Guest Blogger: Gina Viruso, LSW

#SelfAdvocacySunday-Aware of self as a deaf or hard of hearing individual

Besides being able to identify different emotions that lead to the development of skills to be able to self-advocate, it is important that children have an understanding of who they are.  I strongly believe that without understanding their own self identity, children are unable to feel the confidence needed in order to self-advocate.  According to the dictionary, Self-identity refers to the descriptive characteristics, qualities and abilities that individuals use to define themselves.  

I Like Myself!

Children with full access to spoken language are able to receive many messages through vicarious learning, with some added knowledge from parents.  However, children with a hearing loss can misinterpret–or completely miss–the messages or cues they receive within their social settings.

Some of the steps you can assist your child to understand their self identity include:

  • Encourage your child to value him/herself based on their unique capabilities, such as their:
    • academic, athletic, or artistic achievements
    • relationship with family and friends,
    • passions and interests
    • anything they believe, feel, or do that originates from inside of themselves  
    • Keep in mind that even their hearing loss is part of their self-identity.
  • Your children can be exposed to messages and images that are entirely out of touch with reality, such as “only hearing people can perform better without much talent or effort.”  Parents need to  constantly expose your child to the real world, to beliefs and people grounded in positive values, to accurate images of appropriate behavior/reasonable expectations/consequences/suitable responsibilities, and the inevitable imperfections, challenges and failures that are part of the human condition.
  • Encourage your child to participate in activities they love doing.  Praise and point out their skills and talents.
  • Point out and share your own self-identity with your child and encourage your child to come up with aspects of who they are.  Younger children may come up with concrete examples including physical images and abilities.
  • Talk and listen to your child.  Listen to his/her messages, how he/she expresses ideas, as well as  emotions and behaviors. This will help you will be better able to understand what they’re trying to tell you. Also, do not be afraid to talk to your child especially on topics that may make you uncomfortable or they may not want to hear.  You can always ask friends how they discussed that difficult topic!
  • Encourage your child to come up with things about themselves.  Even if your child is not comfortable or happy about some things about themselves.  Many children with hearing loss will feel insecure about their hearing loss and its impacts.  Be realistic and understanding but also indicate the benefits/positive sides. For example, if your child says “I am afraid to participate in a group conversation because I cannot follow everyone,”  you can respond with “I know it is difficult, but by having a one on one conversation, you have the benefit of having the person’s full attention whereas when in a group everyone tends to talk and others loss track.” 

If this is overwhelming, or you need another approach, here is a great book, I Like Myself!