How to support your child to become a powerful advocate for themselves

If your child is deaf or hard of hearing you are probably familiar with the word “advocate.” Whether this word is a regular part of your vocabulary or you’re brand new to your child’s hearing journey, this blog post has something for everyone!

I’ve teamed up with my friend, Kimmy @thehardofhearingteacher, who is a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She will teach you everything you need to know in order to support your child to become a powerful and independent advocate for themselves.

In this post she will discuss what self advocacy is, who the key players are in developing your child’s self-advocacy skills, and how your child’s-self advocacy skills will evolve as they grow.

 

What is self-advocacy?

When your child is diagnosed with a hearing loss, it can be very overwhelming. The process usually starts with a lot of information about hearing technology and medical and educational needs. You may find yourself spending hours online searching for answers about how to best support your child. 

One word you are likely to come across is “advocacy.” 

Advocacy can take on many forms throughout your child’s life, including advocating for them on the playground, explaining to a friend what their hearing aids or cochlear implants are, or when you are working with your child’s educational team. 

Arguably, the most important skill your child will develop is advocating for themselves - we call this self-advocacy.

So what is self-advocacy?

One Californian school district provides the definition: 

“To self-advocate is to take action on one’s own behalf. Self-advocacy can lead to self-determination, which is the ability to consider one’s options and make choices that affect one’s future.” (Source, Pg. 2)

 

Who are the key players in developing your child's self-advocacy skills?

THE PARENT/GUARDIAN

First and foremost, you, as the parent or guardian, are the stage-setter for how your child will view themself, their hearing loss, and their ability to self-advocate. 

But, you are not alone. Throughout your child’s educational journey, from Early Intervention (EI) to high school graduation, you will have a team of educators and professionals working with you and your child to guide you along the way. 

 

THE AUDIOLOGIST 

Your child’s audiologist is usually one of the first key players identified in your support system. Their primary responsibility includes providing information on your child’s hearing loss and communication options. 

 

THE TEACHER OF THE DEAF (TOD)

Children ages birth to three will be connected with an early intervention specialist. Early Intervention (EI) includes parent training which is typically provided by a teacher of the deaf or hard of hearing (abbreviated as TOD). During this time, the TOD will work with you to help facilitate language development through listening and spoken language strategies or American Sign Language (ASL), depending on your family’s communication choices. The TOD will also provide information on how to use your child’s hearing equipment, tips to promote positive social interactions, and teach basic advocacy skills as a family. 

When your child begins the transition to a school-aged program, the focus shifts from working with the parents to working directly with your child. 

But don’t worry, the TOD is still available for family support and questions. The TOD is likely to see your child in school and will continue to provide support sessions that focus on your child’s hearing-related needs. 

 

THE SPEECH LANGUAGE PATHOLOGIST 

Your child may also receive services from a speech language pathologist (SLP). In which case, the TOD and SLP will work together to provide comprehensive speech, hearing, language and pragmatic (social skills) development services to your child. (For a comprehensive view of the lifetime of learning that your child may embark on with their TOD, visit this page.)

 

How your child's self-advocacy skills will develop as they grow

As your child grows, so will their ability to advocate for themselves. Below is a breakdown of how both you and the TOD can help build your child’s advocacy skills and what skills you can expect your child to gain from birth all the way through high school graduation. 

 

BIRTH TO THREE (AKA EARLY INTERVENTION)

From birth to three the primary goal is for parents and families to learn how to promote accessibility and confidence and model what it looks like to be an advocate. 

How parents build advocacy skills:

  • Explain your child’s hearing loss to friends and family in a positive manner. 
  • Create environments that are accessible for your child and talk aloud about what you are doing and why.
  • Encourage a positive relationship between your child and their hearing devices, including how to care for their devices, properly naming their devices, and allowing for some independence with their use. 

Skills your child can learn:

  • React positively to hearing devices and/or requesting them.
  • Turn down the volume on the TV or tablet when they want to speak to you or they anticipate you will speak to them.
  • Turn on the lights and/or look at you when you speak so they can see your lips and facial expressions better.
  • Correctly naming their hearing devices. (Saying “cochlear implants” instead of “ears”)
  • Appropriately caring for their devices in simple ways (e.g. when they don’t want to wear them, or they need to take them out for bed/bath, they place them on a counter instead of tossing them on the floor).

 

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

Throughout elementary school the TOD and parents/families actively work together and frequently communicate to discuss how their child is doing both inside and outside of the classroom.

How the TOD + education team build advocacy skills:

  • Collaborate with parents often to discuss progress and concerns, and compare student growth in school versus at home
  • Assess the student’s skills and needs often.
  • Implement and/or monitor the correct use of the student’s accommodations.
  • Build the student’s toolbox of self-advocacy skills and knowledge of their hearing loss.
  • Monitor carry-over of skills in a variety of school environments.

Skills your child can learn:

  • Acceptance and use of hearing equipment.
  • Basic knowledge of their hearing loss, equipment, and related needs, including explaining their hearing loss and devices in a simple but confident manner.
  • Request basic accommodations, including asking for help when needed.
  • Let others know when they did not hear/understand them and what they can do to make communication more accessible.

 

MIDDLE SCHOOL + HIGH SCHOOL

During middle school and high school the student will begin taking more and more ownership over their hearing loss needs, advocating for themself, and learning their rights and responsibilities to prepare for adult life.

How parents + family build advocacy skills:

  • Help your child be confident in who they are.
  • Facilitate access to extracurricular activities (including discussing concerns/strategies for accessibility with your child’s audiologist and/or TOD).
  • Prepare for transition from middle school to high school, and from high school to adult life.

How the TOD + education team build advocacy skills: 

  • Address concerns of the student - including relating to being self-conscious of their differences or discussing the effectiveness of their accommodations.
  • Teach advanced advocacy and compensatory skills and monitoring use of these skills.
  • Prepare for transition from middle school to high school, and from high school to adult life.

Skills your child can learn:

  • Participate in their educational planning.
  • Independently make requests for their accommodations to be implemented.
  • Advocate for their needs in social and extracurricular settings.
  • Discuss future plans for after graduation and learn how to request accommodations, manage audiology (and other) appointments, and take care of their equipment.

 

AFTER HIGH SCHOOL

Your child will now move from entitlement to eligibility and must be proactive in seeking accessibility, accommodations, and maintaining their devices.

 

To become a powerful advocate for oneself requires a lifetime of learning.

It’s important to know that your child will always be figuring out the best way to navigate different situations with their hearing loss. 

The Expanded Core Curriculum for Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing states, “The goal is to make students more self-aware of their unique hearing and communication needs and how to take care of those needs.” (source) As your child grows, they will gain the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully transition into the next phase of life with the help of a strong support system.

As parents and families, you will be setting the stage for your child’s self-advocacy journey including (and perhaps most importantly) how they see themselves and their hearing loss.

 

Want to learn more?

If you're new to this journey and "advocate" is a new word for you, I would love to share my FREE resource.

"The ABC's of Audiology, 26 commonly used words phrases and acronyms to help you understand your child's hearing loss." is the perfect guide if you're wanting an easy way to understand commonly used words and phrases that come along with your child's hearing journey. CLICK HERE to download!

 

Thank you for being here Kimmy, this was so helpful!

 

Kimmy Templeton, MAT, is a hard-of-hearing individual and educator of the deaf and hard of hearing (grades K-12). She is passionate about advocating for the needs of DHH students and supporting teachers who work with DHH kids. Accessibility and advocacy are topics you can often find her talking about to anyone around her. You can find her at www.thehardofhearingteacher.com or on Instagram @TheHardOfHearingTeacher.

 

If you're wanting to feel educated and empowered to learn how to support your child through their hearing journey, schedule a call with me! 

SCHEDULE A CALL