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Using Self Advocacy IEP Goals for End of Year Transition 

assistive listening devices deaf awareness parents teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing May 05, 2024
Using Self Advocacy IEP Goals for End of Year Transition 

I recently did a training on how to support a successful transition to fall for your DHH students.  It's a topic I'm quite passionate about.

As we approach the end of the school year, it's a perfect time for students to start gearing up for the challenges and opportunities of the next academic year. For students who are deaf or hard of hearing, developing self-advocacy skills is not just beneficial but essential for their academic and personal growth. Many students have been working towards building self-advocacy skills through their IEP goals all year long.  This time of the year is the perfect opportunity to take the skills you’ve been working and apply them in preparing for the fall.  In this blog post, we'll explore how students can use the self-advocacy skills you’ve been building all year  to prepare for a successful transition to the new school year.


Sometimes I like to think of my services like Driver’s Education.  I’m teaching my students how to drive their own futures, giving them the keys to open up possibilities and the skills to navigate the roadmap ahead.  In driver’s education, the process begins with direct instruction - learning the rules of the road and the rights and responsibilities of each driver.  It then moves to on-the-road practice, where the student is actually driving, but there is an adult, or instructor, there to help direct, remind, and navigate.



This is how I see self-advocacy for students, starting from kindergarten.  Then, upon graduation, my students are ready to get their self-advocacy license, or essentially get the keys to the car that will drive their future.  The end of the school year is perfect for that on-the-road experience, with me, their driver’s ed instructor, next to them in the passenger seat.  




Here are the steps I take, now, the end of the school year,  to help my students navigate their transition to next school year.


Identify Challenges and Needs

The first step in preparing for the new school year is to identify potential challenges and needs in the upcoming classroom environment. I encourage my students to reflect on past experiences and consider what accommodations and support have been helpful. This includes factors like seating arrangements, access to assistive technology, or communication preferences. If you know the classrooms that the students will be in the fall, allow the student to peek in the classroom (potentially even observing the environment if the teacher okay’s this).  Discuss what challenges they may foresee and what they will need to do to establish good access in the fall.


 Advocacy Preparation

Once students have identified their challenges and needs, they can start preparing to advocate for themselves effectively. One powerful tool is the elevator speech—a concise, persuasive statement that explains their needs and preferences. Help students draft their elevator speech, focusing on clear communication and assertiveness.  Once written, they can introduce themselves to their future teachers now, prior to the end of the year.  An effective elevator speech is 60 seconds or less and includes an introduction, why the teacher needs to be aware of them, and the most important things the teacher needs to know.  My friend, Tina Childress, an internationally known late-deafened adult and bilateral cochlear implant recipient, uses her elevator speech every time she meets someone, so they can understand her needs.  I recently met Derrick Coleman, former NFL football player, who shared how he introduced himself to every teacher, coach, quarterback, and person he needed to communicate with.  Derrick uses lipreading to be able to communicate effectively.  His elevator speech is something along the lines of, “Hello, my name is Derrick Coleman and I’m your (student/fullback/presenter/etc).  I’m deaf and I have to see your lips at all times to be able to understand  you.  Please always face me when speaking so I can read your lips.”  This short phrase is clear, concise, and easy to digest (and memorize).  You can help your students draft their elevator speech by outlining a statement using the following information: 


  • Who you are: Start with a friendly greeting and introduce yourself by name.
  • Why they care:  They want to know what’s important to them.
  • What they need to know (NTK’s):
  • Hearing Loss Disclosure: Mention that you have a hearing loss and wear hearing aids or use assistive devices like a special microphone and/or use an interpreter.
  • Preferred Classroom Arrangement: Explain your preference for sitting in a specific location in the classroom that optimizes your ability to see and hear the teacher and classmates.
  • Optimal Learning Environment: Emphasize how these accommodations contribute to your success in learning and being an active part of the classroom community.



After drafting this statement,  encourage your student to use and modify their elevator speech anytime they need to let people know their needs.  Especially emphasize that they can use this during the school’s open house prior to the beginning of the year.  If you already know the teachers they will be having, the end of the year is a great time for your students to practice their elevator speech while introducing themselves to next year’s teacher/s.


Video Inservice for Teachers

Another proactive step is to create a short video inservice for their teachers. In this video, students can introduce themselves, explain their hearing loss and how it affects their learning, demonstrate how assistive technology works for them, and outline any specific accommodations they require. This proactive approach can help teachers better understand and support their students from the start of the school year.  This video can be sent to their teachers now at the end of the year, and then again prior to the beginning of the year.  I like to do this now, at the end of the year.


Improving Access Through Interpreters

For students who rely on sign language interpreters, it's important to think about how they can optimize their communication and learning experiences. This includes considering factors such as interpreter positioning, clear signing, and effective communication strategies. Encourage students to reflect on past experiences with interpreters—what worked well and what could be improved. They can use this time to discuss with their interpreters any specific needs or preferences they have or would like to experiment with now or at the beginning of the year. By actively engaging with their interpreters and exploring ways to enhance communication, students can ensure they have suitable access to the curriculum and classroom interactions.


Drafting Emails

Lastly, I encourage students to practice drafting emails to their teachers or school administrators. These emails can cover a range of topics, from requesting specific accommodations to following up on classroom discussions. By learning to communicate effectively via email, students can advocate for themselves in written form, which can be especially useful for addressing ongoing concerns or updates throughout the school year.  You can help your students draft these emails and either send them at the end of the year or schedule them to be sent shortly before school starts - or both!



Many students work on self-advocacy all year long and have IEP goals focusing on these skills. By looking forward and helping students generalize these skills,  providing them with tools and strategies to prepare for the new school year, we can help ensure a smoother transition for them, reducing any anxiety that they may face at the beginning of the year.. By developing these self-advocacy skills they also demonstrate to their upcoming teachers that they are the drivers for their own education and the  expert on their own hearing loss, opening direct lines of communication between them and their teachers.


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