Tuesday, September 29, 2015

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.

Advocacy 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 student. 

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 notes!

How do you help students advocate?


  1. 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?

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