One Advantage of Being Mainstreamed According to a Deaf Student

A deaf high school student told me that one of the advantages of being mainstreamed is that she is constantly pushed into speaking up and advocating for herself. Being very shy, she does not like to speak up in class or to tell others how she feels when they hurt her feelings or if she disagrees. Her hearing loss prompts her to leave her comfort zone and ask for help, that is if she wants a better situation for her hearing needs.

When I came in the picture as her deaf/hh teacher, I told her that she is going to have to speak up more. She was not thrilled about this. I could tell that she was frustrated with the idea of having to talk to her teachers and friends about her hearing needs and that she is going to have to speak up more and ask for help in public. I can totally understand. It is not always fun to have to advocate for yourself. It can be awkward and scary. It was hard for me to tell her that she is going to have to do most of the work because I am not going to be there all of the time to help.

First she needed to learn what it meant to advocate for herself, especially in tough situations. We looked at and decided what accommodations she can take advantage of and to learn more about her hearing loss and how it impacts her at school.

She started small. She chose one teacher to sit down with and talk to about her hearing needs. She said it was not bad and that it turned out to be the best thing she did for herself because the teacher became more mindful of how to accommodate her in the classroom. It became easier for her to advocate for herself in that class. Then she started talking to all of her teachers. Eventually, it was not a problem for her to effectively express her thoughts to her teachers in most situations.

Later, an issue came up with one of her teachers. It was an ongoing problem and this student was not comfortable with the idea of talking to him about it. I adamantly told her that she is going to have to talk to him. Eventually, she went directly to him and talked to him. I was really proud of her. She said she felt better for doing this. A few times when the teacher could not find a captioned film, my student actually spoke up in class and offered to help him find one! She said that it helped tremendously. She enjoyed the benefits of advocating for herself. It felt good to be part of the class instead of an outsider. I am really glad she is able to appreciate how hard work can pay off.

Eventually, her new found love of advocating for herself spread into her social life. She started telling her peers more about what it is like to be deaf. She also spoke up against a classmate who made a very rude comment about her being deaf.

She is only a freshman. If she keeps this up, by the time she graduates high school she will be ready to take on the world with her advocacy skills.

She is truly awesome.  I am lucky to have her as a student.


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