For kindergarten, he went to a typical full day classroom with the support of a speech and language therapist and a teacher for the deaf and there was some support from the New England Deafblind Consortium. He did awesome, we really took a leap with this because they took away the sign support and he was in a general education setting all day long and he actually finished out the school year reading at a first grade level. You know, we’re really proud of that because you hear all the statistics about deaf children topping out at a fourth grade reading level and we’re both educators so we’re well aware of what the possibilities are but again, we view him as a whole so we work with him as a whole and have done that his whole life and gotten him to a place where we know he’s really going to succeed.
It’s really hard to go from a setting of a teacher, a parent, and six kids to a teacher, a parent, and twenty two kids who are equally needy for lots of different reasons. Some of them have needs that are unidentified, so I would say to a parent to be aware that if your child is mainstreamed we would like to think that they will stand out because we see their needs as clearly identified and we know what the intervention is going to be, but there are probably half of the other students in the classroom who have never had an educational experience and have a lot of other needs, so the teacher is juggling both the high needs of your child as well as all these other little ones who are making demands on them and they don’t know what to do yet.
For parents of little ones who are going into a formal academic setting it is really important to remember that you probably have more answers than that school might have because you’ve been working on it for a longer time than that school. You need to be patient and walk that fine line between pushing to make sure that the attention is there and the teacher is going that extra mile, but also be sensitive to the fact that there are twenty other children being supported. And sometimes you feel like you are being a pain, but that’s ok because that’s your job, to advocate for your child. But you can’t advocate for your child in a way that makes the recipient feel like they don’t want to be in a partnership with you. And this is an ongoing learning experience. And there was a moment in time when I did not push very hard because I was worried about the perception and then there were moments when I walked out of the school thinking nobody was going to take my phone call the next time. But the FM system got fixed and they made sure to change the channels on the other kids in the school’s FM so my son wasn’t hearing instruction from the kids in fifth grade down the hall.
Also, finding out how to help your child to be a self-advocate is huge because you’re not there 90% of the time. So having my son be able to remind the teacher to turn off the FM system when his teacher leaves the room or turn it on or that one of his aids isn’t working or that he might need a new battery. All of these things I can’t help him with when he’s at school so he needs to know that it’s ok to ask and it’s actually part of his responsibility and this has been a part of the process as well.
He was in a preschool for two years before he got to a school for kids with hearing loss, so prior to that I had to educate a lot of teachers. I wasn’t qualified so I had to figure a lot of it out as I went along, like asking them to do simple things, like making sure that he is looking at you when you are talking to him or if they are outside playing and there are lots of kids out there and playing with lots of noise you have to get his attention… I mean, on the one hand we were presenting a kid who has lots of language and was very articulate and clear with his speech and didn’t present as if he was deaf or hard of hearing but it made it so much harder for teachers to pay attention to what he needed in order to get all of the instruction or everything that was needed. At one point it would become very evident that he was hearing something very different from what they were saying and you would see the light bulb go off and they would say, “Oh ok you were right.” So that was the mainstream preschool experience.
She is mainstreamed. She wears her implants and does everything with the class. She graduated from speech therapy and doesn’t have that anymore. She still has pull out time to catch up with school work or for enrichment, depending on where she is in her subjects. She loves it and she’s doing great. She has a new FM so hopefully she’ll get a little more sound in both ears.
She’s always been mainstreamed. She was in an integrated preschool program so that half the kids had other issues, not necessarily hearing loss, and half the kids were “typically developing” kids. When she first started kindergarten her language still was significantly delayed. Her hearing loss wasn’t identified until she was one. She just missed the newborn screening.
Mainstreamed With Accommodations
She’s doing very well at school. She’s in a mainstream classroom and we’ve made accommodations. She has an FM system. She has acoustic tiles and carpeting on the floor. So that all helps. This year, she has a male teacher. His voice, he’s in theater and his voice projects so nicely that I’ve noticed a difference from last year and her fatigue level when she comes home from school this year. You don’t realize how hard they’re working to listen all day long.
Evan and Tom are both at regular school. They each have interpreters. They rely on them a lot.
Public School With a Language Facilitator
We really wanted him to go to the local public school. They were willing to hire a language facilitator who also had knowledge of sign language. They were also willing to contract out for speech and language therapy with somebody who had experience with deaf and hard of hearing children. So we were very fortunate.
Separate and Integrated Classrooms
The classroom has eleven children with special needs. They integrate for music, gym, and cafeteria. She does stuff with the whole school too, so they all know her. As I look back, I remember when she was three: she potty trained late and she couldn’t focus, I was freaking out! And now to think that she’s taking the bus and going to our local school; she’s come a long way!