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Jessalyn: 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 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.

Lived Experience:
Ann M: 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:

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:

Ann M: What was your experience during lunch? What helped make it better with hearing peers and deaf peers?

Kobe:

Ann M: 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:

Diane: 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.

Lived Experience:
Ka Lia: Will share about when she learned about captioning and began to request accommodations for herself so that she could improve communication. This is the moment that Ka Lia became comfortable advocating for herself and changed how she felt about being hard of hearing.

Emily M: 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.

Lived Experience:
Hannah: Extracurricular experiences and making connections.

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