When it comes to helping kids with hearing loss in the classroom, there are practical steps that every teacher can take. Middle school principal, Suzanne Webb, suggests that her teachers get to know the specific needs of each student with hearing loss, so that they can implement the most effective classroom strategies. Typically, that starts with a parent-teacher conference.
“We meet as a team – parents, teachers, administrators and anyone at the district level,” said Webb. She notes that district representatives could be speech pathologists, hearing specialists, or educational audiologists.
“This is when the parents come in and share who their child is, and what their needs are,” said Webb, adding that once the needs and strategies are established, an implementation plan is created for the school year.
Here is a list of best practices for making sure students with hearing loss are successful learners in your own classroom.
Remember, not all types of hearing loss are the same. For instance, one student may be deaf and not able to hear speech at all, while another may have high frequency hearing loss, which could result in difficulty hearing a female instructor’s voice. Get to know and understand your individual student’s hearing loss and the sounds they may or may not be able to hear.
Seat deaf and hard of hearing students at the front of the class, closer to the instruction.
If your school has an FM system, take the time to learn how to use it. If you have any questions about how it works, talk to the school’s designated support staff. They are trained in the technology and can answer your questions.
Pair hearing students, with students that have hearing loss. This “buddy system” can help hard-of-hearing children transition through daily schedules and lessons.
Don’t cover your mouth when speaking. Even students with normal hearing can increase their comprehension from visual cues, such as lip-reading and facial expressions.
Try to stand so you are facing the light from a window or lamp. When a light is shining on the back of your head, your face is backlit and cast in shadow, which makes it difficult for students to read your lips and see facial expressions and gestures.
Keep parents and your principal in the loop. If you see a concern, for instance a lack of socialization with peers, bring attention to the issue.
Encourage self-advocacy. Self-advocacy skills foster a sense of independence and empowerment.
Be available. Let your students with hearing loss know they have at least one adult they feel comfortable with, and that they can go to with a problem or issue.