If you have a child with hearing loss, your back-to-school list might look a little different than other parents in your neighborhood. After you’ve picked out the perfect outfits, notebooks and backpacks, take a look at our list of tips to help your child excel academically in the classroom this school year.
Do your homework
Basically, hearing impaired children are entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE), according to Section 504 plan of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In essence, that means the classroom must be accessible and your child has equal opportunity to participate in nonacademic and extracurricular activities.
Beyond this, services can vary from state to state, so contact your state or county department of public health or department of education to find out what your child’s school system provides. Knowing this before school starts can be empowering, especially if he is attending public school.
Meet the teacher
Make an appointment to talk to your child’s teacher and school principal (if possible) as soon as possible. Give them as much detail as they need about your child’s hearing loss to understand how to help him be successful in the classroom.
Then, send a supply kit for your child’s hearing aid or cochlear implant that can be kept in the classroom or school office. The kit should contain a supply of batteries along with a set of instructions with “need to know” information about the hearing device. You may also want to include a testing stethoscope and battery tester to help school personnel determine whether the hearing device is receiving and transmitting sound – or your child is just practicing his best “selective listening” skills.
Volunteer to help in the classroom when you can. Chaperone field trips or chair the school book fair. Teachers appreciate parents who are involved in their child’s education, plus, by getting involved you’ll see how well he interacts with his peers.
Make a Plan
If your child is eligible for Section 504 protections, consider making a 504 Plan. While having a written plan isn’t mandatory, putting everything on paper helps ensure you, the teacher and the school administration are all on the same page when it comes to your child’s education. Check with your state’s department of education to see if they have a 504 plan template.
Put on your technology HATS
Yes, we know you already wear multiple hats as a parent – chauffeur, short order cook, cleaning lady – however, we’re talking about hearing assistive technology (HATS). Find out what type of HATS your child can expect in his classroom. Personal FM systems are the most common type of HATS for children with sensorineural hearing loss. They allow your child to hear his teacher’s voice clearly, regardless of the physical distance between them.
Your school may also have Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) or C-print systems available. Much like close captioning, these systems allow deaf and hard of hearing students the ability to read conversations as they’re taking place on a small personal screen, overhead or large screen. CART systems interpret conversations word-for-word while C-print systems interpret the content.
You may also want to ask your child’s hearing healthcare professional about new hearing aid technology and how that can benefit your child’s academic success. Most hearing impaired children are strong visual learners. Now that hearing aids can connect wirelessly to other personal electronic devices – such as smart phones, iPads and computers – you might discover a creative way to make lessons easier to understand and the resulting homework less time consuming. Not everyone can afford the latest and greatest technology; however, there may be service organizations in your community who are willing to help.
Pick out a new wardrobe
If you have to go back to school, you might as well look good doing it. Hearing aids and cochlear implants are marvelous devices which should be celebrated. Teach your child to be proud of his technology and to confident in his replies to peers who ask about them.
So – after you finish in the jean aisle, check to see what types of fun accessories are available for your child’s hearing instrument. Your hearing center may have a selection. You may also be able to find options online directly from the hearing aid manufacturers.
Additionally, check to see what type of gear you can purchase to keep hearing aids and cochlear implants in place during the school day – especially during recess and gym class. Body clips will make sure they do not fall off and get lost, while sweat bands will protect instruments from perspiration and the occasional misguided spray from the water fountain.
Remember how much fun it was to open a new pack of crayons when you were a kid? Consider this another opportunity to get creative. Do your homework, meet the teacher, make a plan, put on your HATS, pick out a new wardrobe and get creative. Your child’s academic success begins at home, with parents who are willing to be strong advocates for education and occasionally enjoy coloring outside the lines.