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Empowering Through Self-Advocacy: Lessons from Kellina Powell

deaf awareness Feb 17, 2024
Empowering Through Self-Advocacy: Lessons from Kellina Powell


All students need more role models who are people of color. In honor of Black History Month, I would like to showcase one individual who not only is making history, but will inspire others to do so, too.


Self-advocacy is a powerful skill that empowers individuals to assert their needs, rights, and preferences. One remarkable advocate, Kellina Powell, has demonstrated the impact of self-advocacy on her journey. Kellina is a deaf life coach and advocate, a podcast speaker, a best selling author, and a passionate entrepreneur on a mission to help young adults with hearing loss or other disabilities achieve their goals while also educating others about the deaf community. 


Kellina lost 100% of her hearing at the age of 4. Hearing loss hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her dreams, including gaining her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from York University and post-graduate certificate in Mental Health and Addiction, becoming a life coach and an Amazon best selling author with her first book, “Everyday I Am Just Deaf.”


I recently hosted Kellina for a training through The Online Itinerant, “Building Self-Identity and Supporting Social/Emotional Needs for Mainstreamed DHH Students.”  This training was especially impactful as it provided the mainstreamed experience from her perspective as a deaf student.  It was inspiring to teachers, parents, and even students. In this blog post, we will explore key lessons from Kellina Powell's story and provide insights into crafting meaningful Individualized Education Program (IEP) goals for self-advocacy.

Kellina Powell's Journey

Kellina lost all her hearing suddenly at the age of 4.  After a short stint in a deaf program, she was educated in the mainstream setting through graduation. Kelina has authored a book titled, “Everyday I am Just Deaf.”  The book is written in prose about her experience as the only deaf student in her school and the peaks and valleys that she encountered during her mainstream career.  During her training with The Online Itinerant, she shared how it felt to have parents and teachers meet about her, without her, and how others discussed her needs without her input.  Kellina, determined to be a driver in her own education, advocated to be an active part of the process. Sometimes she had teachers who accommodated her needs and sometimes she didn’t.  She experienced people thinking she was taking advantage of the system and other people holding her back because they didn’t realize the potential that she had.  Her journey emphasizes the importance of fostering self-determination, confidence, and resilience.


Key takeaways from Kellina's story

Build Confidence:

   Kelina's confidence has been a driving force in her advocacy. Building self-confidence is crucial for effective self-advocacy. In order to be self-confident, students need to have a strong self-identity and understand who they are.  Some students may identify as “deaf” or “hard of hearing” while others choose not to make that part of their identity. However they define themselves, students need to understand how their hearing loss impacts them as an individual and what they need to do to minimize any barriers they may experience through their hearing loss. Encouraging students to recognize their strengths and unique abilities fosters a sense of empowerment. Teaching them how to successfully and independently navigate challenging experiences empowers them to be a driver in their own future.


Effective Communication:

   Clear and effective communication is at the heart of self-advocacy. Kellina's ability to express her needs and preferences demonstrates the importance of communication skills. Developing effective communication strategies is a valuable skill for students with hearing loss.


Know Your Rights:

   Kellina's journey underscores the significance of understanding one's rights. Deaf and hard of Hearing students should be aware of the laws and regulations that protect them, such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). They should understand the impact of their IEP and should be an active participant in it. In addition, they should understand their own responsibilities and the concept of self-disclosure and when it will serve them.


Set Personal Goals:

    Kellina had a strong sense of what she wanted (and what she currently wants) to accomplish in life.  Through her trials, she never lost sight of her goals each step the way.  This gave her the self-determination to advocate for herself and successfully navigate through challenges, empowering her to arrive at the strong woman she is today.

Crafting IEP Goals for Self-Advocacy

As teachers and caregivers, Kellina models valuable lessons for our students.  We can help our students strive to have similar skills.  Below are some possible IEP goals that can help cultivate such values and self-determination for their future. 


When writing IEP goals for self-advocacy, it's essential to create specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives. The goals provided below are just the foundation of the goal.  You’ll need to provide some baseline date and make the goal measurable.  


Examples of IEP goals that promote self-advocacy:

1. Improve Self-Awareness

   - By [date], the student will identify and explain their learning strengths and challenges during IEP meetings.……

  - By [date], the student will identify potential barriers they experience and list 2 ways to successfully navigate through them.…… 


2.Develop Communication Skills

   - By [date], the student will independently initiate and participate in at least two conversations per week with teachers or staff to discuss academic accommodations or modifications.……


3. Understand and Advocate for Accommodations

   - By [date], the student will name and identify 2 legal rights they have through IDEA and their IEP and what that means to them (such as the right to equal access to postsecondary education; the right to non-discrimination; the right to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of their school; the right to an accessible education; the right to an appropriate accommodation; and the right to have information about their hearing loss kept private)……

   - By [date], the student will demonstrate an understanding of their required accommodations and independently request them during assessments or classroom activities……

4. Set and Pursue Personal Goals

   - By [date], the student will identify one academic or personal goal, create an action plan, and regularly update progress during check-ins with a designated teacher or support staff……

Kelina Powell is a fantastic role model for students and families alike.  Learning from her can inspire and guide individuals on their own journey toward empowerment. By incorporating tailored IEP goals for self-advocacy, educators and support teams can play a crucial role in fostering the skills needed for students who are deaf or hard of hearing to advocate for themselves successfully. The goal is to create an inclusive and supportive environment that nurtures self-determination and independence.  


Kellina’s training, and others, can be found at


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