February 20, 2012

Why it is Necessary for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Students to Self Advocate

Speaking up for yourself can be tough sometimes. It can be scary to speak up against an authority figure and to try to be heard as an individual among the masses. For mainstreamed deaf and hard of hearing students, new to the idea of advocating for themselves, it can be a daunting task. Some of them may feel it is unnecessary or pointless.

I encourage all of my mainstreamed deaf and hard of hearing students to learn as much as they can about their hearing or lack thereof and how it impacts them. Once they get a good understanding of themselves, then I talk to them about how they can advocate for themselves while at school.

It can be difficult to get some of them to actually utilize the strategies taught to them. It is not so simple. Some of these students are shy, some are going through awkward teenage phases, some feel that they don't need any help, while some are in extremely tough situations. It can be scary for some students to do something so simple as asking others to repeat themselves when they did not understand what was said. Some students had bad or unsuccessful experiences when they decided to speak up and advocate for themselves. Because of their fears of reliving similar experiences, they will be apprehensive to advocate for themselves when I am not there or when they are in front of strangers. Many students have good reasons for not wanting to advocate for their hearing needs while at school.

I can somewhat understand, because I went through similar experiences as the only hard of hearing student attending a private school during my junior high and high school days. I rarely advocated for myself. I never really gave my hearing loss much thought. I did not really see the point in focusing on my disability. I thought it was more important to ignore the issues I was having and to try to fit in. Looking back, I would have benefited more socially and academically if I had spoken up more and learned about my hearing loss and how it affects me. It would have been helpful if I had someone who understood what I was going through giving me advice on how to handle certain situations. It would have made things a lot easier if I truly understood and thought about why was it that I avoided large groups of people socializing, why I preferred one on one interactions, why it sometimes took me a while to comprehend what was said, why I was so tired after participating in lengthy group discussions, why I needed to take a short nap when I got home from school, and why I never really followed what was said on videos and movies shown in class. Had I paid more attention to how I hear and what I needed to help me improve my situation at school, I would have been requesting subtitled or captioned videos, I would have probably explained to others why I behave the way I do, encouraged others not to let me pretend that I understood what was being said by just simply nodding and smiling, and why I prefer to stand on the speaker's left side (to direct my better ear towards their voice). I really think I would have had more confidence in advocating for my hearing needs and educating others had I learned more about how I hear and how to deal with it.

I want the students I work with to get to know themselves better and to learn how to ask for help now before they have to figure this all out by themselves when they are adults and think, "Geez, why did I not do this sooner?"


Related Posts: 

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

Advocating For Myself

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