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Tips for Parents

Tips for Parents: Back to School with Hearing Loss

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By Anna Karkovska McGlew, M.A.

Each school year is a new beginning, presenting children and parents with challenges but also opportunities for growth and progress. Transitioning from the carefree and fun-filled summer days into the busyness and increased demands of structured school time can be a difficult period for everyone in the family.

Communication First

For children with hearing loss and their families, communication with teachers and other school staff in the beginning of the school year is key. Many of the daily obstacles in the classroom stem from a lack of clear understanding about how to best interact with children with hearing loss. Many teachers in the mainstream setting may not have had a child with hearing loss in their classroom, and while their intentions are always in the best interest of the children, they may benefit from some background information.

AG Bell has developed some templates that outline key information that provides teachers with a better understanding of a child's hearing loss, and some easy ways to avoid some traditional obstacles. This is an excellent resource for educating the team that is developing the student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan about the child’s needs and it is a great resource for substitute teachers who may not be familiar with the requirements of the child’s education plan or accommodations. This is a great way to open dialog between the teacher and the student. Another helpful resource is the All About My Ears Classroom Information Sheet developed by Cochlear Implant Online.

Parents will find tips for a smooth transition time into the new school year and strategies for establishing open and involved communication with teachers in the mainstream from Krysty Krywko, Ed.D., author of the blog, “After the Diagnosis: Helping Families with Hearing Loss.” Krywko advises parents to review their child's Individualized Education Program (IEP), make proactive contact with their child's teacher(s), make a classroom plan to address issues with acoustics, schedule appointments with the professionals providing hearing health services to their child, and involve their child through role plays to ease and address anxiety and fear at the beginning of the school year.

Building Self-advocacy Skills

Self-advocacy skills in children with hearing loss are essential. Self-advocacy is the ability of the child to describe his or her own skills and needs for communication, for parents and children to set goals and develop a plan to reach them, and advocacy for legal and legislative rights and accommodations for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

In the AG Bell Family Needs Assessment survey, while self-advocacy was rated as necessary at all age levels, the transition points to elementary, middle and high school represented a jump in the need for these skills. While extremely necessary in middle school, training to support these skills is very important to instill in elementary school.

Parents noted the need, particularly in younger children, to develop these skills for activities outside of school, where the structure and experience of teachers and therapists cannot be relied upon. The Knowledge Center has an abundance of self-advocacy resources, including articles, videos and other information on the topic.

The AG Bell Parent Advocacy Training is a free online course that helps parents and educators build knowledge and confidence as they become advocates for their children living with hearing loss and work with local school districts and service providers.

Session classroomLearn from Experts and Families Who Have Been There

One of the best ways to receive support on any issue related to hearing loss is to tap into the collective experience and wisdom of families who have been on a similar journey and understand your needs and feelings. The “You Are Not Alone” section on the Knowledge Center contains blogs you can read from the community.

Other blogs as well as a collection of tips and resources on the back to school transition can be found on the Stanford Initiative to Cure Hearing Loss website, which provides a great compilation of click-through resources. For students who may be reluctant to use FM systems and other technology to improve hearing in the classroom, the Back to School with Hearing Loss Pinterest board provides links to helpful strategies.

Parents interested in second language learning and bilingual approaches for their child with hearing loss should check out Jane Madell’s “Hearing and Kids” blog, which covers many topics from a listening and spoken language professional perspective, and is a wealth of information and resources.

Use the above resources and the Jul/Aug 2014 issue of Volta Voices as a jumpstart to your preparations for the new school year. Most importantly, remember that skillful communication opens doors and creates understanding, while cultivating a positive outlook eases anxiety and fosters motivation.