Why Spend Time Working on Self-Advocacy Skills? (Part 1)
This is a question that I get frequently. Teachers, parents and administrators ask “Why should a child be pulled out of class to work on these skills? Let’s talk!
When this knowledge is taught AND used effectively, a student will take charge of his/her hearing loss and school situations.
Why should professionals who teach students with hearing loss work on self-advocacy skills?
IDEA 2004 states that “thirty years of research and experience in special education has shown that educating children with disabilities can be made more effective by ensuring their access to the general education curriculum in the regular classroom in order to be prepared to lead productive and independent adult lives.” I have realized over the years that parents and many educators are unaware of this.
What does access mean for students with hearing loss?
Statistics show that each year more students with hearing loss are being educated in regular ed classrooms. In our school district the number of students served in hearing-impaired classes is small compared to those in their base schools being served by an itinerant teacher of the hearing-impaired or a 504 Plan. Do those students have educational access in their classrooms? Here are just a few situations that I have encountered:
Scenario 1 – A new hearing aid user in Kindergarten waits until after school to tell her mother that a battery died. She does not know that there are extra batteries at school or how to change them.
Scenario 2 – A first grader does not give the teacher his FM transmitter after he arrives late because she has already started the lesson and he does not want to interrupt.
Scenario 3 – Mid-year the third grade teacher changes everyone’s seats and the student with a hearing loss is now sitting with her back to the teacher.
Scenario 4 – A Kindergarten teacher tells me that she does not need to wear the FM transmitter because the student can hear her.
Except for Scenario 1 where the student was not receiving special education services, all the students had IEPs with accommodations covering these situations. In these scenarios, access by the student with hearing loss was reduced or eliminated. This is where self-advocacy skills enter the picture. Under IDEA 2004, they are considered functional skills.
Can you teach self-advocacy skills? Yes, you can! But there are prerequisites and if a student is lacking in one or more of these prerequisites, these must be addressed first or at the same time.
Language must be close to age or grade appropriate including pragmatics. Why is social use of language so important?
〉 Basis of self-advocacy
〉 Specified in the Common Core Speaking and Listening Strand.
〉 Can help or hinder a child socially and academically
Theory of Mind – students must understand that others are unaware that situations are challenging or equipment is not performing correctly in order to report and/or problem solve.
Auditory Skills – we must know the student’s speech perception abilities so we will know when and where a student may have difficulty understanding.
Student must have good self esteem. I have noticed that students with low self-esteem:
√ do not use their accommodations
√ do not repair communication breakdowns.
These are my observations from over the years. Do you agree or disagree? What other prerequisites did I miss? Do students with hearing loss that you serve know what to do in challenging situations?
Stay tuned for Part 2 which will cover the areas of self-advocacy!