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Making Self-Advocacy Meaningful

As teachers
of the deaf and hard of hearing, we understand the importance of fostering
self-advocacy skills in all our students, even our preschoolers! Our students all
have goals and objectives focused on self-advocacy because this early,
supported practice helps them to develop life long confidence in alerting
others to their listening and learning needs.  But, before students can alert others to their
needs, they need to understand their hearing loss, amplification, and the
benefits and limitations of their amplification. It is also important that
students know what their self-advocacy objectives are. We work together to
decide which aspects of their advocacy goals can be tackled first.

is not always easy or comfortable, even for adults! So how can we get our
students to willingly work in this critical area? Here are some ideas:

Student Presentations Have students
create presentations to share with their teachers or peers about their specific
hearing loss. Using provided organizers and outlines, students as young as
preschool can take part. PowerPoint, iMovie, and homemade posters and books are
some formats that I’ve used with students. Finding a motivating medium to work
with keeps everyone engaged while working on the project.  Be sure to weave language objectives into
self-advocacy practice by having students use a variety of structures to
explain their hearing loss and how their amplification works. For a more
detailed description of such presentations see my earlier post here .

Letter Writing Students can send
regular letters, newsletters or emails to teachers describing their needs in
specific classes. One colleague has her middle school student write monthly
letters to her teachers from the CIA (Cara’s Implant Advocacy), putting a spy
twist on what could otherwise be a mundane task for a middle school

Communication Notebooks Some students
have communication books which they take ownership of, writing what is working
well and what needs improvement in their classes. Under the guidance of the
TOD, SLP, or other designated adult, this is a valuable record of the student’s
perspective in classes and can be used to spark discussions of how to handle
difficult listening situations.

Meetings Several of my students meet
with me and their teacher(s) on a regular basis. Prior to meeting, the student and
I meet as the student fills out an organizer requiring them to write what is working
and what needs improvement in their classes. They also write any specific
questions they have for their teacher. This structured format allows the
student to practice with me before approaching a teacher. Teachers are
generally receptive to the feedback and often ask for a copy of the student’s

How do you help students advocate?

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.


I love your philosophy! I have also started a unit of Self-Advocacy with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing students I support in the mainstream school. I would love to chat about your graphic organizers etc. – As part of my unit I am trying to connect my students with other DHH students across Canada and the US using different technology platforms – possibly with thoughts of collaborative literature responses in the future. Would you be interested in collaborating with me?

Heather Stinson

Hi Carolyn
Thanks for your feedback! I'd definitely be interested in discussions around collaboration. Let's stay in touch!

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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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