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Why I believe hard of hearing kids belong in school together

choosing a school for deaf child
As someone who is hard of hearing, I believe there are key benefits to putting hard of hearing kids together throughout their education.

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.

Why it’s Good to Have Hard of Hearing Kids Together

Needs are more easily met

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.

Less isolation 

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.

Read more: 5 ways deaf students can advocate for themselves in college

Bilingualism

Having both English and American Sign Language (or languages of whatever country one is from) gives the child the full education exposure that the kid needs. According to the National Association of the Deaf, “ASL and English Bilingual Education is important and effective because it addresses the needs of the whole child. ASL and English Bilingual Education recognize the intimate relationships between language development, cognitive development and social/emotional development.”

Read more: Why hearing aids and sign language are a happy pair

Normalizes hearing aids, ASL interpreters, FM Systems, etc.

 If I had been surrounded by other kids wearing hearing aids, I would have been more likely to wear my hearing aids rather than trying to get away without them. This may be the same with other kids. If other kids in the same room are utilizing the same tools they do, then they are less likely to be embarrassed. A kid may not want to use a big FM system, because other kids make fun of it. But if other kids in the same room are using that FM system, then suddenly it is considered more “normal.”

Better education suited to their needs

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.

More cost efficient

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.

Choosing a school for your deaf child

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.

How We Can Improve Education for Hard of Hearing Kids:

Education Specifically for Hard of Hearing Children

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.

My Vision

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.

Hard of Hearing Programs Within Mainstream School

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?

What I Would Like to See:

  • Schools with a team that can accommodate hard of hearing needs and challenges
  • Hard of hearing kids meeting others like them at their school
  • More educated teachers on how hearing loss works, which can help them pick up on why a child may be struggling to focus in class
  • FM systems/microphones that pair with hearing aids, interpreters and transcribers on site
  • More visual aids used by teachers in voiced settings
  • Specially trained teachers focusing on skills specific to hard of hearing experiences, like self-advocacy and exposure to ASL

Read more: Teaching students with hearing loss

Another Challenge

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.

Message to Parents

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 

Author Details
I started writing for Hearinglikeme because I needed to share my story, but didn’t have a good outlet, as I felt nobody cared about hearing loss. I did not wear my hearing aids most of my life, but after a buildup of missing hearing things throughout my life, I realized how much easier communication would be if I accepted them. Today, I wear Phonak Sky B-90s. I also communicate in sign language and enjoy being a part of the Deaf world. I was diagnosed hard of hearing in first grade, but spent my entire life trying to act as if it didn’t exist, getting by the best I could. It took me a long time to accept this part of me, which today I am learning to love. I share my stories with advice of what has worked for me. One thing I have learned is what works for me may not work for somebody else. Our DHH communities are diverse and our wishes is something that should be respected and celebrated as it makes each of us safe to be ourselves in our own unique beautiful way.
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I started writing for Hearinglikeme because I needed to share my story, but didn’t have a good outlet, as I felt nobody cared about hearing loss. I did not wear my hearing aids most of my life, but after a buildup of missing hearing things throughout my life, I realized how much easier communication would be if I accepted them. Today, I wear Phonak Sky B-90s. I also communicate in sign language and enjoy being a part of the Deaf world. I was diagnosed hard of hearing in first grade, but spent my entire life trying to act as if it didn’t exist, getting by the best I could. It took me a long time to accept this part of me, which today I am learning to love. I share my stories with advice of what has worked for me. One thing I have learned is what works for me may not work for somebody else. Our DHH communities are diverse and our wishes is something that should be respected and celebrated as it makes each of us safe to be ourselves in our own unique beautiful way.
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