dexter smuggled a tape recorder into his bio med lecture. However, Dr. Brown his instructor, found out and got downright nasty about it. Now, what can he do? Dexter has finally found a class that he enjoys. However, he may be finally in over his head.

(C) If there's one thing that Jin understands, it's how important a mentor can be in your life. When he came to America as a child with his mother and sister, he really struggled to learn English. A caring 5th grade teacher thought he might have dyslexia and suggested testing. After Jin received his diagnosis, he got accommodations throughout high school and college. He now has a scholarship at a small, well-respected college where he is thriving in his new environment. A friend suggested that Jin apply for a new internship program in Nursing. He would love to do that, but his Korean is still much better than his English. Perhaps, that is why his Freshman grades were below average. Even with that, he thinks he has a lot to offer this program, especially as a bi-lingual, dyslexic Korean/American nurse.


(1) Let Me Convince You

How many times did you want something, but you had to convince someone else first? Maybe when you were a kid, you wanted that extra cookie before dinner. Perhaps, you needed to extend a deadline at work and had to sweet-talk your supervisor into changing the schedule. Have you ever run out of patience getting your kids or your roommate to clean up their mess, so you had to twist their arms a few times?

All of these could be legitimate reasons for getting what you want. But most folks, both with and without disabilities, often have a hard time getting their way. This may be especially true for folks with hidden disabilities, who already have difficulties organizing their thoughts, prioritizing their goals, or communicating effectively with others. Persuading someone else can be a real challenge.

If that's true for you, here's some great ideas to get you started. Marsh (2023) says that, "Persuasion is about 90% feelings and 10% facts. I am not exaggerating. If the other person doesn't want to believe your facts and logic, they won't." So, how do you make yourself as convincing as possible? He says you should focus on the person that you want to persuade and follow these suggestions:

  • Make sure they trust you and value your opinion

  • Focus on what they want first, not what you want

  • Create a friendly mood full of mutual understanding

  • Don't always tell them first--let them tell you

  • Keep it simple

  • Feed them your ideas a little at a time

  • If they start to agree, don't push it further

All these practical recommendations can have a real-world payoff. For example, look at Judy in Scenario A. She really wants to move in with Joe and live as a couple in a committed, happy relationship. Judy is worried because she really has trouble organizing her ideas and expressing herself to others, given her LD. She usually just blurts out the first thing that comes to mind, babbles away making less and less sense, and totally confusing the other person.

Then again, what if Judy followed Marsh's suggestions? For instance, the next time they talked or hung out together, she could focus on Joe's goal to start his own business, knowing that he has a very limited salary. She could talk about how expensive living in the city is everyday. Perhaps, they both could live much cheaper sharing expenses (food, gas, rent, utilities, etc). She could take the time to patiently listen to what Joe wants, instead of just always talking about what she wants. She could also start small and simple, by letting him know how much she enjoys being with him and how much they already have in common. Little by little, Judy could present her ideas--and bring Joe into the picture. Finally--and this is the hard part--if Joe is agreeable, she should smile and let it go. Just be gentle and wait for the next step. There's no guarantee that Joe will agree, but now Judy has a plan. She can be more confident that, even with her LD, Joe will understand her and value what she has to say. Will Judy and Joe end up together? Who knows? But, this may be a great start. If you need to convince someone in your life to do what you want, try Marsh's ideas and see.

(2) I Need My Accommodations. Help!

While I've already talked about accommodations for invisible disabilities and how to use them, there's still another chapter in that story. Once you figure out if you need support, you have one final step. You need to start exploring how to precisely to get exactly what you need. As I've said in other podcasts, this can open up a brand-new set of challenges. For instance, you may immediately start asking yourself: What exactly do I need? How does that involve my diagnosis?

In my experience, getting accommodations in any setting often involves two inter-related parts. Part 1 is understanding specifically what you require, along with a deep dive into your personal strengths & unique disability (CHOP, 2020). Part 2 is figuring out how to convince others to make that happen. Part 1 is usually based on your original diagnosis and any relevant documentation (e.g., old IEPs or ITPs; letters from physicians, psychologists, teachers, tutors, or educators; previous transcripts; behavioral observations; former job evaluations; clinical interviews; etc.). This is not just words on paper, but an overview of your whole life (LDA, 2023). You must show how true this is.

Part 2 becomes much more complicated, as you have to really think about who you need to talk to, where it should happen, and when it should take place. Once you figure out who to talk to first, you should also explore how much that key person knows about hidden disabilities, especially LD or dyslexia, while also getting a sense how supportive they may be to your request. In addition, you need to prepare yourself for the consequences. For instance, what will you do if they say no? If they say yes? If they share this personal information with others? Will this have positive or negative results in your life (e.g., losing your job, passing this class, opening yourself up to criticism or more support, etc.). All of these are crucial variables to getting the help that you need. While this seems complex, adults have told me this is a necessary, but often complicated, process that comes up again and again when you have an invisible disability. As a result, learning how to successfully get accommodations can be a valuable tool in your toolbox; whether at home, at work, at school, or in the community.

Dexter is a perfect example of this process. After the trauma he went through in his childhood and adolescence, he pushed himself to the limit to do the best he could without assistance from anyone else. That worked fine up until now--when reality set in. Dexter finally admitted to himself that he can't pass this class or move forward with his future career until he gets some personal help. He just doesn't know what to do. He remembered a trusted teacher who suggested Dexter go to the Disability Office as soon as he received his college acceptance letter. He quickly rejected that, as he wanted to start with a clean slate in a new place. Maybe now, however, that's the only option he has left.

So, Dexter started Part 1 of the process and collected as much diagnostic documentation as he could. His mom helped him put everything into one folder and tried to explain it all to him. He then made an appointment to see Marjory, a college Disability counselor. As nervous as Dexter was, Marjory soon put him at ease. She assured him that all of this was totally confidential and free of charge. As some of his tests and IEPs were very old, she arranged for him to have up-dated testing on a sliding scale. She offered him lots of options (tutoring, note takers, extra time for tests, audio text books, etc.). Together they created a plan for Dexter to pass the class and show his true potential. The best thing happened when Marjory offered to talk to Dr. Brown for him. This was a critical component of Part 2, as Dr. Brown had a reputation as a difficult professor who rarely listened to his students. With Marjory's help, Dexter was able to use a notetaker in class and received weekly tutoring in the Disability Office. He passed the class with flying colors and got help for two other classes the next semester. Dexter was so grateful that he became a part-time volunteer working with Marjory. As he talked to more and more students with invisible disabilities, he realized that he was not alone; but part of a big, underground group that keeps growing and growing. While he still rarely shares his disability with others, he just got a great summer job with a top bio-medical company. He nows knows he's on the right track--and he has Marjory to thank for that. If Dexter's story applies to you, ask for help and see where it gets you. Becoming your own self-advocate and justifying your disability to others is the first step.

(3) How Can I Be My Own Self-Advocate?

One topic that often goes hand-in-hand with growing up into adulthood is self-advocacy. For instance, American special education teachers are required by law to explore future plans with parents by writing multi-faceted Individual Transition Plans (ITPs) for students with disabilities before they exit high school. Such discussions may touch on knowing your rights as a person with a disability and asking for accommodations. While these are interesting topics, they usually are limited in scope, because becoming an advocate for yourself in adulthood can be much more complex than that. In fact, that is only part of the picture. Successful adults find themselves self-advocating throughout their day, at home, school, work, or in the community. People with LD or dyslexia will discover that justifying yourself can easily become a full time job.

One way to become your own, best self-advocate is to use the STAR system (Page, 2023). Page suggests that you use these four steps to answer interview questions, self-advocate or to justify yourself in a variety of situations:

  • Situation: Give a specific scenario to illustrate what you want.

  • Task: Clearly lay out the tasks you did and goals you were trying achieve.

  • Action: Explain each action with as many details as possible.

  • Result: Describe the outcome of your actions and objectives.

In other words, give both evidence and insights into why you did what you did--and how it made a positive difference for you or others. This is a simple, but powerful, way to build a case to justify what you want. It also shows that you've done your homework and have the motivation and skills to make it happen.

A great way to illustrate the STAR system is Jin's story. As seen in Scenario C above, Jin is a talented, motivated young man with big dreams and an invisible disability. With lots of help from others, he has become a successful student and now wants to move forward into the next chapter of his life. He sees the first stepping stone as getting that Nursing internship. But, he is realistic enough to know that he may have some extra hurdles in front of him. For instance, his dyslexia can make language-based activities hard for him. Not only does he have to work twice as hard with reading, spelling or writing, but sometimes he is slower following directions or conversations in English. Slang or certain idioms can drive him crazy. However, he knows that he brings a lot of advantages to the table that few other candidates will.

Jin used the STAR system to convince the Nursing program chair that he deserved the new internship. He knew that an effective nurse not only needs medical knowledge--but more importantly, is also a teacher and a guide for patients. So, he used a "Situation" to justify his case. He explained in his application that he had been a successful bi-lingual tutor in the College Study Center for two years, where he had helped raise the GPA of 5 students in the Computer and Biology programs. He explained the tutoring"Tasks"and goals of for individual students and then gave details of different "Actions" he used to achieve them. He summarized his argument by talking about the "Results" of his work, along with a suggestion to contact the Study Center Supervisor or a few students for more information. He also emphasized that he brought unique assets to his tutoring with his knowledge of disabilities and other cultures. He strongly felt they would be invaluable to his future nursing career as well.

Jin really did his homework by using the STAR system. When he was later called in for an interview, he had already prepared what he was going to say. He become a compelling self-advocate, convincing the Internship Committee to give him an internship. With the financial and educational support as an intern, he was able to finish his undergraduate studies and later apply for a Graduate scholarship in Nursing.




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