Everyone has this need to feel important. I try to remember this when I work with my students and their teachers and parents.
Try to remember a time when you were fully appreciated by someone else. How did it make you feel? Probably happy and good. When you feel happy and good about yourself you want to continue to do the same things that make other people appreciate you and make you feel important.
I remember a professor from college who complimented me in a way that changed my perspective about my hearing loss.
He told me, "I like how you really make an effort to look at people when they talk to you. You don't turn your back and look away. You really look at them. I think it makes them feel important and nice. I wish more people would do this."
Of course the main reason I look at people when they talk to me is because I am working very hard to listen. I never thought about doing it to make people feel important because it looks as if I am really interested in what they have to say. I never looked at it as a skill. I looked at it more as just something I have to do to get by in everyday conversations with people. But, because of his comment, I started thinking about my hearing loss as a positive thing. It makes me look good in that I am making others feel good about themselves!
This is very important to keep in mind when working with people who are deaf and hard of hearing and/or have special needs.
Often, I notice that my students are not given enough credit and usually have things done for them that they can learn to do themselves. And when they do things for themselves not many people take the time to praise them or acknowledge their achievements. They get acknowledge more for making good grades and staying out of trouble.
For example, a teenage student with down syndrome and a moderate-severe hearing loss was experiencing difficulties and frustration because her hearing aid battery died. I asked her where she keeps extra hearing aid batteries. She said that she did not have any on her. Then she said that it was fine and that she will wait until she gets home to have her mom change the battery for her. I have spoken with her mother about keeping an extra set of batteries at school, but she keeps forgetting.
I remembered that I taught her recently how to change a hearing aid battery by having her help me change my hearing aid battery when it died. I gave her a new hearing aid battery (one of mine) and told her to try to change the battery herself. She was able to do it on her own, without too much effort. She smiled when I told her how impressed I was that she was paying attention the last time I showed her how to change the battery. I told her that she did a great job and that this is something she can do herself. She smiled again beaming with pride.
Now that I know that she is capable of changing the battery herself, I will introduce to her how to clean her hearing aid and help take care of it.
I met with her mother recently and told her about how her daughter is capable of doing these things herself. The mother has been doing all these things for her daughter and never thought that she was capable of doing it herself. She seemed excited about her daughter being more independent taking care of her hearing aid. She made a good point about why she did not think to help her daughter to learn to do these things by herself.
She said, "When you are at home, you fall in these patterns. At home you are comfortable and you have a routine. Even though I know it is wrong to baby her and to do everything for her, it is a hard pattern to break."
Her mother was the most happy about the fact that her daughter feels good about herself when she can do these things by herself.
What did I learn from all of this? Praise more, criticize less. If you want more out of people, don't forget the power of praise! People often forget to do this. Everyone has the need to feel appreciated and important. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. The compliment given to me by the professor changed my thinking for the better.
It is not a requirement. It is a gift.