How to Prepare Your Hearing Impaired Child for the Classroom
Susan Cheffo, MS
Children who are deaf or hard of hearing have the opportunity to attend classes in the mainstream with their peers. Because of newborn hearing screenings, early amplification, and advances in technology including cochlear implants, young children today can achieve success in the mainstream setting throughout their school years. For children from preschool through high school, various educational options exist, along with related services, modifications, and testing accommodations. These are determined at the child’s special education meeting, where a team of professionals and parents decide the appropriate education plan. This Individual Education Plan (IEP) contains all the needed information about school placement and services.
When children reach preschool age, parents consider part-time or full-day classes. The mainstream preschool is a viable option for deaf and hard of hearing youngsters who have attained age-appropriate or near age-appropriate speech and language levels. There are good language role models offered by typically hearing children, and having early exposure to this setting paves the way for elementary school.
The following are some tips for choosing an appropriate preschool program:
- Find one close to home.
- Preschools that have serviced children with hearing loss in the past may be most beneficial.
- Enthusiasm about having a child with hearing loss and a willingness to collaborate with a team of professionals and parents are positive characteristics.
- Make sure classrooms have good acoustics. Noise and reverberation are evident in many preschools.
- Bring an educator from Early Intervention or the hearing aid/cochlear implant center when visiting different preschools. This can be helpful in making an informed decision as to which program is the best match for your child.
School-age (5-21 years of age)
Many deaf and hard of hearing children are returning to local school districts or private schools for their continuing education. There are various types of classes including: general education classes, where one teacher is in charge of 20-30 students and teaches all or most subjects; inclusion classes, which are similar to general education classes but consist of approximately 30-40% special educations students; self-contained classes, where all children have IEPs and there is a small class size. The type of class will be decided at the IEP meeting.
Related Services- Whether preschool or school age, all deaf/hard of hearing students need support services throughout their school years. Related services are determined at the child’s IEP meeting including the appropriate services, the amount of time the services will be provided, as well as location. There is no cost to parents for related services, as long as they appear on the child’s IEP. The most important services for deaf/hard of hearing children are Teacher of the Deaf (TOD) and Speech. In schools, they are provided as push in (in the classroom) or pull out (separate location).
Other related services may include:
- Resource Room (for students who may need academic support)
- Teacher assistant/aide (for individual support)
- Language facilitator (to assist during group interaction)
- Consultant from cochlear implant center/speech-hearing clinic (may be needed for in-services or school observations)
Assistive Technology – In school, all children with hearing loss require the use of an FM system. A personal system is preferred.
Modifications- These may be needed depending on physical layout of the classroom, type of amplification worn, as well as the child’s needs. Some examples are:
- Preferential seating
- Acoustic modifications (wall and/or ceiling tile, carpeting, drapes, etc.)
- Static electricity reducers (anti-static mats, screens)
- Closed captions
- Extra set of books at home
- Copy of class notes/study guides
- Communication notebook
- Team meetings (for parents, school personnel, and/or outside providers)
Test Accommodations-These are necessary during test-taking years. Some examples are:
- Extended time (up to double time)
- Separate location
- Special acoustics (quiet area)
- Directions read or explained
- Additional examples (for understanding language of questions)
- Frequent breaks
- Minimal distractions
- Listening sections repeated or signed
Note taking systems-These may be required during middle and high school. They range from student note-takers to sophisticated computer systems. The IEP meeting determines whether or not there is a need for a note taking system, as well as which type.
Some tips for a successful mainstreaming experience:
- A good relationship with the school district is important. It should be developed at the first IEP meeting and maintained throughout your child’s school years.
- Communicate well with the school district. This includes problems at school, needed services, or who additional attendees will be at the upcoming IEP meeting. Districts do not like surprises.
- Parents also should have no surprises. Staff needs to know that any concerns are brought to parents’ attention and not saved for the IEP meeting.
- Keep open lines of communication with schools. Notebooks, e-mail are a good way.
- Visit the child’s classroom when possible.
- Have “experts” observe the child in school to make sure equipment is being utilized correctly, there is appropriate access in the classroom, and your child is interacting, not just following along.
- Make sure information is shared with the school; such as programming reports from the cochlear implant center, or hearing/hearing aid changes.
- Obtain feedback from teachers and related service providers about your child’s listening ability in school. This should be shared with your child’s audiologist.
- Have your child participate in after school activities. School-based programs or community events are positive.
- Set up play dates on weekends. Keep in mind that one friend is easier to communicate with than a group.
Thanks to early detection and amplification by cochlear implants, we are seeing amazing results. The sky is the limit. Be patient, but also be determined to succeed.
DON’T ALLOW YOUR CHILD TO SETTLE FOR SECOND BEST! If you won’t view your child as "Disabled", then they won’t become that.
Now, more than ever, the deaf child has a great shot at being able to truly succeed and integrate with the hearing world that we live in. Reach for the stars, and your child will get there.
Guidelines for transitioning a cochlear implant child into a mainstream classroom environment http://www.childrenshospital.org/clinicalservices/Site2003/Documents/transition.pdf
About the Author
Susan Cheffo received her first cochlear implant at the age of 51 and now serves as Coordinator of Educational Services at The Beth Israel/New York Eye and Ear Cochlear Implant Center where she helps others learn to hear.