June 2, 2013

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?



  1. Very informative post indeed! Today hard of hearing people have to face so many difficulties not only at their workplace, but also in their society. They are often excluded from normal conversations. Even in schools no one wants to include the students with hearing loss in their discussions. I don't know why people take no notice of these hard of hearing natives. This is a big shame on our society.
    Reference:- http://www.hiddenhearing.ie/

  2. What a great post! It’s common to see great deal of shyness in the children that require hearing aids. The benefits a hard-of-hearing teacher can provide are countless. So many hard-of-hearing or deaf children don’t see an adult they can relate to on a daily basis, and it’s a shame.

  3. I am much older now, but I remember as a student I did not even know how to advocate for myself. It is not like you go to a class where they teach you hard-of-hearing survival skills. Hearing loss can place you in a world so different from the norm, which the hearing people probably can't or don't absorb. How do you, those with hearing loss, share these frustrations?

    As an adult, I have found that the breakthroughs have come one-on-one. But before that can happen, someone needs to show some empathy.

    So that's the key... empathy.

    1. Yes! Yes! Yes! Empathy and talking with others who understand is a tremendous help. Not everyone has others that they can empathize with unfortunately. I certainly did not have that in junior high and high school. It makes it harder.

      It is too bad that you could not just go to some class and learn hard of hearing survival skills or self advocacy skills while at school. I am hoping that in the future, more deaf/hh educators will start teaching these skills and focusing more on teaching and talking about self-advocacy skills. I try my best to work with all of my students on learning and utilizing these skills.

      The good news is that there are tons of information out there now---support groups, online info., resources, people, etc. It is up to parents/caregivers of deaf/hard of hearing kids to look for and ask for help. Kids need to be taught how to advocate for themselves, preferably by others who understand or have to do the same for themselves basically on a daily basis. If there is no one to help teach these skills, there are people and communities online to turn to--if you have access to the internet.

      But, it is not easy. Everyone is different. But it can be done.

  4. This was very interesting, and from reading this as well as previous entries it's heart-warming to see that you are really committed to teaching your students self-advocacy.

    I have APD which was diagnosed at the age of fourteen, and I gradually learned some self-advocacy from reading other people's experiences online. Even now I know I could do better, but I really wish I'd known some self-advocacy back in school.

    Ten years on and I'm a teaching assistant, this year working with two girls who have SEN. Their needs are very different, but they both need intensive support to fully access the curriculum. It's difficult to teach cognitively-delayed seven year-olds self-advocacy - coming from my HI perspective, which is based on educating others and understanding the reasons behind needing accomodation, I've had to shift my viewpoint to be able to reach someone who has virtually no reasoning ability, and someone else who is completely self-unaware. However, this post has renewed my determination to persevere, thank you!

  5. This is one reason why I am a big supporter of Deaf schools. Many mainstreamed programs have a tendency on not hiring Deaf people as teachers, etc., so the Deaf and hard-of-hearing students do miss out on incredible role models.
    If the mainstreamed programs are more accommodating and more willing to hire Deaf people, they would be doing an astounding service for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

  6. Is this blog still active? I would love to share this as a possible network site for one of my students. She is hearing impaired, and we are trying to get her to participate more in her classes since she will be taking advanced classes in high school next year. We have been told that AS students are expected to speak out in class more often.

  7. Is this blog still active? I would love to share this as a possible network site for one of my students. She is hearing impaired, and we are trying to get her to participate more in her classes since she will be taking advanced classes in high school next year. We have been told that AS students are expected to speak out in class more often.

    1. Yes still active. See my comment below. Thanks!

  8. Yes. This blog is still active. Questions and comments are welcomed. I am expecting to add some new posts soon, when I get the time. You can contact me at ehwhathuh@yahoo.com if you wish. Thanks.


Keep it civil.