May 30, 2012

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.



  1. Awesome! I love how you're coaching this student and making a difference. I had a teacher in high school who did the same, except I resisted her every time! I didn't learn to advocate for myself until college.

    I work for a captioning company, so if I can provide any assistance in captioning anything the school needs, let me know.

    1. Great! I would love your help! I'll have to contact you when school starts up again.

      I never knew what it meant to advocate for myself until I was in graduate school. My mom would try to tell me. But, I would not listen. It is crazy how I never really gave it much thought. It took being around others like me to fully understand how I was not helping anyone by being quiet and letting certain issues go.

  2. Love it!!! And yes... I did the same things Karen did... I resisted. It was hard because I personally felt like I was a bother or burden to the rest of the class and teachers or at least that's how they'd make me feel when showing their frustrations. It's hard to ignore that and continue to ask for help. So, I'm glad she's found her voice! We needmore teachers like you ;)

    PS -- I know I've been MIA - but soooo much going on - I'll text you!


    1. Thank you Keta! It is hard. It is even harder to get others to understand how frustrating, annoying, and scary it can be to ask for help when you are deaf. Those who made you feel as if you were a burden should think about how you must have felt. Would they honestly think that you enjoyed asking others to repeat themselves or to advocate for your hearing needs?

      I have been busy too!! I understand. I can't wait to hear from you on how everything is going. Tell Jon I said hello!

      Miss you. Keep in touch.

  3. I'm a total supporter of main-streaming deaf children. They are not going to learn about the world out there by staying removed from it. To make this really work we have to ensure the support is there, (The UK is dire in supporting them), or, the cultural deaf extreme will continue to attack any form of integration. It's great to see deaf kids benefiting....

    1. Mainstreaming can work with the right support. But mainstreaming is not for everyone. I do think some students can benefit from specialized schools (schools for the deaf, whether they use oral/aural methods, sign language, total communication, etc.). Usually sticking a language impoverished child with an interpreter in a mainstream setting is not going to work, even with support from a deaf/hh teacher. It could work if the school offers self-contained classrooms with teachers for the deaf with an understanding of language development.


Keep it civil.