If your child has a hearing impairment, it can be not easy to know how best to support them in school. Here are some tips that can help make the process a little easier. First, make sure you talk to your child's teacher and get as much information as possible about what they are doing in class and what accommodations have been put in place.
You may also want to consider meeting with the school's special education coordinator to discuss your child's needs. Be sure to stay involved and ask questions; you know your child best and offer valuable insight into how they learn and what might work best for them. Your child can succeed in school with a little support, just like any other student!
What Is A Hearing Impairment?
Hearing impairment and deafness are not necessarily the same thing. Hearing loss greater than 90 decibels is generally categorised as deafness, but any impediment to hearing – whether temporary, permanent or fluctuating – impacts not only a child's experience in the classroom but their social and emotional development, literacy skills and speech and language abilities.
Frequently Asked Questions
If possible, arrange the desks or tables in a large circle to see and respond to others in the class. It will help the student feel engaged and included, even if they can't always hear what's been said.
The findings show that the hard of hearing students faced four challenges; disruption to comprehend the lesson, not being familiar with the online devices and being emotionally affected during online classes.
Untreated hearing loss causes delays in the development of speech and language, and those delays then lead to learning problems, often resulting in poor school performance. And parents may not realise that their child can hear but not understand. Over time, though, this catches up to them in school.
Hearing loss can affect a child's development of speech and language skills. When a child has difficulty hearing, the areas of the brain used for communication may not develop appropriately. As a result, it makes understanding and talking very difficult.
Hearing sounds and words helps children learn to talk and understand. A child with hearing loss misses out on these sounds. It can cause speaking, reading, school success, and social skills problems. It is important to have your child tested if you think he has trouble hearing.
How Can I Spot Signs Of Hearing Impairment In A Child?
While hearing impairments are often identified in babies, they may not develop or make themselves known for several years. Nevertheless, it means that it's important to keep an eye out for the signs of hearing impairment in the classroom, particularly in young children – as at some point in your career, you could find that you are teaching a child with an undiagnosed hearing impairment.
Here are some of the common signs of hearing impairments that you can look for in young children:
- Not responding when their name is called
- Problems with concentration, excessive tiredness and frustration with work that starts to affect their behaviour
- Watching your lips intently as you speak
- Speaking too loudly or too quietly
- Watching others do something before attempting it themselves
- Becoming withdrawn from others in the classroom
- Delayed speech and communication development
- Mishearing or mispronouncing words
- Not being able to hear what's happening if there is any background noise
- Making minimal contributions to classroom discussion
- Difficulty with reading and linking it to speech
How Does Hearing Impairment Affect Learning?
Deaf and hard of hearing children struggle at every stage of their education, with only 44% leaving school with two or more A-Levels, and 43% reaching the expected standard for reading, writing and maths at key stage 2 (KS2) when finishing primary school. Hearing and learning go hand-in-hand, so the impairment of this function means much more for a child than simply struggling to hear. Any hearing impairment that is not handled effectively harms a child's development, preventing them from taking in new information and learning to interact, relating to others, and making friends.
A child whose hearing impairment negatively affects their learning is likely to withdraw further into themselves throughout their education, which has a knock-on effect throughout the rest of their life. In addition, the frustration of being unable to express themselves and communicate both inwardly and outwardly is highly damaging. It can impact future employment and their relationships with both others and themselves.
Everyday frustrations in the classroom are not as simple as an absence of individual attention from the teacher. A child with a hearing impairment does not necessarily require constant additional help but rather a mindful and sensitive approach to teaching the whole class – not facing the whiteboard to speak, minimising background noise and using visual aids as much as possible.
Here Are Some Guidelines For The Parents Of Deaf Children To Remember As Their Kids Are Learning To Read:
Learn To Sign. Parents need to teach their children how to communicate and communicate with them. Learning to sign is very important because children need constant exposure to the language they are learning, especially at home.
Focus On Visuals. Picture books are great for helping a deaf child learn to read. Sign-spell, the word to your child, point to the printed word and the accompanying picture, and then use the sign for the word. If you are teaching your child to read lips, have the child point to the picture, point to the word, and then watch your mouth as you slowly and deliberately speak the word.
Use Letter Cards. Another way to help children develop language and reading skills is to use letter cards. You can use letter cards to demonstrate how individual letters form words. You can even make a phonics word wheel to help! For example, demonstrate the difference between vowels and consonants by putting letter card combinations into different piles. Then you can also show how a vowel often follows one or two consonants. You could aim to teach your child a new combination every day.
Build Vocabulary. Just as you should with any child developing their language fluency, try introducing a new vocabulary word every day. Work that word into conversations and display the word on your fridge or a wall next to a picture of the signed letters for the word.
Focus On The Positive. Instead of concentrating on the disadvantages of being deaf, think of the child as "seeing" instead of "hearing." Being deaf makes your child unique and gives them an outlook on life that most people don't get to see. Remember that just because you have to use a different approach to teach reading skills doesn't mean deaf children can't be successful.
Adjust Your Environment. Deaf learners need a visual environment to thrive. A helpful activity might help your child label items in their room and around the house—such as doors, mirrors, beds – with a label that has the written word. If you are doing activities with your child (especially for homeschool parents), incorporate many visual aids into the lessons.
Comprehension Test. Remember that good signing skills are not a reflection of good reading skills, though it helps. Make sure that your children understand what they are reading by pointing to a picture or a printed word and having them give the sign back to you. As language and reading skills advance, ask your children questions about the characters and plot.
Strategies For Supporting A Child With Hearing Impairment In School
Children with hearing impairments must be given the right support as early as possible. If you have a child with hearing impairment in your class, teaching in a way that fully supports them may seem a daunting prospect, but there is plenty of support and many ideas available.
A radio aid is a microphone worn by the teacher that connects to a hearing aid and can also be passed to other pupils during activities such as group reading. It will help the child to feel part of the class and ensure that they don't miss any important information.
A communication support worker or learning support assistant can greatly help schools with the budget to employ one. Whether in the classroom all or some of the time, they can ensure the child is supported while you can give proportionate attention to other pupils.
Make sure that you don't turn away from the class while talking and ensure that the child has understood every task or instruction (and they aren't automatically looking to copy others after you have spoken). You can also set the child right at the front of the class to give them the best possible learning opportunity as hearing technologies only have an optimal range of one to three metres.
Meet With Parents Regularly.
Having an open line of communication with the child's parents will help to ensure that the child has consistent support both at school and home. In addition, meeting with the parents face-to-face will enable you to discuss any concerns and track the child's progress. So often, the child may confide in the parents about issues they are struggling with, which they are too embarrassed to bring up in the classroom.
A 'hearing Buddy.'
If the child has to take off their hearing aid at any point during the day (for example, during a sports lesson), you can allocate them a 'hearing buddy' (perhaps their closest friend) who can help to repeat any information that the child may have missed.
Although being bullied can happen to any child, children who are considered different in some way can be targeted by bullies. It can be because the hard of hearing child's teaching arrangements are different. After all, they look different due to wearing a hearing aid or not picking up on social cues from their peers. The child could also find it harder to make friends and have a reduced ability to stand up for themselves. Childline has lots of advice and support available for deaf or hard of hearing in their 'Deaf Zone', which you can refer children to who are old enough to use the website.
There are also ways in which a teacher can prevent bullying:
Raising awareness in the school — you can teach empathy and kindness. For example, celebrating Deaf Awareness Week at school will open discussions about hard-of-hearing children's challenges and increase understanding. In addition, your class could hold a school assembly in mime to the rest of the school. Your students could also put themselves in the child with hearing impairments shoes by learning to sign their names or participating in a sponsored silence.
Foster a sense of community in the classroom — in this way, other students will watch out for bullying and make a stand against it. For example, you could have class morning meetings where students are encouraged to share their experiences, and you can establish any class rules together, including anti-bullying ideas.
Be aware of 'gateway behaviours' and nip them in the bud — things like eye-rolling and ignoring, cruel laughter, excluding, or staring can signal to bully or lead to escalated bullying. The child laughing may not realise the deep and lasting psychological impact they could be having on the child they are laughing at (especially if the child who is being bullied is pretending to laugh back), so class discussion, rather than focusing on one child's behaviour, can be helpful.
Instructional And Environmental Strategies:
- For Students Using the Bilingual/Bicultural Method
- Let the child see the book, your face and signs simultaneously.
- Don't be limited by the print - expand on pictures.
- Be dramatic - use props, exaggerate, use facial expression, eye gaze, body shift to show different characters.
- Vary location of signing - on book, on the child, etc.
- Read a story several times if a child asks.
- Act out the story together after reading it.
- Utilise the whole language philosophy.
- Use signed English, Cued Speech, and more fingerspelling to clarify differences between ASL and printed English.
- Encourage students to translate between sign language and English and connect all modes presented.
For Any Child Who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing
- Use multimedia approaches for a visual representation of lesson content. Powerpoint presentations and interactive whiteboards are preferable to traditional chalkboards, as the teacher does not need to turn their back to the students. It is especially important for students who rely on speechreading, sign language, Cued Speech, and listening for receptive communication.
- Offer systematic vocabulary instruction. The most effective approaches emphasise numerous techniques, such as semantic maps, semantic feature analyses, word maps, and classroom discussion of words. Overexposure through repetition and varied formats is often essential.
- When using visuals, allow students to view the board, projected image, or objects, watch the explanation/instruction given by the teacher or through the educational interpreter, and only then allow students to offer responses. A hearing person can view visuals and listen at the same time. Students who are deaf and hard of hearing, especially those who rely on visual communication through sign language, Cued Speech or speechreading, must process information sequentially rather than simultaneously. Students who use cochlear implant technology require processing time as well.
- Pre-teach vocabulary for upcoming science, mathematics and social science lessons in context. Collaboration with the speech-language pathologist and resource teacher can be beneficial. Remember, deaf and hard of hearing students typically do not learn words incidentally; explicit instruction is necessary.
- Base instructional strategies on the individual's receptive and expressive communication strengths.
- Provide an enriched language environment that promotes a wide range of meaningful experiences with receptive, expressive (through the air) and written language opportunities.
- Provide a peer or professional in the learning environment with whom the student can interact and effectively provide the vocabulary to label objects and a language model for expressing concepts and ideas, using the student's primary mode of communication.
- Regardless of the communication modality used, make print an important part of everyday routines, and emphasise the value of reading and writing in varied, meaningful activities throughout the day.
- Partner with families. Maintain ongoing communication between the home and teachers, so that vocabulary and language concepts are reflected and reinforced in as many situations as possible. Make families aware of the limitless opportunities in the home for language enrichment during daily routines and determine whether the family members can communicate effectively in the student's chosen mode.
- Before reading a selection, encourage class discussions to benefit from one another's connections to the text, building students' background knowledge of concepts and vocabulary.
- Ensure that all involved are consistent in the signs used for students who sign. Use conceptually based signs and avoid inventing signs for new vocabulary. Be sure that students learn the conceptually accurate signs for phrases and multiple-meaning words and use them while reading. While fingerspelling a word may indicate that a student may not know the meaning, be sure to encourage and use recognised lexicalised signs (recognised signs made from blending letters from the manual/fingerspelled alphabet to form a fingerspelled sign. example: the ASL sign for "bus" is made by fingerspelling B-U-S).
- Guide students to formulate questions first, then answer their questions through reading. It may help improve their word recognition skills, comprehension, analytical skills, and drawing inferences.
- Reinforce phonemic awareness through visuals (demonstrations, pictures, and software programs) that show the placement of articulators.
- Discuss in an IEP team meeting how you will introduce phonemes consistently. Even students with the most profound hearing losses may benefit from phonemic awareness enhanced with visual-gestural strategies such as See-the-Sound Visual Phonics or Cued Speech.
- Incorporate speaking and signing, consistently listening/receiving visual communication, and reading and writing activities. Literacy involves all four components.
- Teach students who use sign language to deliver classroom presentations in sign. The student and the educational interpreter should practice together before a presentation to ensure that the interpreter is familiar with the material and accurately represents the student's work.
- Remember that language precedes literacy. Students will not understand language expressed in print until they understand language presented through listening and spoken language, sign language, Cued Speech, etc.
- Remember that no instructional strategy, however differentiated, will be effective if the student does not comprehend a speaker's communication attempts.
- Provide an enriched learning environment that promotes a wide range of meaningful experiences with opportunities to read about and discuss historical events, past and present.
- Use more than one mode of presentation for abstract concepts. These may include manipulatives (cubes, puppets, action figures), verbal (word problems matching equations, role-playing, debates), pictorial (timelines), and symbolic modes (graphic organisers). Encourage students to translate between sign language and English and connect all modes presented. Pictures, drawing sets, and visualising or pantomiming actions may move from concrete to abstract.
- Relate events in history with students' personal experiences through a dialogic process.
- Emphasise the role of deaf and hard of hearing individuals in various historical events.
- Encourage students to process information at a deeper level through questioning.
- Provide an enriched learning environment that promotes a wide range of meaningful experiences with opportunities for exploration and problem-solving.
- Note that word problems may be especially difficult for some deaf and hard of hearing students because of the literacy level needed to comprehend the problem. Having the educational interpreter sign the word problem may be appropriate for some students.
- Introduce maths word problems as informal stories with maths facts through dramatisation, interactive boards or overhead projection with manipulatives; then translate the action into a maths sentence. Students can also use pictures, drawing sets, and visualising or pantomiming the action in a problem to move from the concrete to more abstract representations of a word problem.
If your child has a hearing impairment, there are ways you can help them in school. First and foremost, it's important to advocate for your child and ensure that they get the accommodations they need. You can also work with the teacher to create a specialised learning plan to help your child succeed academically. Then, with some extra effort on your part, you can make sure that your child feels supported at school and has every opportunity to thrive.