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[Video title display, "Stories & Strategies - Social-Emotional Support for Students Who Are Deaf/Hard of Hearing - High School to Post High School Years"]
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Diane (signing): If you are just joining us in the high school section of this webinar, students who are deaf or hard of hearing, will be referred to as “students” unless otherwise noted when compared to those who are hearing. As students move from freshman to senior years, there is significant social development, including self-identity, self-acceptance and social growth. High school students and young adults, such as those launching into the workforce or post-secondary education or training, need to prepare for changes in friends, including those at the workplace as well as in personal life.
At the start of high school, many students just want to look the same as other teens, with little or no interest in using hearing assistive technology, superficial friendships and may struggle to develop a deeper understanding of levels of friendships, including making connections with role-models and others with similar experiences.
Struggles to make connections in the absence of teacher support and instruction as well as understanding the nuances of different types of connections will be shared. Also, as high school students launch, they will meet many new people and have to navigate without the support of the school and family members in the workplace and college settings. This includes many introductions, determining when and how to disclose hearing levels and the impact as well as the use of humor to make people comfortable communicating with them. When surveying adults with lived experiences, many share that the burden for initiating friendships, especially for those who may use sign language interpreter services, falls on the person who is deaf or hard of hearing. This is a shift for young adults. Finally, social communication evolves into identifying communication and social allies who are people who might be particularly supportive or understanding.
Ann (sitting with Kobe and signing): When you think back to when you were a freshman, what was it like being a deaf student in a school with many hearing students and only 3 other deaf students?
Kobe (signing): Well, that was really a crazy feeling. It was a new experience for me. At that time, I had not found my deaf identity yet and I was trying to fit in. I also had not started advocating for my own access and felt embarrassed to have an interpreter follow me around.
Ann M.: What are some strategies or activities your teacher of deaf/hard of hearing did with you that helped you connect with other students?
Kobe: Well, we would talk about things that had happened and we would brainstorm more topics for me to talk about with my peers. Also, with a counselor, we focused on a role-playing game, which was the unwritten rules of socializing. During this process, we practiced how to respond to people and how to listen to other people's responses.
Ann M: What was your experience during lunch? What helped make it better with hearing peers and deaf peers?
Kobe: Lunch was alright on good days. I would typically rotate between different tables. One table was with hearing people and another was with deaf people. I tended to sit more often with the deaf table because it was more of a break for me, a visual break. I was exhausted during the day. When I did sit with hearing people, I would typically sit with people who knew of my deafness, and also, there was a guy that I would sit with who was on my football and track team, that I would sit with. He was a great friend and he would help me understand what was going on. He would advocate for me as well. So, for example, if a person was not speaking loud enough, he would say, "Hey, hold on a second. You need to speak louder so that Kobe can understand what's going on." So, sitting with him really helped me be able to socialize during lunch more.
Ann M: Sounds like a really nice friend. (Kobe nods.) When you look back on high school, what advice would you give younger students who are just starting high school and struggling to understand different levels of friendship?
Kobe: My advice for them would be, that no matter what happens, to keep your head up. If a person is nice to you and they don't care that you're deaf, that's a good friend there. Those are the people you wanna look for. But, people who aren't willing to help, people who are teasing or bullying you, that's not the type of person you wanna be around. Also, it's important to make connections with staff, especially your teachers and the interpreters. It'll be worth it.
Ann: Thank you. (Ann and Kobe turn to face the camera together.)
Diane (solo on camera, signing): Kobe’s experiences show how his understanding of himself changed throughout high school. Even though Kobe was in all general education classes, he benefited from time with a small group of deaf peers and the interactions with his teacher of deaf/hard of hearing. As his self-acceptance increased, so did his confidence to try new experiences. As he shared, it’s still challenging for him, but he has a new sense of belonging as he prepares to go to Gallaudet University, a college he had not even considered until he met a recruiter in his junior year.
Ka Lia (speaking): I didn't know a lot about captioning until I started doing PSEO, which then allowed me to request the college to provide captioning for me. Captioning helped me a lot, especially when I wasn't able to catch the textbook pages for assignments. The option of having captions for classes changed how I feel about asking for help with my hearing loss.
Emily M (speaking): As Ka Lia shared, when students advocate for more access, then self-confidence increases which leads to asking for more and then transferring skills to new people that they meet. Later confidence may transfer to the workplace and/or in post-secondary training and education programs.
Students go through a period of developing self-acceptance throughout high school, much like students who are hearing begin to explore their identity and where they fit in society. Participation in after school activities and community activities allows students to socialize, have shared experiences and belonging, and feel a sense of achievement. However, research has shown the students with hearing loss participate in fewer extracurricular activities than peers. This may be due to students feeling uncertain about dealing with a lack of consistent access in these social situations.
Despite the challenges, encouraging student participation in areas of interest has been shown to increase social acceptance and understanding for students. Just like elementary and middle school students are encouraged to participate in social activities such as clubs and sports, the same is true for high school students. Sometimes elementary and middle schools merge into high schools, and students who were solitaires before, begin meeting other students for the first time. Hannah shares her experiences this past year.
Hannah: Before high school, I didn't know many people who were hard of hearing, but once I was in Ms. Emily's class, I met a lot of new people who could relate to me and that helped me a lot. It was really cool to be with other people who are like me. Swim team also helped me a lot too because practice starts before school, so when school started, I already knew swim people and I had people to talk to. Joining a fall sport helped me because I got to do something I love while meeting new people.
Emily M (speaking): High school is a critical time for the formation of identity and social relationships. Research suggests that participation in after-school and/or community activities provides students with opportunities for socialization, shared experiences, achievement, and distinction. Through their involvement with activities such as sports, drama, volunteering, and clubs, students can learn to master skills that will help them throughout their lives. Active participation in after-school and/or community activities helps students to develop their leadership and decision-making abilities as well as organizational, time management, and interpersonal communication skills. You will learn about Hannah who was able to develop “soft skills” through her involvement in extracurricular experiences. She also practiced her self-advocacy skills by asking for what she needed to access communication within her extracurricular activities.
Although some students participate in extracurricular activities during high school which helps develop their self-advocacy and self-determination skills, many young adults who are deaf or hard of hearing have not practiced those skills enough and thus struggle upon entering college. To prepare students for a successful transition to post-secondary education and the workforce, it is important that teachers support the development of self-determination and self-advocacy skills throughout high school, with a special emphasis on advocating for students’ accessibility needs and exploring all of the options for schooling by not limiting them based on their current setting or experiences in high school. This is especially true if students are moving from a very familiar place where they may have spent all of their school years and everyone knows their name to a much larger place where they are unknown and everything is new.
Jessalyn (signing): When I was planning and looking at colleges, my teacher of deaf/hard of hearing basically made the decision for me about where to attend college. I knew that there were colleges for the Deaf people because of the Deaf President Now protest, but it was never discussed with me in detail, and I was told that the program was not a good fit for someone like me. I did not understand what that meant, so I ended up enrolling into the University of Milwaukee for two years.
I think it is important that teachers share ALL options with teenagers, even if they think a student might not be interested in colleges and programs for deaf/hard of hearing students. With 88% of students educated in home districts and many are solitaires, people might assume there’s no interested in colleges such as Gallaudet University or the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. It is important to be mindful to not influence our decisions and color them with their personal opinions or feelings, even if their intentions mean well.
That was not the end of my story. After two years at the U of Milwaukee, the isolation was too much. I found myself in ASL classes because of the need to connect with the Deaf teacher, ASL, the language and the people who signed and wanted to learn ASL in the classes. I will never forget the day when the Deaf teacher asked me why I never considered Gallaudet, RIT/NTID or CSUN. I was honest and said that I did not know much. The next day he printed an application, showed me the websites. I applied and was accepted into Gallaudet University with a scholarship. This was a tremendous life-changing experience, one that has shaped who I am today. When I was able to see him many years ago to thank him for this, his words were simple, “Your isolation was painful for me to see. I knew you felt lost in life and that there was nothing out there for you. I knew that Gallaudet would set a different bar of expectations and that you would become the person you are today.” He is 100% right, and I am forever grateful. While this is not for everyone, at least, I had the opportunity and the options to experience it for myself.
Diane (signing): Past research has indicated that people who are deaf or hard of hearing often earn less than the general hearing labor force. This may be because our society is sound-oriented, so a significant amount of information is conveyed through verbal interactions. To prepare students for possible situations that may be difficult or seem unfair, sharing stories by adults who have already experienced college and work challenges will help prepare them for what they might face. Jessalyn shares some of the surprising challenges she faced as a young adult after getting her degree.
Jessalyn: There were many hearing jobs I applied for that I was turned down. Some of the responses were, we do not work with people like you, we do not have the skills to work with people like you, etc. I recall applying for a marketing firm as my bachelor's degree was in Communications, and I had just completed my internship in marketing at the Baltimore Orioles and moved to Minnesota. I did not tell them that I was Deaf before I had an interview. I decided to just show up, but when I showed up and they realized that I was Deaf, they let me know that this position required hearing ability. This was about 12 years ago but imagine the defeat that I felt.
Another time, I really wanted to work at a camp that I grew up attending. When I asked to apply to be a counselor or any other position, the camp, that I always thought was inclusive of deaf people, indicated that I needed to hear to get a position. I was in shock. I never returned there. To prove that they were wrong and I had the ability to work in a camp, I applied to work at a camp in Minnesota where I became one of the directors. That camp never once used the excuse of having to "hear" as a reason to not hire me.
When I applied to work for the State, I was afraid of being screened out so I did not put down that I was Deaf. I remember when human resources found out that I was Deaf. They wondered why I did not self-identify as a Deaf person because it caused hassles with paperwork. I explained that I had learned the hard way that disclosing that I am Deaf could hinder my ability to get a job.
Emily M (speaking): Teachers can support students by acknowledging the very real communication and social challenges that they are facing and then offer suggestions and role-playing to provide language to navigate situations. Many young adults and high school students find it challenging to network on the job. There aren't any scripts to follow when meeting new people at college or on the job, so continued role-playing is a strategy that is effective even in high school. Also, direct instruction about what behavior is appropriate is one of the most common and effective strategies to teach social behavior, social etiquette, and social pragmatic skills. Sometimes this information comes in the form of a kind, but direct, boss as Ann shares.
Ann (signing): When I was in graduate school at Gallaudet University, I worked as a graduate assistant for a professor who also was deaf. This was one of my first interactions with a deaf adult who also spoke and used more English-based sign language. She was also my boss. As a teenager, I had a job in a special education director’s office and the secretary was my boss. She made it clear that I should keep my head down and just come in and work. Therefore, I thought it meant that the workplace did not include any type of interaction that was social. When I got to Gallaudet, my boss there told me I needed to learn to make connections on the job, to chat with people, get to know them a little bit so that I could get recommendations for future jobs. This made an impression on me that it’s important to network since the rest of my jobs have been had through personal connections that I developed in different workplaces. It took a deaf boss to be very direct with me that social connections are important on the job.
Emily K (speaking): Social connections on the job lead to an expansion of acquaintances and friends. This also begins the important process of helping students identify allies who are people to whom they might turn to for support in the work situations. Allies also help reduce isolation especially when young adults become solitaires again in a different setting. A lot of networking happens on the job and many young adults miss out on promotions or other opportunities if they do not know how to identify allies and network.
Information about levels of friendship that was learned in middle and high school years can be expanded to include recognizing allies and what can be said to network. “What if…” situations help students to problem-solve. Teachers can also teach students to utilize a diagnostic intervention model which can also be a useful tool for student social success. With the diagnostic intervention model, students learn to diagnose a situation to figure out what the problem is. Then they can determine what intervention or changes could be used to provide the social opportunities desired. Teaching students how to determine or diagnose the social problems empowers them to make a decision about what solution or intervention they would like to resolve them.
As we end this section for high school students who are preparing for young adulthood, it is important for teams to remember the unique challenges that students have and that there are skills that can be learned to encounter them. Social situations that include role-playing, especially for new situations that will happen in college or the workplace, help to reduce anxiety and to teach language and fine-tune skills. Additional materials and ideas can be found on the Resources list linked to this webinar. We hope teachers discover ideas to support social-emotional development and skills that are unique to students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
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Thank you to the following individuals who contributed their time, knowledge and skills to this webinar production:
Jessalyn Akerman-Frank, Director of Community and Civic Engagement - Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing
Emily Kedrowski, Teacher of Deaf/Hard of Hearing - St. Paul Public Schools
Emily Manson, Teacher of Deaf/Hard of Hearing - St. Paul Public Schools
Ann Mayes, Dean of Students/Teacher of Deaf/Hard of Hearing - Intermediate School District 917
Anna Paulson, Coordinator of Educational Advancement and Partnerships - Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind & Hard of Hearing
Diane Schiffler-Dobe, Teacher of Deaf/Hard of Hearing - Brainerd Public Schools/ Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative
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Thank you to the following people who shared their Lived Experiences as deaf or hard of hearing students:
Ka Lia Yang
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Thank you to the certified sign language interpreters, including a certified deaf interpreter, for their services to provide additional access.
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Resources for Social-Emotional Webinars
Antia, Shirin D., and Kathryn H. Kreimeyer. Social Competence of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children. Oxford University Press, 2015.
Batten, G., et al. “Factors Associated With Social Interactions Between Deaf Children and Their Hearing Peers: A Systematic Literature Review.” Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, vol. 19, no. 3, 2013, pp. 285–302., doi:10.1093/deafed/ent052.
Narr, R. Friedman, and M. Kemmery. “The Nature of Parent Support Provided by Parent Mentors for Families With Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing Children: Voices From the Start.” Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, vol. 20, no. 1, 2014, pp. 67–74., doi:10.1093/deafed/enu029.
Norman, Nancy, and Janet R. Jamieson. “Social and Emotional Learning and the Work of Itinerant Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.” American Annals of the Deaf, vol. 160, no. 3, 2015, pp. 273–288., doi:10.1353/aad.2015.0024.
Oliva, Gina A. Alone in the Mainstream: a Deaf Woman Remembers Public School. Gallaudet University Press, 2005.
Oliva, Gina A., and Linda Risser. Lytle. Turning the Tide: Making Life Better for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Schoolchildren. Gallaudet University Press, 2014.
Xie, Y., Potmesil, M., & Peters, B. (2014). Children who are deaf or hard of hearing in inclusive educational settings: A literature review on interactions with peers. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 19(4), 423-437. doi:10.1093/deafed/enu017
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This project is made possible, in part, with a grant from the Minnesota Department of Education using federal funding, CFA 84.027A, Special Education - Grant to States. This project does not necessarily represent the policy of the federal Department of Education or the Minnesota Department of Education. you should not assume endorsement by the federal government or by the Minnesota Department of Education.
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Produced by Infinitec, with funding provided by Metro ECSU and the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing, and shared with MN educators and Infinitec Coalition members with permission. 2019 Copyright metro ECSU All rights reserved.