Part 1: #SelfAdvocacySunday

A child who is deaf or hard of hearing will be aware of emotions and feelings in self and others.

Today starts #SelfAdvocacySunday.  Each week we will bring you another installation about increasing your child or student’s self-advocacy skills because YOU, the parent, are the best resource to teach these skills.

What is self-advocacy?  

Much of what people with typical access to spoken language learn is incidental; it happens nearby and you see and hear an exchange and you add a bit of knowledge to what you have.  Children who are deaf and hard of hearing need careful monitoring of self-advocacy skill development and often direct, or explicit, instruction.  This great definition is from the National Deaf Center.

Self-advocacy is the ability to articulate one's needs and make informed decisions about the support necessary to meet those needs.

It was a perfect timing that Dr. John Luckner presented at the SC DHH Summit last week.  We already had #SelfAdvocacySunday planned, so that just reinforced the importance.  Target skills are from the Iowa Expanded Core Curriculum for Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Rev. 2013. The first step in #SelfAdvocacy is Self-Awareness; being able to recognize and express emotions, explaining her hearing loss and what accommodations work for her, and knowing constructive ways to manage feelings. 

This week we will start with being aware of emotions and feelings in self and others.  We’ll start with Early and Emerging Skills.  If you have a 10-year old that hasn’t acquired the Early skills, start there first. 

Early (typically preschool): 

  • Identifies one’s likes, dislikes, needs, wants, strengths and challenges. 
  • Recognizes and labels emotions/feelings
  • Describes the situation that causes various emotions, such as a birthday party, someone taking your toy, etc.

Emerging (early elementary): 

  • Distinguishes range of emotions
  • Describes physical responses to emotions
  • Recognizes and discusses how emotions are linked 

How you can work on these skills at home:  

Raising Deaf Kids says it succinctly. 

Show and tell your child how you’re feeling.  Even if it’s just ‘silly’ or ‘tired.’ Say how you’re feeling in words (spoken or sign language). This will help your child learn the words for different feelings. Show how you’re feeling with body movements and strong expressions on your face. Make sure your face matches the feeling you are trying to show. Don’t talk to your child about feeling sad with a huge smile your face – that will confuse him.

When you see that your child is sad or angry, tell him it’s okay to feel that way.  Let him talk about why he feels that way.

Take extra time to notice the feelings of other people.  You can do it when you look at picture books together, watch Sesame Street or other TV shows, and even in real life. Use words to describe the feelings. You might say things like, “That boy looks like he’s scared of the dog.” If you’re at the playground with your child, and you notice another child being teased, ask your child how that might feel.

Our own Language Lab about Emotions and Feelings lists the core vocabulary that children need.  Print and hang it somewhere and parents, USE YOUR WORDS! Lol. 

Here is a great read (and a printable to help you remember) about helping children identify emotions, let them know that it is okay to have even strong emotions, and start to manage those emotions.  

And I wouldn’t be a good educator if I didn’t mention that BOOKS are amazing to teach emotions.  Here is a list to get started.    

Next up are the skills for older kids! Happy Sunday! 

Bully to Bullying-Part 2

Part 2:

So what can we do to help our children?

If you suspect bullying is happening at school, first talk to your child. Ask them about the experience and what is happening. Find out if they have reported the behavior to anyone at school and, if so, what their response was.

Call a meeting. Bullying behavior can become “disability harassment” which is protected under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Calling a meeting with the 504/IEP team (if your child has an IEP or 504) or the Principal to discuss whether your child’s needs are being met. Experts in disability advocacy also suggest making sure that your child is not also engaging in bullying behavior as a result.  

Making sure your child is a strong self-advocate is a great way to prevent and deter bullying behavior. Starting early (preschool/kindergarten) with involving your child in teaching their peers about their hearing loss can be a tremendous protective factor in reducing bullying later. When the entire class knows about Lila’s hearing aids and communication needs, they are more likely to protect her from those who do not – and to stop a bully in their tracks. We’ll be rolling out a new weekly activity to help you learn how to start teaching self-advocacy, soon! It is never too late!

Help your child identity a “safe person” to whom they can report bullying behavior. Use this tool to start that conversation and then make a plan for how you’ll help them respond.

Enroll your child into empowerment programs like Able SC’s EQUIP Young Adult program with arms them with skills and also peers who can talk about how they’ve handled personal experiences.


Information gathered and adapted from, Able SC, and Hands & Voices National.


Bully to Bullying-Part 1

What is bullying?

Girl getting bullied in high school hallway
  • An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity— to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
  • Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once. defines bullying as:  unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

There are three types of bullying:

  • Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
    • Teasing
    • Name-calling
    • Inappropriate sexual comments
    • Taunting
    • Threatening to cause harm
  • Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
    • Leaving someone out on purpose
    • Telling other children not to be friends with someone
    • Spreading rumors about someone
    • Embarrassing someone in public
  • Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:
    • Hitting/kicking/pinching
    • Spitting
    • Tripping/pushing
    • Taking or breaking someone’s things
    • Making mean or rude hand gesture

We know that youth with physical, developmental, intellectual, emotional, and sensory disabilities are more likely to be bullied than their peers. Especially, when the disability is more apparent. Factors including social skill challenges, or environments which aren’t accepting may increase the risk. Research suggests that some youth with disabilities may bully others as a learned behavior or a defense mechanism. Additionally, children with delayed or impaired language may not know they are experiencing bullying – especially if they don’t have access to the language around them.

How is bullying different for children who are deaf or hard of hearing?

    Many children and adults who are hard of hearing report a sense of “paranoia” or worry that people are talking about them, laughing at them, etc when they aren’t sure what is taking place. To gain some insight, imagine a classroom with a group of children in one corner reading a book and talking. Perhaps they read and discuss a funny page and begin to look around as they laugh and talk. A student who is hard of hearing may see this group laughing and looking their way, not understanding the entire conversation, and may think that they are the subject of the laughter instead of the book or conversation. This is not an uncommon occurrence for many children and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Having speech that sounds “different”, or a visible device like a hearing aid or cochlear implant, can also be a source of attention for a child. Many adults recount stories from childhood in which they’re speech was “not good enough” or “sounded funny”, which was the reason for some of their bullying and social isolation. Other reports acknowledge that misunderstandings can also be a source of bullying behavior. Responding incorrectly in a conversation is not an unusual experience for children and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Part 2 is coming later this week! 

Information gathered and adapted from, Able SC, and Hands & Voices National.

How Language is like Frosting Cookies

Sieve full of powdered sugar.

If anyone has heard Mary or I present, or been at one of our home visits, or talked to us at a childcare conference…heck, if you’ve talked to us at all, you know that we always are talking about how hearing loss impacts the typical acquisition of language.  Typically a baby is born into a world where he hears at least 10,000 words a day.  Every second of every day babies soak in that language and they just develop.  

Now, how do you get powdered sugar on cookies?  You pour lots of the sugar in a sieve and sprinkle it over cookies and some sugar comes out and voila, the cookies are ready to eat.

At around 12 months of age, the baby starts to say one word because you filled up the sieve with lots of powdered sugar for a year and sprinkle that sugar all over.  As you load more sugar and coat more cookies,  the child says more words.

Then he says two words together, and then sentences. Then all of a sudden he is talking without ceasing.  Because there was lots and lots of “sugar” (i.e. people around him used lots of language) those cookies got coated.   Going into kindergarten, that baby, who is now 5 years old, can use 2500 different words.  That’s a lot of sugar!

Enter a child with any type of hearing loss, and the sieve gets smaller. And maybe the holes in the sieve are tiny.  That effortless way of learning language incidentally is not an option.  But if my sieve was smaller and the holes were tinier, I would still make some great cookies.  It is just going to take more planning.  Language development is going to need a more direct approach, like a new plan.  That sieve still works, but I’m going to have to refill it more often and work a little harder to get the sugar out of the holes.   

That’s where parents and professionals come in.  We must all be part of the team that gathers up that sugar and patiently directs it into the sieve, because who wants cookies without sugar!  That can happen by using spoken language and/or ASL, by cueing, by writing and reading, and more.  

It’s the start of school again, so a perfect time to talk about the vocabulary that is needed for school-related topics.  

Attached is a flyer for you to print and hang on your fridge to guide you in using all the vocabulary that is related to school.  Remember, it will take a more focused effort, so start on just these words this week. Start with Phase 1-the most common words.  Once those words are known (remember, using lots of sugar over and over) then move on to Phase 2.  By the time a child is 8 years old, he should know all the words in this category.

Back to School Tips: 2018-19 Edition

Time flies when you are having fun, right?!  Now it’s time to get down to business–SCHOOL TIME!

1. Meet your child’s teachers!  Make sure your child knows how to get to her classroom(s) and can read/write/sign/say her teacher(s) name.  Complete the Beginnings SC’s Back to School Introduction letter and pass that around, too.

2. Take your child and tour the school and meet the principal, and the cafeteria workers, the guidance counselor, etc.  Make sure your child has met the school staff he/she will be seeing every day and knows their names. This helps with language and reduces the anxiety created by not knowing what is happening. It also gives your child a sense of control, which can boost self-confidence.

3.  Make sure the services on the current IEP match your child’s schedule.  Ask the case manager (usually the Special Education teacher that spends the most time with your child and is responsible for creating/editing the IEP) or teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing how your child’s accommodations from his IEP were distributed to all teachers.

4. Check to make sure the equipment, like a personal FM system, is ready to go on the first day.  The school should be responsible for purchasing and maintaining the FM, but it would save some 1st day stress by double-checking everything is ready. 

5. Read this article for parents, written by a parent of a child with hearing loss. 

6.  Set up a place to do homework in your house and a place to leave his book bag when he is finished so mornings can go smoothly (at least the getting out the door part.)

7. Plan on sending “First Day of School Pics” to us!  We love the smiling faces.  You can post them on Facebook and tag @BeginningsSC and/or in our Facebook Group.