As this month’s topic for #HearingLossHour is ‘Back to School’ so I thought I’d share some of my tips for deaf children, teenagers or parents of children with a hearing loss about school, but first I’d like to share my story.
Let’s rewind back 14 years ago when I first started Primary School. For my parents, it was a huge step in my life, as a profoundly deaf child going to mainstream school. As the only deaf child in my school, my parents said I made many friends and that they noticed that the younger children were, the more accepting they were about others with disabilities and differences.
Fast forward 7 years to my first day of High School. I was petrified! Coming from a small primary school to a big state boarding school was a huge step in my life. On my first day of school, I waved a teary goodbye to my dad as he dropped me off. I walked through the doors wearing my big, baggy blazer, with my tie done as neatly as possible, dragging a huge school bag along. I walked past so many students who were in my year, to the corner at the back of the room. I didn’t know anybody and everyone seemed to know each other. Shortly after, a girl came over to me and we sat together and talked. She then became my best friend throughout my high school life.
It was very nerve wracking getting used to high school, as I was always conscious about how hard it was to make friends due to my hearing loss. Most people were understanding, some weren’t, but that’s what it’s like in life. I got on well with teachers at school and with the extra hard work and determination I gave, along with the equipment and support I received, I achieved grades that my parents and I never thought was possible with my level of hearing loss.
The one motto I like to share, is that deaf people can achieve anything they dream of, given the right support. Never let anyone or anything stop them!
This is a great way to get to know the environment which your child will be learning in. It’s also good to meet with the teachers to discuss what’s best for your child and how they can help. It’s a good idea to share some deaf awareness tips.
Children with a severe-profound hearing loss can be entitled to support in class, such as a note taker, interpreter or classroom assistant. This can be discussed with school prior to a new school year. Without support, deaf children can struggle in classroom situations and it can impact their grades and they might not achieve their full potential. They might also be entitled to regular support from a Teacher of the Deaf, this will vary on the Education System.
Phonak has some great technology, such as the Roger Inspiro for younger children and the Roger Pen for older children. These microphones amplify the teacher’s voice over background noise, which will help them lipread or understand better. If you’re thinking of getting a Roger Pen, here are 7 Tips for using a Phonak Roger Pen. One tip specifically for going back-to-school: If you do use this equipment, always make sure it is charged up the night before class!
This is a great way of helping the student make new friends, by joining a club or group where they share similar interests. Commitment to this kind of activity also looks great on your CV/ resume for the future.
If I could tell my teenage self this at school, always keep spare hearing aid batteries in your bag, locker and with your support worker! (Because I didn’t have these rechargeable hearing aids.) I have had multiple days where my hearing aids have died on me in class and my Mum wasn’t able to bring some to school! You’ll never know how difficult it was to learn in complete silence.
As well as working really hard, it is also important to take time out to relax, socialise and enjoy other hobbies.
One thing that my parents have learned from having a deaf child, is that you should encourage them to make their own decisions, choose subjects they would like to study and make sure you encourage them to try new things.
I had to study foreign languages, music and drama at school. I tried them all. Music and frama didn’t work for me, so I was allowed to use these lessons for extra studying. But for foreign languages, I studied German from Year 7 until A Level! I achieved Grade A* for GCSE and Grade C for A Level.
You may also remember my blog: ‘My teacher told me I shouldn’t… because I am deaf’ – if you give it a read, you’ll notice I did Media A Level and achieved a Grade A! Don’t doubt deaf children’s abilities, they can do anything they set out to achieve with the right resources!