Your hearing health care team.
January 28, 2013
Teaching Others About Your Hard-of-Hearing Child.
March 18, 2013

The IEP & Other Classroom Support.

Education is a Team Sport…

I believe that the fact that I not only work in this field, but also live it 24/7, has given me a unique perspective on the topic. You see, I am a professional in the field of special education.

I am also the mother of three wonderful children and my oldest, now 21, has bilateral, profound hearing loss. My experience as her mother has molded my life’s mission: No other parent should ever have to walk this path alone, or re-invent this wheel and have to help educate the system. If I can be there with even one family and their school district to make the journey more positive and less stressful, then I know all that my daughter and I experienced has been for good reason.

When the school bell rings: A professional’s perspective

Each year your child moves up a grade, or to a new school, there will be different teachers. That means new challenges in the school setting, both academically and socially. By establishing a positive relationship with your child’s teacher, the school administrator, and the district representatives, you will begin to build your child’s academic team; a team willing to address those challenges arm in arm with you.

Remember that, while we all know that academics are the priority of the school staff, our child’s social experience and peer relations are equally important when considering their educational career. I remember attending a field trip with my daughter in third grade. I noticed that on the bus (a very noisy environment) no one spoke to her, and that at lunch she ate with the group, but was left behind when everyone started running around.

Upon returning to the school a little girl ran by her and accidently bumped into her. As the girl ran past she said, “Sorry! I didn’t mean to!” My daughter looked at me and said, “She just called me mean.” She had heard the word “mean” and put the rest together. It ended up being a beautiful teaching moment for both girls; one that led to understanding on both of their parts. It became a huge “Aha!” moment for countless teachers and administrators who have since heard the story.

What challenges might I encounter as my child enters the public school setting?

There will be times when teachers and other school staff won’t understand your child’s hearing loss, and how it manifests in the educational environment. This can be especially problematic if you have provided excellent Early Intervention Services and your child enters the school setting at grade level.

General educators who see a successful child at grade level do not always understand how the ambient noise of a classroom negatively impacts our children’s ability to discriminate and comprehend language – especially if that child doesn’t speak up in class when there is an issue.

There are times, especially on the weekends, when I actually forget how skilled our kids get at “faking it.” There have been many Saturday and Sunday mornings when my daughter and I have spent two or three hours talking, before I realize that she does not have her processor on and has been speech reading all morning.

Teachers, and sometime even parents, may underestimate the impact of a noisy classroom on a child’s ability to access information. The audiogram shows us what our children are detecting in the ideal setting of a sound booth. We need to also ask our audiologists to test with an increased signal to noise ratio and to look at how they discriminate single words and sentences with background chatter.

Other issues your family may encounter when entering the public school system include :

  • Challenges with vocabulary development
  • Staff who want your child to be placed in a separate Deaf or Hard of Hearing (DHH) Special Day Class (SDC)
  • Teachers who, honestly, do not understand that DHH children can listen and speak, and who do not understand your child’s technology
  • Difficulties accessing instruction in the educational setting
  • Literacy: I have sat at Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings with families where the teacher of the deaf actually leaned in and told the mother not to worry about the fact that her sixth grader was reading at a third-grade level because “all deaf kids plateau at third grade.”
  • Limited educational audiology services
  • Clinical audiologists who don’t understand educational audiology and vice-versa
  • Educators who disagree with your choice regarding mode of communication
  • Misunderstandings related to the family’s language of choice

What steps can we take to ensure the best educational environment, as well as a positive relationship with the teachers?

  • Communicate with your school-district decision maker prior to your IEP meeting. Introduce yourself and your child, and establish an environment that is conducive to working as a team: I approach every IEP meeting with the attitude that everyone at the table wants the best for the child. There may be some information I can share that someone on the team did not know or learn about in their own education program. Teachers of the deaf, speech/language pathologists, administrators, and general educators have confirmed this to be an issue.
  • Record all IEP meetings. In California, we are required to give at least 24 hours notice so that the district can also bring a recorder. Check with your own school district for guidelines.
  • Never go to an IEP meeting alone. Having been at IEP meetings as both a parent and a professional for almost 20 years, I can assure you that there are moments when something is shared, either good or bad, that takes your mind off the meeting. Having a friend with you who knows what you want to cover, and can provide another set of ears, is always a good idea. Believe me, if you remember something you meant to say after the meeting is over, it is next to impossible to re-gather the entire team.
  • Never sign an IEP at the actual IEP meeting, even if everything has gone perfectly. You have the right to take the document home and review it prior to signing. In my professional experience I have found that district members of the IEP team respect this and appreciate the collaborative relationship. It’s much more productive than signing, only to find an error or omission later.

The IEP is only part of the information your school needs to ensure your child receives the best education possible. You can add to the school’s information stockpile by facilitating an in-service training for the staff. Bring someone in who can explain the best practices for teaching a deaf or hard-of-hearing child and turn the process of mainstreaming your son or daughter into a collaborative event with a big pay off at the end.

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The HearingLikeMe editorial team includes Jill von Bueren, Kirsten Brackett and Lisa Goldstein.
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The HearingLikeMe editorial team includes Jill von Bueren, Kirsten Brackett and Lisa Goldstein.