February 19, 2010

The Importance of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Youth Learning Advocacy and Social Skills

I sometimes see children or young people with hearing loss act passive or apathetic when in social situations. They may not really contribute to the conversations (either they don't make the effort, are unable to communicate effectively because they lack language skills, or are missing out on the conversations, etc.). Therefore, it seems as if they learn to be passive; simply standing by watching and pretending everything is dandy. It is quite damaging to hide who you are and not to be able to express yourself effectively.

I know, because I was one of them (mainly during junior high and high school). I would be described as the "nice" or "quiet" girl. But those who really knew me, understood that I was more than that. I would often pretend I heard the latest gossip when sitting with a large crowd of people, smiling, nodding, or even laughing on cue. It was exhausting. It was horribly embarrassing when I was caught bluffing. Therefore, I avoided large crowds and spent a lot of time by myself reading books. I hung out with the outcasts of the school (the goths, geeks, nerds, wannabe punks, etc.). Besides the benefit of easy to follow one on one conversations, they were interesting. But, it is never nice to be left out. As a kid you want to belong.
There wasn't anyone I could talk to about this stuff without them fully understanding. It would have been nice to have talked to and learned from other deaf and hard of hearing people. From not having a lot of exposure to socializing with people on my own, I did not really learn how to talk to people or how to do it comfortably. And this was all on top of being a pimple-riddled-braces-wearing teenage girl.

Ugh, it was tough.

**Me, during my awkward teenage years. 

*This is me now. 
Don't hate. 

Now, being a teacher, I see some of my older d/hh students repeating the same behaviors I exhibited during junior high and high school. Some of them get along quite well with others (or it seems as if they get by fine), but I do notice how they miss most of what is being said in a large crowd, and they bluff their way through, smiling and nodding. I keep telling them that it will save them a lot of trouble if they start talking about their hearing loss with others now or at least advocate for themselves. They don't have to get on a soapbox and announce it to everyone. But, just telling someone to please repeat themselves would be good enough.


** Drawing by yours truly, (e  [from a class photo 94' when I was 14]

*Photo from Victoria's Secret 

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