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   Hear Me Out Blog   

A Positive Sense of Self

My
second grade student doesn’t just think
his hearing aids are cool, he knows
that they are cool! He looks on with amazement as I check them at the start of
our sessions, softly exclaims, “Cool!”
as I remove wax from the tubing, and quickly flips to a designated page in my
notebook where he can give himself a “check plus” for reporting a dead battery
earlier in the day. He wears his hearing aids like a fashion accessory, showing
off his new orange and yellow marbled earmolds.

My
current junior high student is also very comfortable with her hearing loss. She
gave her elementary school graduation speech last year to a room full of
parents, teachers and friends. She articulately described learning that some
students with hearing loss attempt to hide their technology, going on to talk
about how that never even occurred to her.

These
students are confident and proud, but unfortunately not all of the students we
serve feel this way. What happens when our students do not have accepting
attitudes about their hearing loss and hearing technology? How can we help them
to see themselves in a more positive light?

I
have two new students this year, one in high school and one in upper elementary
school. During the beginning-of-the-year “Getting to Know You” activities, it
quickly became clear that both were embarrassed by their hearing technology. Each
student expressed feelings of isolation and anxiety over being “different.” Both
were reluctant to express their needs to teachers for fear of “annoying” them.  I began a series of activities designed to help
these students to set goals in order to gain a greater sense of
self-confidence.

During
our individual sessions, each student identified areas she feels confident
advocating, and areas she does not yet feel comfortable. Building on their
individual strengths, we created short-term goals for each student to improve
self-advocacy and self-acceptance. For the high school student, we started by reviewing
her audiological records and standardized testing so that she could gain a
deeper understanding of her abilities. My student was surprised to learn that
her standardized tests placed her in the average intelligence range. My student
had always perceived herself as being “stupid,” and this glimpse into
information adults knew but never shared was key for countering her inner
critic.

Her
next goal was to create a Powerpoint presentation about her hearing loss and
listening needs and present it to all of her teachers. She did an amazing job! Finally, she met with a
disabilities services counselor to discuss accommodations available for college
and the job market. Currently, we are researching deaf adults who are working
in my student’s field of interest. Seeing successful adults with hearing loss
achieve their dreams has helped to change her perspective on her own abilities
and potential. Her newfound confidence has shown up in other ways, as well; during
a recent observation, I saw her change her hearing aid battery in class, rather
than leaving the room as she’s done in the past. I consider that a step in the
right direction in terms of acceptance of her hearing technology and of
herself.  

For
my elementary student, we agreed that she would tell one new person about her
hearing loss each week, carry her FM transmitter between classes, and create a
Powerpoint presentation to share with teachers. She expressed concern that she
is the only one in her school with hearing loss. To address this concern, we
are in the process of setting up a mentor relationship with an older student
with hearing loss. Her teachers and family are on board and supporting her in
these short-term goals. Beaming, this
student recently reported that she told the staff at the after school program
that she wore hearing aids (her “person of the week”), “And they just said, ‘Ok, cool. So what do you need me to do?”  

The
work is not done. It will be an ongoing process throughout their lives but the
more we can help our students see the good in themselves and take those
difficult steps towards self-advocacy and self-acceptance, the more
opportunities will open for them in the future. Everyone has something to work
through and at times I know I am pushing my students to their limits in
acknowledging their personal struggles. However, it is important to help these
students surpass the boundaries they’ve set for themselves. Making connections
with other students with hearing loss as well as successful adults helps our
students to see the endless opportunities ahead of them. Patience, listening,
and support are key components to the work we do. I do not have a hearing loss.
I’ve never experienced the emotions my students describe. But I can be a
sounding board for ideas, an ear for frustration and fear, and a cheerleader to
celebrate every small victory on the path to self-acceptance.

How
do you help your students accept their hearing loss and hearing technology?

Hear Me Out

The Hear Me Out blog provides unique resources for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's a forum for itinerant teachers of the deaf to share their experiences as they grow as professionals! It is produced by Clarke's Mainstream Services team as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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