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How Students Can A.D.A.P.T in Life

By Jayna Altman and Karen Rothwell-Vivian, M.S.Ed., CCC-A, LSLS Cert. AVT

Students with hearing loss who listen and use spoken language must employ creative strategies at an early age in order to be successful, especially in the area of social interaction with peers. These tactics can include speech reading to enhance listening skills, asking questions from those next to them and uttering the well-known “What?” response when engaged in conversation.

While these aspects may become second nature in communicating with others, there are five other important facets of social engagement that should be practiced to ensure success in any setting, regardless of hearing loss. Here we present them in the form of an acronym entitled A.D.A.P.T.:

A – Advocating for Yourself
D – Determination to Succeed
A – Attitude Check!
P – Preparation
T – Technology and the Use of It

A – Advocating for Yourself

Students living with hearing loss are most successful when they learn to advocate for themselves and express their thoughts, ideas and opinions. Building confidence and self-advocacy skills is a life-long process that should begin as early as possible. Encouraging students to express themselves and to ask and respond to questions are all ways through which students learn to speak for themselves.

Self-expression helps motivate students toward activities that will bolster their self confidence, such as sports and extracurricular activities. These avenues also provide students with a vested interest in an activity. For example, drama teaches students to project their voices to an audience, whereas sports focus on communication and teamwork.

Parents play a key role in teaching their children to be comfortable sharing their hearing loss with others and to speak up when they need assistance in certain settings. Advocacy starts with parents in the early intervention and preschool years, and then transfers to the student progressively through his or her educational journey. The student will need to be coached through this process. Allow the child or teen to explain his or her hearing loss to peers and teachers, and to participate in the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) process so that he or she will take ownership of his or her educational development.

Jayna’s Real-Life Tip

Sometimes in social settings, both academic and non-academic, a speaker responds to a request for clarification with, “Oh never mind, it wasn’t important” or “I’ll tell you later.” These responses devalue the individual’s advocacy efforts, which can lead to less initiative in future situations. The student should use the opportunity to speak up and say, “It’s important for me to understand what you said. I would really appreciate it if we could go over it again.”

D – Determination to Succeed

Determination to persevere in the presence of a hearing loss is one way the student can be taught to overcome obstacles, and is one of the best lessons of life. The message should always be, “You can accomplish your goals!”

Examples of determination in action can be seen in successful individuals across history, music, sports and academics. For example, did you know that Lucille Ball was dismissed from drama school because it was assumed she was too shy to put her best foot forward? Or that the Beatles were told by record executives that they didn’t like their music style and it was on the way out? Or Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team? Or Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because he lacked imagination and was told he had no original ideas? 

All of these individuals didn’t just quit. They persevered in their dreams and achieved great success in life. In fact, if we haven’t been faced with a setback or obstacle, how do we learn to live and succeed in life?

A – Attitude Check!

In the popular children’s book, “The Little Engine That Could,” we learn the can-do attitude of “I think I can! I think I can!” The same thought process can be applied to student life, especially in the middle and high school years.

Although cliché, it’s very true that “your attitude determines your attitude.” How students in middle or high school view life and their perception of their hearing loss determines how well they will accept their hearing loss and interact with those around them. Why? Because most people dislike negativity, and if you are comfortable with your hearing loss, then other people will be comfortable with it too.

In middle school, high school and even college, everything in a student’s life is changing, including how one looks, acts and feel about things in life. Encourage students to focus on being comfortable with themselves, and that includes being comfortable with their hearing loss.

Jayna’s Real-Life Tip

You may be surprised by how thankful your fellow students will be when captioning is requested for in-class videos or by offering to share each other’s notes. Chances are that if you help others, then they will want to help you.

P – Preparation

There is a widely used business mantra, “Success is when preparation meets opportunity.” The same can be applied to academics and everyday life because when we are prepared, then we are more likely to succeed, or at least able be able to handle the unexpected. Studying for a big test, rehearsing a presentation or practicing for the big game are all ways in which we prepare for success.

Federal and state laws provide a level playing field for students with hearing loss to request necessary accommodations, such as captioning for video/TV in class, a note taker, real-time captioning and study guides, to name a few. Parents and students should learn about the services available through federal and state legislation, which enable students with hearing loss to put their best foot forward in academics and social settings.

This is where a student can practice advocacy skills by requesting a study guide before each test as well as daily and/or weekly notes via a note taker or real-time captioning in the classroom.

T – Technology and the Use of It

Technology is critical for a person with hearing loss to be able to fully access both academic and social information. There are several ways that students can benefit from technology. 

  • Facebook and MySpace are two of the fastest-growing social networking Web sites for individuals to connect, world-wide. Best of all, students with hearing loss can give their ears a break while still engaging socially.
  • Chat Rooms and Instant Messaging (IM) are another way to communicate with peers. These are widely growing as a primary method of both professional and personal communication for hearing individuals and those with hearing loss.
  • Video Conferencing is fun! You can choose to use chat, IM, a headset to talk through and/or cued speech/sign to communicate, all through video interaction.
  • Assistive Listening Devices, such as FM systems, amplified telephones, telecoil/loop and other options, pick up the speaker’s voice and transmit it directly to the users’ technology as if the speaker is standing right next to them, and help students hear more clearly in the classroom. Plus, the latest FM systems on the market are wireless and snap into the bottom of a hearing aid or cochlear implant sound processor, making it less obvious.
  • MobilePhones/Smart Phones provide an additional resource for communication. Today, students with and without hearing loss prefer texting for communicating with others. However, many teens and young adults with hearing loss choose to make communicating orally through the phone a goal of their speech therapy. 
Jayna’s Real-Life Tip

I love listening to music from my iPod through the FM boots to my hearing aids, especially during those long study break hours where one can get bored staring at the occasional text book (or ceiling).

Conclusion

Even under typical circumstances, coping with academic, social and physical situations can be challenging. For students with hearing loss, this can even be more of a hurdle. With the help of A.D.A.P.T. and a willingness to problem-solve and advocate for themselves, students can learn to manage and achieve success in these situations with grace and composure.

Source: Volta Voices, September/October 2010