By Dana Selznick, Director, CHC's Education Center
There are so many questions and concerns that parents of children with hearing loss have running through their minds as the school year gets underway. "What if my child is unable to hear classroom discussions?," “What if another student asks my child about their listening device?,” “What if their battery goes dead in the middle of the class?
As a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, I speak to parents about what to expect for the coming school year and strategies they can put into place to help their child get ready. At the end of the day, though, if we step back and ask our kids about their take on the school year ahead, more often than not we’ll be surprised to find out that they may not have those same “What if?” feelings.
Anabella on the School Year Ahead
Case in point—let's hear from Anabella, one of our incoming second-grade students receiving educational support services at CHC:
I am about to be 8 years old and I am going on my 4th school this year because I have moved a lot. At every school, I need to meet new friends and new teachers. The kids usually ask me questions about my cochlear implants. The first question that they always ask is "how do they stick on your head?". I tell them that they stick on my head by a magnet in my head. They think it is really cool. Also, I put stickers on them to make them look even cooler!
I want my new friends to know that I can't hear anything without my implants and that means I am completely deaf. My implants help me A LOT! It would be helpful if my friends repeat things if I don't hear them. They should also know that they should speak to me in their normal voice. I don't need them to speak any louder. If my batteries go low or stop working, it is helpful if my friends wait until I get a new battery because I can't hear them without my implants working.
Lastly, I want my friends to know that I am pretty much just like them. I am sporty, artistic, and fun. I really like my cochlear implants because people think they are like a superpower. If anyone has any questions, they should just ask me!
Anabella, grade 2
Anabella, I couldn’t have said it better myself! You clearly know what it takes to educate people about your hearing loss and help them understand your accessibility needs. What an amazing advocate!
Tips from CHC Experts
I shared Anabella's thoughts about the coming school year with some of my CHC colleagues and invited them to offer additional perspective, especially as it relates to their area of expertise. Here's what they had to say:
Anabella is right! Without hearing technology on, access to speech through listening will be difficult to impossible for children with hearing loss. At times when devices must be removed to troubleshoot or change a battery, making sure a student can see your face to lipread will aid communication and reduce stress while they are waiting to come back "on the air." Once devices are on and working, it is not necessary to use a louder-than-normal voice to communicate—this might even make it HARDER for some kids with hearing loss to listen effectively.
Camille Mihalik, Speech-Language Pathologist Director of CHC's Shelley and Steven Einhorn Communication Center
Well said, Anabella. Since it is difficult for Anabella to hear when she needs to change batteries, it’s a good idea for her parents to set a schedule for changing or charging batteries for her devices. If you stick to a schedule, the chances of being without her devices during school due to a battery change will be reduced. It’s also a good idea to have extra batteries (disposable or rechargeable) in school just in case this situation occurs.
Michele DiStefano, Audiologist Director of CHC’s Shelley and Steven Einhorn Audiology Center
Anabella has a very healthy perspective! Understanding that we all have something unique and different about ourselves and accepting and appreciating these differences, as opposed to feeling embarrassed, ashamed or upset about them, is key for positive mental health and self-esteem. Being able to be open with others, welcoming questions and curiosity about one’s difference and letting others know what accommodations one might need (self-advocacy) fosters understanding and tolerance for oneself as well as others.
Sandra Clough, Clinical Psychologist CHC's Baker Family Emotional Health and Wellness Center
If you have questions or concerns about your child with hearing loss—especially now as they face a new school year and all the possibilities and challenges that brings—don't hesitate to contact us for guidance and support. We're here to answer your questions and help your child succeed academically in any way we can.
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