I realized it was a brave new world when my son, who is entering high school this September, told me that he’d like to put together a power point presentation for his new classmates to educate them about hearing loss! After 14 years, he has put me out of business! It used to be me, coming to school each year with children’s books about hearing loss and teacher’s guides to students with hearing loss. Now, I am thrilled at his independence and sense of comfort with his hearing loss and looking at some free time at the beginning of the school year!
Helping a child start middle or high school on the right foot can feel like a big job. After many years in the same elementary school, where teachers and students had years to get to know and to get used to a child with hearing loss, a big new school can feel overwhelming for your child and for you! Here are some ideas to help make the transition as smooth as possible:
Call the principal or guidance counselor and ask for a meeting with you and your child. This will give your child an opportunity to find out more about the school. Ask for a tour of the building and a floor plan of the building. Having this information before school starts means that your child will not feel as lost on the first day.
Ask for a list of your child’s teachers. Discuss with the principal or guidance counselor if it is possible to meet with all of the teachers at once (perhaps during professional days in the week before the first day of school) or if not, ask for email addresses to write a message to the teachers with information about your child, his/her hearing technology and learning needs in the classroom.
Ask for a class list of the other kids in your child’s class. Look it over – do you know some of them? Does your child? You can offer to host a “meet the class” event like a picnic or BBQ for the whole class. If that seems too overwhelming, you can invite just a couple of families of kids on the class list who you know or have a connection to. This gives your child the chance to get to know a few kids before school starts.
Ask for as much information in writing as possible. Lists of extra-curricular activities, the daily schedule, and school year calendar, the dress code and other rules, for example. As kids get older, a lot of information tends to flow informally through word of mouth, when tryouts for band are, that so-and-so got in trouble for doing this or the other. Kids with hearing loss are at risk for missing these important bits of information, since they may be whispered around but not discussed clearly. Anything in writing is helpful because it doesn’t have to be discovered, it is already known when school begins.
Find out who your child can turn to if he/she encounters any problems. Do this ahead of time. There needs to be one professional in the school who your child knows he/she can approach for help if an academic or social concern arises. Get this person’s phone number and email and convenient times to call. Make sure your child knows when this person is in school and where to find him/her.
Make plans for tutoring in subjects that may be challenging to your child. Sometimes it is very clear and obvious what kind of academic help your child will need in middle or high school. For a child who struggled with reading all through elementary school, will probably need help getting started in middle school too. Discuss this with your child’s teacher from the grade he/she just completed and with the speech therapist. You can ask them to recommend tutors who have good reputations working with children your child’s age and learning style. If you are not sure of your child will need a tutor, have the contact information on hand, so that you can respond quickly if you find out that your child does need some help.
Find out from your child how he/she wants to handle talking about his/her hearing loss. After many years in an elementary school, everyone gets used to your child and his/her hearing technology. It might be good to explain hearing aids or cochlear implants to your child’s new class and offer them a chance to ask questions and learn more about them. But, your child may not feel comfortable being the focus of attention and might prefer to answer questions one-on-one as they come up. Respect your child’s sense of how to handle this delicate issue.
Put a juice box and granola bar in the small pocket of your child’s backpack. There is a saying that “the army moves on its stomach” – aren’t we all a little like that? It’s a “low tech” tip, but it can help a lot. The school day can be long and tiring. Having an emergency stash of food, if lunch gets lost, eaten, squashed or whatever, can help a hard day not turn into a horrible day.
Keep the lines of communication open. Tell your child that you are available if your child wants to talk about what is going on at school. You may not be able to be around as much as you might have been at your neighborhood elementary school. So you will have to work a little harder to find out how things are going. I keep a positive outlook on this and figure that I can pursue a career in interrogation after my son leaves home!
Have a positive attitude. Even if you feel very nervous about how your child will manage in this big new school, work on keeping that to yourself. Let your child know that you are excited for him/her to enter this new stage of life and are sure that he/she can handle it and succeed! Hopefully, this will become a self-fulfilling prophesy – if your child gets the message from all over that he/she will do great in middle or high school, he/she will believe it is true too!
Good luck to you all in the new school year!
Tags: adolescence, children, cochlear implant, cooperation between parents and teachers, coping with stress, deaf, hearing aids, hearing loss, high school, middle school, parenting, parents, positive outlook, school, starting new school year, teachers