While some hard of hearing kids thrive in mainstream settings, many, like myself, do not. When a hard of hearing kid is in a mainstream school, they tend to be the only hard of hearing kid in their classroom. This means they are the only kid wearing hearing aids or utilizing an interpreter. This makes the kid stand out. Although standing out isn’t necessarily a bad thing, many kids see it this way because they are trying to fit in with their peers. Because of that, they may try to hide their hearing loss. They also don’t know how to advocate for their needs.
I believe we should normalize accommodations for hard of hearing people. We tend not to in the mainstream setting because of the expense.
For example, the first time using transcription in a classroom, I felt guilty that I was taking advantage of the school. Where did this guilt come from? I could still hear part of what was happening, but I couldn’t hear everything. As a hard of hearing person, I am told to get by the best I can. I realize there is an expense involved in offering accommodations. I have been in situations where I felt like I was doing people a favor by not using them because of the expense. However, I still was not getting a clear picture of what was being said. Now think back to those kids in the educational system that sort of hear and sort of don’t hear. These kids are doing what they can to get by. But if they are in class together, it would be easier to access accommodations as there would be multiple students in the same room needing similar services.
A huge part of kids’ experience in school is their social interactions with other kids. If they are unable to understand their peers, they will feel left out. While other kids make friends, a hard of hearing child may feel isolated. When hard of hearing kids are around others with similar experiences, it makes their hearing loss feel okay rather than something that needs to be hidden.
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When hard of hearing kids are together, teachers can focus on teaching about hearing loss, how to advocate for their situations, and how these kids can really thrive. It can become a part of their education. It is important that they are able to fully understand how to navigate these systems for succeeding in the hearing world.
It is more affordable to accommodate everyone’s needs in one place rather than accommodate each kid isolated in separate mainstream schools. Each school would save that expense. One school would have a greater focus to meet everyone’s needs.
Right now, many deaf and hard of hearing kids are scattered in different mainstream schools. Typically kids go to the school in the district where they live. The majority of teachers are more focused on the material they teach, but unaware of how hearing loss works and how a child with hearing loss responds. There are often itinerant teachers that check in on the hard of hearing kids in different schools that have an IEP plan. But they are usually only there for a brief time as they often check in with many different kids at different schools each day.
Kids that can’t hear often imitate their peers, without a full understanding of what is happening. Because of the imitation, the teacher often lacks awareness of when the child is and is not hearing. These kids don’t know how to speak up for themselves. They are just trying to follow along the best they can without even understanding what they are missing. Quite often, they are misdiagnosed with behavioral issues, such as ADHD.
Research is challenging and expensive to conduct because of how separated hard of hearing kids are. Even if we had more awareness, it is more likely things will fall through the cracks. Because of this, it is an ongoing challenge to better the lives of hard of hearing kids that are isolated in the mainstream education setting.
Have schools that are specific to deaf and hard of hearing children, therefore every child there has hearing loss/deafness in common. These schools provide bilingual education. Clarity for understanding and developing social skills with others can really thrive in these settings.
I personally believe that having schools specifically for deaf and hard of hearing kids with a bilingual approach is best for them.
“I personally believe that having schools specifically for deaf and hard of hearing kids with a bilingual approach is best for them.”
Bilingualism connects hard of hearing kids to both worlds. I believe that classroom instruction using a visual language can provide the most clarity for different hearing levels. As a person that grew up with a mild-moderate hearing loss, I realize that many people with similar hearing losses may never set foot into a school that offers bilingual education. Our society focuses on trying to get kids to fit within mainstream society rather than fit to individual needs. I do hope someday our education system can value deaf and hard of hearing kids being educated together.
Many parents choose to send their hard of hearing kids to a mainstream school. Because of this, I believe we need more schools that have expertise in understanding and working with deaf and hard of hearing kids. There are districts with such programs.
Read more: How mild-moderate hearing loss is often overlooked in the classroom
What if any child that is deaf or hard of hearing that would normally go to the mainstream school in their district could instead go to a school that has better resources for their needs?
Read more: Teaching students with hearing loss
Sometimes parents have challenges sending kids away to a school that isn’t in their district. It would be nice to offer transportation, but I realize that is an additional expense. This is a layered issue. Because of that, I know this is not an easy answer.
It’s important to choose what options are best for your kid, as each child and family’s situation varies. It is important to give kids access to all of the options to learn their preferences and what works best for them.As a parent, it is important to get information from multiple sources: deaf/hard of hearing organizations, audiologists, deaf schools, etc.
I write about my perspective from my personal lived experience, which comes from mainstream education. Hard of hearing kids can be isolated in mainstream schools. I hope we can better our education system for them. I do believe deaf and hard of hearing kids would do better in deaf and hard of hearing focused education and can excel with a visual language in the classroom. They should have exposure to one another growing up, and this can occur in other ways as well. That is the key point I hope you take from this article.
Read more: These Powerpoint Presentations make it easy to explain hearing loss at school