How do you help your child receive their best education, especially in a mainstream school setting?
Click HERE for resources from Cochlear Corporation on assisting your child with cochlear implants at school.
Here are some tips to consider at the start and throughout the school year.
1. Assessment and Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
Each year, your child's progress in each area of skill development must be monitored in order to determine the best approach for continuing momentum or improving the rate of progress. The approach to completing this assessment varies by school district. Information gathered for the yearly assessment provides the foundation for the discussion and goal setting of the Individualized Education Plan.
2. Organize a support team to work with your child
Encourage discussions, set up meetings, and highlight the role of each member in your child's support team. There are many people who should be considered members of your child's support team including:
- Classroom Teacher/Special Teacher
- Auditory/Speech Therapist(s)
- Educational Audiologist
- Someone from cochlear implant center/clinic
- School Principal/Administrator
- Tutor, aid, school nurse, others
- Parents + Child + Classmates
- Interpreter, notetaker (depending on age of child)
Each member of the team will play a key role in your child's educational progress, from the teacher who is ensuring your child understands and is on par with academic goals, to the school administrator who provides leadership and allocates funds, to your cochlear implant center communicating your child's changes and progress. As the parent, your job is most important to ensure that you:
- Communicate with all team members
- Monitor equipment, homework and educational progress
- Be a presence at school
- Participate in child's developmental goals
- Ensure a routine for your child
- Provide an auditory learning environment at home
- Encourage your child advocate for himself by talking, asking questions, and engaging with others around him/her
3. Set up an initial meeting with your child's support team
- Show the team your child's audiogram and explain it
- Help the team understand the benefits and limitations of cochlear implant technology
- Show the team your child's technology and let them handle it
- If your child uses an FM system, explain why the FM is important
- Determine who is in charge of troubleshooting and develop a plan for how that will work
4. Review classroom acoustics and ensure proper classroom seating
There are many factors in a child's classroom that may impact their ability to hear, such as noise, distance and reverberation. Keep in mind the following when choosing a child's classroom seat:
- Close to front but visually accessible to entire room
- Seat away from noise generators (HVAC fans, hall doors)
- If your child has one cochlear implant, seat them so that the cochlear implant ear is away from noise sources (HVAC fans, projectors) and towards center of room
- Aquariums often generate noise (from the pump operation) and should not be placed in the classrooms of children with hearing loss
5. Review support services for your child
Work with your child's support team to determine what support is best for your child. When needed, consider options such as FM systems, interpreters, itinerant teachers of the deaf, and other support services. Provide your teacher with extra batteries and troubleshooting tools to use in the classroom.
6. Provide tips to your child's teacher
Remember, your child's teacher may have never taught a child with hearing loss and feel that the "burden" is falling on them. Provide the teacher with some tips such as:
- Always face forward when talking
- Stay within the child's vision, closer is better
- Don't "bounce" around
- Speak clearly, naturally and directly to the child
- Make sure the child is looking at you when you begin speaking
- Ensure volume is appropriate
- Speak just a little slower—too slow is not natural and will make understanding harder
- Don't ask her directly "Did you understand that?"
- Learn to recognize "the look" that means the child didn't get it, or use a signal or "secret sign" so she can tell you she missed something
- Repeat once, then paraphrase
- Explain things a different way
- Encourage the child to ask
- Write difficult (key) word(s) on the blackboard
- Provide key new words/concepts to parents or team members in advance
- Use visual tools, concrete materials or natural gestures to illustrate points
- Write assignments and directions on the board
- When someone else is speaking, point to the speaker
- Understand and use additional amplification equipment - repeat classmates' questions thru the FM system
- If you think the child might have missed a comment, rephrase or restate what another child has contributed
- Don't be afraid of the child's cochlear implant equipment
7. Involve classmates
Many children are not aware of cochlear implants. It is important to involve the classmates at the start of the school year to help them understand your child's technology, learn how to interact with your child, and talk about how your child is the same as other kids, but with a little extra technology to help them hear. You may also want to assign another child as your child's "hearing buddy" to help keep your child on task and share notes, if they are old enough.
Remember, while you want to address your child's individual needs, you also want to place your child in the "least restrictive environment" to serve their needs. Set appropriate, but high expectations. Children with cochlear implants should follow the same learning process as other children.