Information Packet For Your Child's Teacher
All of us wonder just what info we need to give to our children's teachers. Cheryl tells us what she does:
Last year, when my son entered grade 5, I simplified the stuff I gave to teachers. Each teacher now gets a duo-tang tabbed with headers: medical information, care of FM and processor, TEACHER TIPS (I make this divider a bright colour), questions they may wish to ask me or my son (e.g. who are your friends in class...), and a section on another medical area which affects my son but is not related to hearing impairment.
The teachers tell me they like the format [tabs, easy to focus on what they need, brief (you should have seen what I used to send them... a mini-course on hearing impairment. And I still met with them...)] Anyway, I modeled this on at least five different write-ups created by therapists, parents, etc. Here is a copy of this years (1999-2000) information packet for 8th grade. Hope it helps people to make their own (which fits their needs, of course).
Imagine sitting in a smaller room listening to a speaker on a microphone. The speaker has a strong accent that is difficult to follow. You must strain to concentrate on what is being said. That's our son's experience each minute of each day under the best sound conditions (with the fm, a room with carpet/drapes, & no fans or external noise).
Now imagine the same speaker moving away from the microphone. The further he moves away, the less you hear. Even a meter away from the mic, you hear far less than when he was half a meter from the mic. That's our son's experience without the fm. His ear-level mic is good, but it is only a mic.
Imagine the speaker speaking into a mic in a gym with poor acoustics. Harder to hear? That's our son's experience when acoustics are bad (no carpets, etc). He must lipread to compensate and only 50% of speech can be lipread by the best speechreaders (go to a mirror and say mother and brother and see how close they are; many sounds look the same on the lips). It's frustrating for him.
We ask you to remember his struggle. While he needs extra assistance, he can learn well. Without the extra assistance, he will not learn. Just as we do not take another child's glasses away and say, "I expect you to see with normal vision" we never remove the supports our son needs to learn. These are included in the tips that follow. We know it is time-consuming to give necessary information to us and help him. However, we also know that as teachers we are responsible to help children learn in any way they can. It is in this spirit that we ask you to help us help our son learn. Let us know whatever we can do. We are more than willing to preteach/review/remediate.
A FEW FACTS
Our son heard nothing until he was 3 1/2 yrs old. Now his speech awareness is within conversational levels. He discriminates nicely, with auditory understanding of language in good acoustic surroundings (rugs, drapes, sound-absorbing items). Classrooms with other flooring and open areas such as gyms are a significant challenge for him.
HIS IMPLANT: Information about his cochlear implant goes here.
VOCABULARY AND LANGUAGE: We have worked daily on this since he was 3 1/2. Still, his vocabulary is limited, and his understanding less than that of his hearing peers. DISTANCE AND NOISE LIMIT HIM. We have chosen a FM system to help this.
OUR SON HEARS ON ONLY ONE SIDE so he cannot localize sound (he doesn't know from where it's coming).
MEDICAL HISTORY: Information about his medical history goes here.
THE MAP: The MAP in his processor determines how he hears. Every once in a while, we must change his hearing (literally). This can trouble him tremendously. Other information about his MAP goes here.
EDUCATIONAL HISTORY: We decided to try the implant because sign can be limiting in terms of language and reading. Since 3.5, our son has made giant steps. At that age, he had no language. We know we must try always to give him the special help he needs to make it. Our son's cognitive skills are good. He breaks down in conversation when presented with new question forms or statements. Sometimes he may not give an answer, not because he doesn't know it, but because he doesn't understand the question. Please rephrase and tell me the problem. I will teach him anything you wish.
HINTS, SUGGESTIONS, IDEAS:
(I make these in brief form. I am trying to summarize data from 11 sources on the education of the hearing-impaired in a few lines. Please feel free to call me if you have any concerns. Thanks for your help and patience.)
Seat him at the front and to the side so he can see who's talking.
Keep the class quiet during instruction so he can hear.
Seat him away from major noise sources (eg. heating ducts). Children with hearing loss listen with eyes & ears. Assign his seat no more than 5-10 feet from you.
Do not stand in front of a sunlit window (hard to speechread)
Ask him an occasional question related to the subject (NOT just "Do you understand?") to be certain he's following the discussion.
He'll function best in a structured classroom --- where rules and expectations are clear & academic tasks clearly expressed
Encourage him to ask for repetition when he doesn't understand. If he still doesn't understand, rephrase the question/statement.
VOCABULARY: it's EXTREMELY HELPFUL to give key words in upcoming material (stories, tests, new concepts) so we may preview
It is desirable to have him read ahead on a subject or topic so he can become familiar with vocabulary. Again, I can do this. Give me the key words.
Write assignments (homework/upcoming tests) on the board so he can copy them in his agenda. I will check this regularly
Children with impaired hearing become tired easily from the continuous strain from efforts to keep up. He's fresher after a break.
Visual aids (mapping, notes on board) are absolutely necessary. Overheads are wonderful, but the noise may prevent his hearing a lot.
Don't talk if facing the blackboard (write; then turn & talk) or move around the room too much if talking (it's hard to speechread constantly moving targets)
Appoint a buddy for him so he does not miss announcements, etc.
No oral tests.
I will review anything at home; too many new directions confuse. He may need help with organization.
When you introduce a new topic, write the title on the chalkboard. List new or difficult vocabulary. He will bring home his notebooks regularly so we'll reinforce or pre-teach.
Before you ask him a question, say his name, get his attention.
I will check his agenda daily. Please be sure he has homework written down. Be sure to give homework expected to the homeroom teacher so it may be recorded on the board.
Check his notebook. Did he get the assignment properly? He will tell you he did. Please check.
Talk at a reasonable pace, with clarity and in shorter sentences.
Try not to walk around when giving instruction. He cannot see your face.
Shut the door of the classroom to cut down on background noise and distractions.
Reword if he does not understand.
If you don't understand his speech, calmly ask him to repeat once. The kids will pick up your attitude.
WRITE KEY IDEAS ON THE BOARD. He absolutely cannot sort through what is important and take notes while listening. He MUST BE GIVEN NOTES if you are expecting note-taking skills. This is a major adaptation we must have in place. In upper grades and at university/college, he can have note-takers. For now, if you need this type of service, select a stronger student and I will provide carbon paper so our son may have a copy of the notes. He can rewrite these at home. HE CAN LISTEN OR TAKE NOTES DOWN. HE CANNOT DO BOTH.
Learn how to use the Closed Captioner on the TV (see next page).
Reduce background noise as much as possible during instruction. Turn off overheads, etc.
Speak in a normal tone of voice into the FM. Do not wear any jewelry with the FM or cause the FM mic you wear to rub against anything.
FOR TESTS: we need a study guide sent home so we can help him focus on key concepts.
DURING DISCUSSION/GROUP WORK
Encourage him to face the pupils speaking. Remember, our son does not know where sound comes from (he cannot localize sound), so you must identify the speaker for him.
When directing class discussion, it is advantageous to supply him with a written set of discussion questions ahead of time (if the discussion is complex). I can preview these so he can tune in.
Before introducing a new topic for class discussion, help him become familiar with the new vocabulary (I will do this if you send it home.)
In classes where lecture notes are a critical part of the course, put the notes on the board or read them to the class. If the students are to take notes and listen, our son cannot do this (it's impossible to speechread and take notes at the same time). He should use another student's notes to supplement his own.
PLEASE, if you ask the children questions, repeat the correct answers so our son may hear them. Otherwise, he won't know what anyone said!
Encourage one speaker at a time. Two is beyond him.
Encourage him to join in discussion. It is a weak point for him. He finds it hard to follow and tunes out.
In assemblies, the speaker could wear the FM so our son can hear.
Learn to use the closed captioner on the tv. He can't yet distinguish conversation on t.v. or film. It's often too fast-paced or too distorted for him.
If you use films where he needs the content, send a summary home (often one is supplied with the film) and I can review with him before the film (pre-teaching).
When possible, pass the FM transmitter to whomever is doing the talking in class (esp. during presentations).
Develop the habit of summarizing (eg. These are the important things we learned in science today: 1. _______ 2. __________)
If he's in a group, he may find using his FM a problem (it may be easier for him to hear without it). He will tell you.
CARE OF THE PROCESSOR AND FM UNIT
Our son changes processor batteries himself (extras in backpack)
With other children - convey an accepting attitude. Explain he wears the processor/F.M. to help him hear (as glasses help eyesight). He talks differently because he hears differently.
Our son's G.P. is Dr. -------- (contact info goes here). If he falls directly on his implant, it can break, but this is improbable. His balance is a little off. If an emergency happens, little hurts the implant (an x-ray is fine).
He cannot get the processor wet or sandy. I'll supply baggies if you feel he may get damp or sandy in an activity.
He must avoid heavy static; it damages the implant. He removes his processor when going down slides or on a trampoline. He can't participate in the Science Center's static show!
Allow him to remove the FM at recess and during P.Ed. It's less weight for him and takes seconds. He's responsible for his own F.M.
If our son's F.M. system makes noises, he should take it off, return it to the charger, and continue listening. This means he must watch closely & sit closer to you, but it's better than his missing portions of a lesson. Tell his resource room teacher of the problem. She will alert me and I will troubleshoot that night.
When the F.M. is not working, he is to bring the unit home. I do tests, try new cords, replace the battery, and troubleshoot. If necessary, I will send it for repair and inform you.
This booklet is designed to
- give you some tips which will be useful in teaching our son
-be as short as I can make it
Essentially, we ask you to remember we do expect many accommodations, but we do not expect you to do this on your own. We want, very much, to help. Send home information/vocab/concepts ahead of time. No matter how busy we are, we will get previewing done. It can really help (since, as you probably know, one hour of preview is worth two hours of study after a concept has been taught). We appreciate all your efforts.