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Don’t Wait-Self Advocate!

One of the biggest challenges in educating students with hearing loss, is advocating for the need for self-advocacy and self-determination instruction especially, for students in the inclusive setting.  They will always miss more than their peers – effective self-advocacy is necessary for true inclusion. Individual Education Plans should include BOTH academic and functional skills that are necessary for the student to be successful in the inclusive setting.  While IDEA stipulates that students should be assessed using a variety of assessment measures, often times, academic skills take precedence over the need for development in functional skills such as self-advocacy.  IEP teams must assess and determine if the student is on track for mastering the skills necessary to go from a system of entitlement to a system of eligibility.  Students should not be dismissed from special education services (hearing support) just because academics are acceptable. This slippery slope can only be navigated with the support of professionals who are able to advocate with IEP teams about the need to educate students on appropriate self-advocacy skills.


We’ve all heard the phrase, “it’s never too late to advocate,” but is it ever too early to advocate? The simple answer is “no”, it’s never too early to teach children with hearing loss, to advocate for their needs. The Minnesota Compensatory Skills Checklist, the IOWA Expanded Core Curriculum , and our Guide to Self-Advocacy Skill Development have laid out the necessary skills for building a child’s advocacy toolkit.  Starting as early as pre-school, educators and parents can begin helping a child identify their needs and learn how to advocate for what they need for equal access in the school and community.


Student access to information improves once they are able to advocate for their needs for accommodations and modifications.

Self-advocacy skill development is hierarchical.  Therefore, what is appropriate to teach in the elementary years, is expanded on throughout the students’ K-12 (or age 21) years.  For example, in elementary school a teacher of the deaf and HH (TODHH) might work on helping a student develop their skills for understanding their hearing loss by encouraging the student to identify which ear is the “better” ear or locate sources of background noise, while that same student will be taught in high school, that they have rights under the Americans with Disability Act. They’ll learn how to advocate for their needs by being able to explain aided and unaided hearing loss or how their hearing loss impacts their ability to access information across a variety of environments. 


The key is ACCESSibility! Empowering students to know their rights and understand their needs related to hearing loss, is paramount in building and developing self-determination.


 “Some of the most critical soft skills (i.e., nontechnical, interpersonal skills that impact personal performance an environment such as school or the workplace) that students must acquire as they mature are the skills to act or cause things to happen in their lives. Providing instruction to increase these skills-all part of self-determination-has been found to predict better in-school and post-school outcomes.1


As students learn about their hearing related needs, they should be able to develop the ability to self-advocate.  Once a student masters a skill, they should have the necessary supports to practice advocating in a variety of settings.  Having a support system is critical to the development of self-determination.  Students should be learning the skill, practicing the skill, then adjusting as necessary. According to an article in Odyssey Magazine,2 promoting The Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction, students develop skills in the categories of “decide, act, and believe.”  (Millen, et all., 2021)

  • Decide:
    • Choice Making
    • Decision Making
    • Problem Solving
    • Goal Setting

  • Act:
    • Goal Attainment
    • Self-Monitoring
    • Self-Advocacy
    • Problem Solving
  • Believe:
    • Self-Awareness
    • Self-Knowledge


According to the article, Decide, Act, Believe: Teaching Self-Determination Skills, students should be able to identify goals based on their own preferences and abilities.  Having the students monitor their own progress allows students to be engaged in the process by seeing the results of their efforts. 


The Council for Exception Children3 updated the national standards for teachers of deaf and HH students, to include teaching and assessing students’ self-determination skills.


All students with hearing loss should have the opportunity to learn age/grade appropriate self-advocacy skills, that will enhance their knowledge of their hearing loss, hearing technology, communication, and to develop an understanding of appropriate social-emotional skills that are needed for advocacy and self-determination.   For more information go to the articles in the “For Professionals” tab, under self-advocacy skills for children with hearing loss or click HERE




  1. Mazzotti, V., Rowe, D.,Sinclair, J.,Poppen, M.,Woods, W., & Shearer, M. (2016) Predictors of post-school success: A systematic review if NLTS2 secondary analysis. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 39(4), 196-215.
  2. Bloom, Carrie Lou, et al. “Decide, Act, Believe: Teaching Self-Determination Skills.”Odyssey, vol. 22, no. 2021-22, 2022, pp. 1–92. 
  3. Council for Exceptional Children. (2018). Initial specialty set: Deaf and hard of hearing. Retrieved from https://exceptionalchildren.org/sites/default/files/2020-07/Initial%20Specialty%20Set%20%20DHH%20%20Revalidated%202018.pdf