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Dealing with intimidation or audism during transition or in the workplace

The issues of intimidation or audism towards youth who are deaf or hard of hearing appear to be a concern when entering higher education settings or the workplace. New research and recent high-profile cases have brought new awareness of the damage that can be done to individuals affected by intimidation or audism.

Intimidation can have a serious effect on the whole idea of integration or inclusion in society, particularly in higher education settings or in the workplace. Audism is a form of discrimination based on a person's ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears, including beliefs that a hard of hearing person or a deaf person who behaves in a manner more similar to a hearing person is more intelligent, qualified, well-developed, and successful than another individual who may have a preference for a communication mode dissimilar to that used by hearing people.

Victims of intimidation or audism suffer from embarrassment, fear, and anxiety. This can spiral into depression, which can then lead to absenteeism, poor academic performance, and, in the most extreme cases, suicide. The effects on a person's self-esteem can stay well into adulthood and even prevent someone from reaching his or her full potential. According to a 2007 study by Mencap, 80% of children with learning disabilities are bullied at school. The National Autistic Society reports that 40% of autistic children and 60% of those with Asperger's syndrome have experienced intimidation and/or discrimination. Statistics regarding deaf and hard of hearing youth are unknown, but is often a concern amongst those in these groups.

The best approach is a stop-walk-talk model in which victims can use a universal response to problem behavior (such as saying "stop" and giving a physical hand signal). If it continues, the victim should walk away and report this to a person of authority within the institution or workplace. It is important to understand that fearful behaviour is what gives the bully power. So if the victim ignores the offender and/or walks away, the offender is not granted any power.

If you need assistance in dealing with intimidation or audism, you can contact workplace@chs.ca for information on our awareness seminars using the subject line "Awareness Training"

Sources:

Council for Exceptional Children policy on safe schools released in April 2008

CHS position on discrimination and audism, The Canadian Hearing Society

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