Mainstreaming & Accommodations
Five key strategies for parents to help support their children with hearing loss in school:
1. Develop an Effective IEP
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a plan developed by a team of professionals and parents to ensure needs for a student who is eligible for special education services are met.
A child’s IEP includes up-to-date performance indicators for everyone on the team to understand. Goals and objectives should be clearly written, measurable, and reflective of the student’s needs.
The IEP clearly identifies required accommodations, such as classroom listening technology, preferential seating, and media captioning. Accommodations may also include teaching new vocabulary ahead of time, shortened reading and writing assignments, supplemental materials for extra practice, alternative testing, or educational interpreters.
General educators are not trained to understand the impact that hearing loss has on learning. That’s where an IEP comes into play: It mandates professionals (such as teachers of the deaf and speech-language pathologists) train general education teachers on strategies that will support successful education of the student.
2. Ensure an Optimal Acoustic Environment
Classrooms are noisy places. Personal and sound-field systems plus noise-reduction materials such as acoustic ceiling tiles, carpeted floor areas, and fabric on window treatments and walls help promote focused learning—for all students. Creating floor plans and seating arrangements set away from noise sources such as hallway traffic and heating and cooling equipment help diminish typical classroom sound levels, too.
3. Establish Effective Communication and Collaboration
Information shared at IEP meetings should not be a surprise to any team member, including parents. Teachers of the deaf, speech therapists, general educators, and parents should communicate frequently and monitor progress.
It is helpful to establish an agreed-upon means of communication, such as email or a notebook to be shared for use at home and school, to keep all team members updated on what is happening on a daily or weekly basis with the child.
4. Provide Appropriate Support Services
A child’s IEP clearly states how much time teachers of the deaf and/or speech-language pathologists are working with your child in or outside of the classroom to provide services. This is in addition to time spent observing the student in the general education classroom; consulting with the general education teacher and co-teaching in the general education classroom; and offering special training for faculty, staff, and classmates.
5. Encourage Social Development and Self-Advocacy
It is easiest to enter a new situation when the environment is familiar. A child may feel more comfortable and better situated to succeed when they don’t need to learn classroom logistics, routines, and other children’s names—all at the same time.
Introducing a child to their teacher and a few classmates before the school year begins is a good way to improve their comfort in a new setting. Students who enter a new school setting with friends from the neighborhood or a shared special interest in sports, clubs, or activities are more likely to experience less stress.
Self-advocacy is a long-term learning process that starts when a hearing loss is identified. Help a child learn to care for their own hearing technology as soon as they can. Teach them to ask for clarification when they don’t understand. In this way, they can learn to take responsibility for their own needs so they can be independent.