Self Advocacy For Shy Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students

I have some questions for shy and introverted deaf and hard of hearing students (and former students):

What are some ways teachers can help you with becoming better at advocating for yourself at school?

What bugs you about advocating for yourself?

What are some things teachers have told you or have done that made you angry or embarrassed?

What advice do you have for teachers who want to help their students advocate for themselves?

I understand that many shy and introverted students hate being the center of attention. They would probably rather be left alone to read a good book or finish assignments on their own. They may roll their eyes at comments such as, "You need to speak up for yourself more." "You have to use your FM system." "Don't just sit there and not say anything." "Why don't you wear your hearing aids?" "You need to talk to your teachers more." "Your teachers are not mind readers."

However, if students want to be more successful in school, they must advocate for themselves more often.

I know it is easier to try to hide in the back of the class and pray that your teacher does not call on you. Speaking up for yourself is easier said than done. I understand. I was that student in middle school and high school.

Looking back, knowing what I know now, advocating for myself would have made life at school better, socially and academically. I would have been nice if I had a deaf and hard of hearing teacher who taught me how to advocate for myself. I should have learned more about my hearing loss and how to deal with it. At the time, the school I attended was a private institution that did not provide special education services. I believe I was the only hard of hearing student in the entire school (K-12). My parents tried to help. They spoke to me often about advocating for myself. My mother talked to all my teachers about my hearing loss. It helped some, but it was not enough.

I have learned that simply meeting with and talking to the teachers helps tremendously. This has been the most effective with many of my students. I encourage the shy ones to take baby steps. They can start with one teacher, someone who they are most comfortable with. I can attend for support if they want me there. For my middle and high school students, I ask them to go over the accommodations they need in their IEPs (Individualized Educational Plans) and answer any questions their teachers may have. If they are feeling a little more confident, the students can explain to their teachers why they require each accommodation and how they help them. In addition, this is their opportunity to tell their teachers how they feel and how they would like to be treated in the classroom. For example, if a student is uncomfortable with reminding the teacher to provide captioned media in front of their classmates, the student and teacher can talk about it and work something out.

The more students communicate with their teachers, the easier it gets. If this proves to be useful for the student, I believe that eventually it will become a habit, no matter how shy or introverted the student is. It will be something that just needs to be done.

Of course, advocating for yourself is complicated. It is easier said than done, especially if you are a shy or introverted. I am still learning how I can help these students, without being too pushy and annoying.

I do not think there is anything wrong with being shy, quiet, reserved, or introverted. These great personal characteristics should be respected and valued. No one should expect the student to become loud and the center of attention to advocate for him or herself successfully. However, everyone should be able to practice self-advocacy effectively whether the person is shy or not.

What are some other ways I can help students advocate for themselves on their own while in school, especially the shy students? 

Any suggestions or comments?


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