Enjoying the summer holidays? Fantastic! But in the back of your mind, you’re probably thinking about the new school year, which is only a few weeks away!
Have you got the right support in place for your deaf child?
I see lots of posts on social media and receive messages to my Deafie Blogger page (link www.facebook.com/deafieblogger/ ) from parents of deaf children, about what support their child should be receiving at school, and what technology they could be using.
I don’t feel there’s enough information and advice being given to parents from health services about the kind of support there is available and the importance of ensuring they have this support in place to fulfil their potential.
Fear not… I have come equipped with my Back to School Guide!
Some of these things you might have already thought of, some of you may not, but best to be prepared!
- Get prepared!
Parents know their child better than anyone! Try to pre-empt potential problems before they arise and put in as many things in place to ensure your child has a smooth transition back into the school year.
Talk to your child, find out how they are feeling, what concerns they have, ask them what worked previously and what they’d like to see improve. Perhaps ask if you can visit the school or classroom beforehand, so your child can get a glimpse of the situation they will be in and it may help to reduce their nerves.
Pack their bag the day the day before, it will be one less thing for them to worry about. Don’t forget to pack spare hearing aid/CI batteries!
- Consult your child’s Teacher of the Deaf (TOD)
TOD’s are the wonders of your deaf child’s school life! They understand the ins and outs of the school system and also deafness, and what support your child should be getting.
Ensure you/TOD and the school have agreed on an Educational Health and Care Plan (EHCP) (previously SEN) that works for your child, including getting the right support that they need, whether a 1-1 Support Worker, Notetaker, BSL interpreter etc as well as technology, see below! No matter what level of hearing loss your child has, if they need support, make sure they get it!
They will also help the school to prepare, by ensuring the teachers are aware of how to help deaf children achieve their full potential by making adjustments necessary.
- Check out assistive hearing technologies
There’s lots of amazing gadgets and assistive technologies to help your deaf child in school. For example, the Phonak Roger Microphone, Soundfield Systems and many more. Organisations such as National Deaf Children’s Society have Technology Test Drives where you can test them out before the school purchases them, to see if they work well for your child.
- Speak to your child’s teachers
Getting to know the teachers who will be spending time with your child on a daily basis is important! Ensure you let them know your child’s access needs, classroom layouts, Deaf Awareness training, all this your TOD can help with.
This is a time to ask any questions and iron out any issues. Examples are; group work situations and ensuring that your child will be fully involved, tests or exam situations and access arrangements i.e. extra time/separate room/someone to read or BSL interpret tests.
- Arrange a meet up with your child’s classmates!
Social situations can be difficult for deaf children. Perhaps arrange a meet up so they can get to know each other before the school year starts. A game of bowling or a trip to the park can be great icebreakers!
Don’t forget to gently remind them to face your child when speaking, as children can easily forget. ToyLikeMe (http://www.toylikeme.org/ ) toys are fantastic to play with, as they feature children with disabilities and it shows to the other children that everyone is unique!
- Fight for their support and inspire them!
If there’s a subject that you/or the teachers may think they can’t do – let them try it. You never know, they may end up surprising you! I certainly surprised my parents when doing A Level German!
Some subjects may not work out for them, i.e. music – so instead of doing a subject that they may not do well in, ask if they can use those lesson times for catching up on other important subjects. It’s better to do well in less, than average over more subjects.
There are lots of Facebook groups for parents of deaf children, and there’s a #HearingLossHour on the 1st Wednesday every month 1-2pm on Twitter – perfect to share any concerns or experiences you have with other parents.
If your child feels uncertain about their future or how well they are doing at school, tell them to try their best, it’s all they can do! Work hard and it’ll be worth it. There are lots of inspirational D/deaf people for them to look up to, have a look on social media to see who you can find!
My motto is ‘deaf children can achieve anything they dream of, given the right support’. If you feel what the school is saying doesn’t fit in with your child’s needs, fight for it. Don’t give up! The rewards will be worth it when they have all the support they need.