Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Back-to-School with Cochlear Implants – What You Need to Know

By Eric Sherman

School is back in session. Is your child prepared?  I’m sure you’ve already purchased items such as, backpack, pencils, paper, pens, etc., but what about your child’s cochlear implant(s)?  If you are like our family and sending your child off to school with cochlear implants, there are things you should know to help your child succeed in the classroom.  

Cochlear implants have been around for more than 30 years, but it is amazing how few schools or teachers are aware of this wonderful technology.  In our experience, most teachers and schools have never worked with a student who has cochlear implants, and we are in the second largest school district in the country. 

The population of school aged children receiving cochlear implants is growing. Unfortunately, parents have to make sure teachers and schools are educated about their child’s cochlear implants and hearing needs.  If you child is entering a public school in the U.S. with a cochlear implant, you should have an IEP or a 504 plan agreement in place.  These are legal documents under the Individual Disability Education Act (IDEA) to insure your child receives the necessary support in the classroom.  

The Individualized Educational Program (IEP) or a 504 plan is developed to ensure that a child with a disability receives specialized instruction, related services, and accommodations that will ensure their academic success and access to the learning environment.  Similar laws or rights may exist in other countries.

seating for DHH student
Classroom seating arrangement is important
to the success of a DHH student.
When appropriate accommodations are provided children with cochlear implants do very well in mainstream classrooms or in a special education programs.  We have found that the following steps are helpful to our child’s success in the classroom: 
  • Pack a bag in your child’s backpack with extra accessories (i.e. sound cord, audio jacks, etc.), batteries and troubleshooting instructions with your contact info. 
  • Make sure the school has appropriate assistive listening equipment in place, per IEP or 504 plan, at the start of school year.  This is generally an FM system that can directly connect to your child’s processor(s).
  • Meet with teachers during the first week of school and explain how the cochlear implant works, troubleshooting, etc. If your child is old enough or has the ability to advocate for themselves, great!  If not, you’ll still want to discuss the following:

o     Optimal seating for hearing needs in the classroom
o    How to change batteries, sound cords and headpieces, different programs on processor
o    Breaks if needed.  The sounds of a noisy classroom can be overwhelming for some children and small breaks can be helpful.
o     Possible behaviors that might occur if the processors aren’t working properly
o     Speaking naturally, in a clear voice, not talking to fast or shouting
o     Making sure child is following along with instruction
o     Repeating questions and answers during class discussions
o    When using audio & video equipment making sure it can connect to assistive listening equipment
o  Explaining to the teacher the importance of using the assistive listening equipment (i.e. FM system, Roger Pen, etc.)

Every child entering school has different hearing needs and it’s good to look for resources that will best support your child.   We found Advanced Bionics Tools for Schools had a pretty comprehensive list of materials. They have communication logs, tips for teachers, assessment tools, as well as other information that could be helpful in addressing your child’s needs.

If your child participates in school sports, extra-curricular activities, or just plays on the playground, make sure you have an accessory that secures and helps protect the processors.    Our son uses the specialty shirt Ci Wear to secure his devices.

It’s important to be involved and collaborate in your child’s education.  Nobody knows your child’s hearing needs better than you do.  The more the school knows the greater success your child will have in the classroom. 

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