CHC Experts Offer Back-to-School Advice for Parents of Children with Hearing Loss
By Dana Selznick, M.A., M.Ed., and Team CHC
In a year unlike any other, with so much to consider in setting young students up for a successful school year, it takes a village—more than ever!—to nurture and support the needs of children with hearing loss.
As a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing at CHC, I'm one member of a multidisciplinary team that includes audiologists, speech-language pathologists and psychologists, all dedicated to helping children with hearing loss reach their full potential. We collaborated on the following back-to-school tips to help you, the parent, stay focused on the things that matter most.
Hearing and Tech Tips - Anita Stein-Meyers, Audiologist
For children who use hearing aids or cochlear implants, hearing, of course, plays a major role in successful learning. Here are my tips for maximizing hearing in the classroom.
If masks will be worn in school, the use of masks with clear inserts are essential to assuring speech reading cues and facial expressions will not be missed.
Distancing factors will further emphasize the need for remote microphones and/or FM systems to be used. Ensuring classrooms are set up with the least amount of ambient noise, with good lighting and with seating so children can see their teacher and each other easily is of importance as well.
It's always a good idea to set up a schedule to ensure your child’s equipment is in good working order by conducting listening checks. Hearing aids, cochlear implants and FM systems should be listened to regularly. A listening check can be done by a parent, teacher or support staff member and should take less than two minutes.
Every morning, be sure that devices have fresh batteries and/or are fully charged. Extra batteries can be stored by a teacher, nurse, and support staff provider, or for older children in their desks or book bags. When using FM systems or Bluetooth accessories, a higher battery drain may be noted and batteries may require more frequent replacing during the school week.
If your child will be using additional technology, such as tablets, laptops, whiteboards, etc., the school district educational audiologist should be consulted to determine the best way for your children to hear optimally with these.
Do not hesitate to contact your children’s audiologist or hearing educator for any additional tips, guidance or support. That is what we are here for!
Speech and Language Skills - Camille Mihalik, Speech-Language Pathologist
It's so important to encourage meaningful conversation when the school day is over. Too often the exchange goes like this:
Parent: "What did you do at school today, honey?"
Child: "Nothing/I don't know"
Sound familiar? While this is a common refrain heard in homes near and far, children with language delays may struggle more than most to recall and discuss events that are not happening in the here and now. Retelling a story or event verbally is a critical skill that precedes the ability to write about it—a task that will certainly present itself early in their academic lives.
When describing a past event, we also require a child to use less-familiar grammar (past tense!) and take the perspective of the listener to ensure they provide just the right amount of context. You can help your child accomplish these goals by being more specific in your questioning. Try this: "What was your favorite part of the day? How about your least favorite? What made it so? Tell me more about that, etc." By keeping your questions specific to a particular part of their day, you are helping them to structure their thoughts in a way that they may struggle to do on their own.
Don't forget to share what the best/worst part of your day may have been as well; invite questions and model providing lots of details. Over time, your child will begin to learn what you're looking for when you ask, "How was school today?"
Emotional Health - Sandra Mays Clough, Clinical Psychologist
If living in the middle of a pandemic has taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected. So it is true of the beginning of a new school year.
Going back to school is a big transition at any time. Going back to school when “masks” and “physical distancing” have become everyday language is especially unique. Expect feelings. Expect thinking. Expect feelings about thinking. Expect worry, anticipation, surprise, disappointment, joy and concern. Concern about what comes next. Concern about the unknown. Concern about ambiguity and uncertainty.
Know that this is all normal . . . and to be expected. We are going into a familiar process (i.e., going back to school) in an unfamiliar time (i.e., time of COVID). Children (and their parents/caregivers) are undoubtedly going to be distressed and worried at some point. One of the most helpful things parents/caregivers can do is to listen. Encourage children to express their concerns. Do not redirect or dismiss their feelings but stay in the present moment, with them. Validate their worries, acknowledge their fears and pause. Listen and support.
Proactively, parents/caregivers can invite conversation about the new school year before it begins. They can talk about their own concerns, worries and what they anticipate. Bringing up areas of unease and also exciting changes like getting new school clothes and school supplies, seeing friends and meeting new teachers show children that transitions can be both fun and scary at the same time.
Parents/caregivers are the biggest models for their children. When we can be mindful and manage our emotions even when we are upset or worried, children learn that expression of these “big” emotions is OK and does not have to be overwhelming. At the same time, when we, ourselves, are feeling frazzled, taking time for self-care is essential.
We are swimming in uncharted waters at this time. Mandates and regulations related to COVID seem to change daily. Expect that things will continue to change, including our thoughts and feelings and the thoughts and feelings of our children. Allow for this. Anticipate this. Encourage conversation and discussion. Listen, pause, repeat.
The most important team member, of course, is you, the parent. As team captain, you connect every player together to ensure that each moving part is appropriately integrated and running smoothly. If your child has a smile on his or her face heading off for the first day of school, it's because of you. And if they feel successful at the end of the year, it's because of you.
CHC is here to support you every step of the way in your child's listening, speech, social-emotional and educational development. So please reach out to let us know how we can best be of help.
Remember, it takes a village!
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