It is officially August, which means two things—summer is coming to an end and fall is just around the corner, and it is officially back-to-school time. This means prepping for school like the rest of the world, except for students with hearing loss, as teens put it ... there's "extra".
Back-to-school season might look a little different this year, but it can still be exciting! It might also be challenging and—for those with hearing loss—frustrating. You can take advantage of this time to think outside of the box and reinvent your experience. Today, we’re going to talk about ways to empower yourself or your child to overcome challenges and create opportunities in spite of their hearing loss challenges.
1. Reflect on Previous Years, Create Your Pros/Cons List
Whether your the student doing this for yourself or your working with your child, you must sit and simply create two columns. In your pros, reflect on teachers who went out of their way to help. Jot down all the "extra" they did to help your child succeed. Even take time to send a quick thank you note or email and ask if they'd be willing to write that in an email you can share with this year's teaching staff.
Next, the cons. What kept you from performing your best? Don't hold back. Then, put that list in order of greatest importance to least. Don't expect perfection from the staff, however you should expect support. The support should be thoughtful and caring, not perfect.
IEPs, this isn't the place for me to tell you how to structure your IEP. Our kids are in private school, so IEPs aren't in our DNA, and when they were, I found communication and good teachers would do what was right for the child....not what a piece of paper states they have to do. Bringing me to the next point...
2. Build a positive RELATIONSHIP with the teacher/staff.
I cannot say I've always done this well. I am a firecracker by nature and a momma lion. What I have learned as my child, Lexi, heads into 7th grade is building a positive relationship with the teacher/staff is the best thing I can do for my child. You certainly get more flies with honey than vinegar. This won't be the determining factor 100% of the time, but 8 times out of 10, it will be.
It doesn't take fancy, lavish gifts to build this relationship. Mutual respect and positivity can go a long way. Be kind, patient and helpful. This is something I'm going to be very focused on in 2020-21. I don't know I've nailed this, but I'm learning from my past mistakes.
Something else I learned on this last year..."How do you want me to communicate with you? How often can we meet, regroup about my child?" which brings me to the next point...
3. Communication. How to and not to do it.
So many times I've done this well on behalf of my cochlear implant child, Lexi. So many times I've messed this up. I recall a wonderful relationship in 4th grade with her teacher. We knew her well, family friend. So she knew Lexi's history. She had children with special needs herself, so she "got it". She knew how to do the "extra". When I think about that relationship, it started with a positive relationship and so naturally I positively and kindly communicated with her.
What won't work is putting the teacher on the defensive. It will destroy their desire and passion to serve your child with the "extra".
Take time to start with simply being nice and thoughtful. Remember they have many students and recognize that.
Last year, I was eventually scolded for sending "too many emails". My initial reaction wasn't positive. The reason I did that was because a couple teachers never really responded. Playing guesswork for your child with hearing loss can make you crazy.
Eventually, a very communicative teacher became the liaison. Which brings me to point #4....
4. If Multiple Teachers, Appoint a Liaison.
A liaison is a person who facilitates a close working relationship between people or organizations (Google Dictionary). Find the leader in the teacher group, the one with tenure and possibly history with another child with hearing loss. Directly ask this person to be the point person. Don't make them feel burdened, love them into it. "Hello, I absolutely love how you lead students. You clearly have a passion for children to reach their greatest potentials. So here's my child's story, briefly. He/she is very bright, but was given a tough start. Would you be willing to help me by leading the communication between the teachers and being (Johnny's) point person/liaison?"
Then, detail what your asking such as:
- we meet monthly either in person or over the phone/via email.
- you can report on Johnny's progress and provide any feedback on pros/cons of how Johnny is HEARING, communicating and performing in class.
- I'll take notes, regroup with his speech pathologist and/or audiologist and get back to you on any adjustments we can make.
5. NEXT, the Physical Checklist....
Visit our DOWNLOADABLE PDF for tips and support for a teacher:
- classroom placement
- seeing the teacher's face
- mental fatigue
- FM systems
- friends and social
6. MASKS, MASKS AND HEARING WITH MASKS...
Clear masks can fog up... shields can have a glare. With either, you still don't get the facial recognition needed for lip-reading. Reading lips and facial expressions help everyone to validate what they are hearing, but this is particularly imperative for students with hearing loss.
A better use of time is to request a phone or ipad with this captioning software. This will be great for ALL students, but it will be critical for students with hearing loss.
Be patient and kind. Advocate without overwhelming and don't forget to enjoy the ride. I've gotten overwhelmed in her academic success and many times miss the simplistic beauty of my deaf child hearing and attending a mainstream school.
Watch for more tips on navigating social, sports and more as we get back to school! Love you guys! If you need anything or have questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.