Like many of you, after a fun-filled, active summer, my children are looking forward to their first day of school. With my first child, now entering the 1st grade, things were pretty seamless when she started big girl school.
This year my second child is starting Pre-K and while I have the same excitement (and anxiousness), I also have an extra set of challenges to prepare for; Emmy has hearing loss and will be in a mainstream classroom.
I compiled the below list for how to handle the beginning of the school year for parents of children with hearing loss. Some are my ideas and others were passed on from other parents. I hope by sharing this list I can help anyone else who has a child with hearing that is starting school.
Speak Up: Before the school year begins, schedule meetings with teachers and administrators to discuss accommodations, such as classroom seating arraignments, note-taker services, in-class participation (i.e. repeating an answer of a classmate seated behind your child that s/he may not hear), and handling emergency situations, such as fire drills. If your child has an FM unit, this is a great time to teach teachers how to use it. It's just as important for them to know how to turn it on, as well as turn it off when they take bathroom breaks!
Teacher-Student Communications: It's important that your child feels comfortable and encouraged to communicate with their teachers when they feel they missed something said. Include your child in these meetings to help build that relationship, and as they get older, your child likely will have the best advice (and stories) to share.
Reinforce Good Practices, Politely: Kindly ask teachers to face your child when addressing the classroom. When writing on the chalkboard and talking at the same time, the teacher's voice is bouncing off the board instead of going forward, making it harder for your child to hear as well as lip-read.
Buddies, Not Bullies: Bullying should never be tolerated, however it sometimes comes up. Talk with teachers and administrators about how to mitigate tough situations and protect your child, without having your child feeling victimized and ostracized for having hearing loss.
Practice Makes Perfect: Develop a scripted answer for your child (and their siblings) when asked about his/her hearing aids and hearing loss. Not only does it put the parents at ease, but helps your child confidently self-advocate.
Show and Tell: If your child mentions s/he received a lot of questions during the first week of school, ask their teacher to take five minutes in the beginning of class for your child to "show and tell" their hearing aids. Not only does it promote tolerance, but it teaches your child public speaking skills.