Making Sacrifices: Doing What's Best
Dealing with your child's school can be hard. It can be made harder if your child is mainstreamed into regular classes with teachers who know nothing about hearing loss. It can be darn near impossible if your child is isolated by being the only child in the school or district with a hearing loss.
Although in larger cities with well-established Deaf/Hard of Hearing programs this situation seems rare, in reality it isn't.
Until this school year our three children were the only hearing-impaired children in our small school district. Year after year, we struggled to educate new teachers and staff about hearing loss and the ways our children would need accommodations. Some teachers were interested, and some were not.
During the early years (preschool through 1st grade) our kids seemed to be learning well enough and had friends. The turning point was in 2nd grade for our oldest child. Reading , math, vocabulary and even playground games were much harder to follow. Her friends from earlier grades began leaving her out, not understanding why she wouldn't answer them on a windy recess playground or in a noisy gym class. Our hearts as parents broke a little at a time, knowing we had two more children to follow her path.
We had TEP meetings, meetings with the Special Education teachers and district administrators. We read books* and talked to other parents for guidance.
The oft-quoted statistic of children with hearing loss graduating from high school with a reading level of a 3rd grader haunted us.
After another year of mainstream school, our daughter told us she hated school and wanted to be with "kids like me". We went to the school and voiced our concern. We authorized a full evaluation of our daughter so the school could see what we were talking about. Her academic scores were dismal, socially she had no friends and the school psychologist said she was borderline depressed. We felt it was time to be transferred to a nearby D/HH program in a neighboring town. The school district strongly disagreed. The school chose to interpret our daughter's struggles as not school related, but as our difficulties at home in accepting our child's hearing loss.
We gathered advice on our next step from many sources, in and out of the hearing impaired community. Some said,"Stay and fight your school district." Others said, "Leave and get your kids help right now."
We decided to move. We were emotionally chewed up by the school district's attitude and felt our limited financial resources would be best spent by purchasing another home in a school district with a D/HH program, rather than continuing to hire lawyers.
You may judge our decision harshly, but now that all three of our children have friends who are "like them", and our oldest came home and yelled,"Today was terrific at school!" We knew we made the right choice.
Not every child will need what our family does. We know many children who have done well in mainstream classes. We also know children who have blossomed in D/HH programs. The moral to our story is that no two children are alike and as parents we need to keep an open mind and heart to be able to do what is best for our children.
Robert and Heather Young are the parents of three mild to moderately hard of hearing children. They are adjusting to life in the big city.
* A good reference book for parents interested in Deaf/Hard of Hearing school standards is: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students; educational service guidelines by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. Call 1-703-519-3800 or FAX 1-703-519-3808 to order.