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Self-Knowledge is Power

Self determination is often thought of as the ability to advocate for your needs. If you are self-determined, this means you take responsibility for getting your needs met. You might find that when you take the initiative to get your needs met, your problem-solving and decision-making skills increase and your stress is reduced. In the workforce or in educational settings, this kind of proactive behavior can be the key to success.

How can you improve your self-determination skills and become a better advocate for yourself? Learning these new behaviors involves a four-step process. The first step involves understanding: knowing yourself and recognizing your needs. Next, you must be prepared. Think about the logistics of the situation and determine what you will need. The third step is to manage, to work to get what you need in place. Finally, evaluate the success of your strategy. What worked and why? What didn’t work, and why? Where did the plan fall apart? What can you do differently next time to be successful?

The following are several tips to help you develop a better sense of self determination.

  1. Understand your hearing loss.

  2. This means knowing how your hearing aids work, what a telecoil is used for, and how to effectively use assistive listening equipment, interpreters, or even hearing assistance dogs. It is not enough to say that you want a particular accommodation. You need to be able to state why you prefer one accommodation to another, to describe why one accommodation will meet your needs better than other accommodations. In addition, be open to learning about the pros and cons of each accommodation, and evaluate each one in terms of the communication requirements of the specific situation. Test yourself by describing this to a friend, a child, an instructor, a disability services provider, or an employer. How would you change your description for each person?
  3. Be able to describe the impact of your hearing loss.

  4. Many times students are only able to communicate that they are deaf or hard of hearing, or that they use (or don’t use) sign language. This information alone, though, is not very helpful to others who are trying to engage in communication with you, or in trying to develop appropriate accommodations.

    Use situation-specific examples. If you are talking to a new dorm room partner, explain that you may not hear the phone ring. Let your new roommate know that music played late at night, for example, will not bother you. If you are talking with a professor, let her know that you need to see her face when she talks to you. Think about what that person (e.g., friends, family, roommates, faculty, disability staff) needs to know to interact with you best in that situation.

  5. What are problem situations for you?

  6. Identifying problems is the first step in solving them. Start thinking about different situations where you had problems communicating, and others that went smoothly, situations where you felt very comfortable and situations where you felt very uncomfortable. Can you identify why one interaction was successful and the other was not? You may begin to notice a pattern (e.g., you have difficulty communicating in noisy or group settings) that you will now be able to address proactively.
  7. Become aware of the coping skills you use.

  8. Don’t stop your self evaluation with ‘I get by ok.’ We all use a variety of coping skills to make it through various situations. Sometimes we aren’t even aware of what we do unless someone else points it out to us. Some coping skills work well in some situations, and not so well in others. Some worked well when we were younger, but are no longer appropriate in a college setting or on the job. See if you can identify behaviors you use in different situations, and which ones serve you best. Work on replacing behaviors that no longer serve you well with new ones.
  9. Identify new skills.

  10. Ask others what they do in your situation. If you are the only student who is deaf or hard of hearing on your campus, try joining an internet group, such as Deaf-L or Beyond-Hearing to find out what other people do. Find out about other resources to help you accomplish your goals.
PEPNet has many materials available that can help you in your self discovery. Check out the PEPNet Resource Center http://prc.csun.edu website under PEPNet products for information on a variety of accommodations, and the pros and cons of each. There are also Tip Sheets available that you can read for your own understanding or that you can pass on to others to help them to understand your needs. There are also several videos available to help you in the decision making process about attending college. College…Now What? Addresses the questions students should be asking themselves about choosing a postsecondary program. Pah! I’m in College…Now What? Addresses the differences students will face in receiving accommodations in college programs that they may not have faced in their high school programs. Look out World-Here I Come! Is the story of a young woman describing her experiences in a mainstream college program and how they differed from her previous residential school background. These materials, and many more, can be found on the PEPNet Resource Center website.

The WROCC Outreach Site at Western Oregon University webpage also includes helpful information on understanding the ins and outs of using assistive listening devices (Demystifying Assistive Listening Devices), and how to connect with others through internet e-mail lists (Internet Resources Related to Hearing Loss). These can be found at http://www.wou.edu/wrocc. It is also a resource you can pass on to service providers so that they can learn more about accommodations that might be helpful to you.

 Direct suggestions, comments, and questions about this page to:
Cheryl D. Davis, Ph.D., Coordinator
WROCC Outreach Site at Western Oregon University
Regional Resource Center on Deafness
Western Oregon University
Monmouth OR 97361
503-838-8642 (v/tty)
503-838-8228 (fax)
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Last updated on 08NOV02.