School is out. Summer is in. What does that mean for children with hearing loss? There is a lot of data which shows that many children lose skills over the summer – children with typical hearing and those with hearing loss. So what should families do to prevent children from losing skills over the summer, and to be sure that our children with hearing loss do not fall behind?
Reading lists and math activities for summer
Many public school programs send home assignments for kids to work on over the summer in the hope that they will not fall so far behind. If your school did send home a list, you need to schedule time each day for children to read or do other academic activities. If you did not get a list, go to the library and talk to the children’s librarian at your local library and ask for a list of books that would be appropriate for your child’s reading level. A good librarian will ask what your child is interested in and help you find books that will be both appropriate and interesting. Find the level of your child’s math skills and if your child’s classroom teacher has not giving you activities, search the internet and find math activities.
Summer is an important time to check out equipment. Be sure that hearing aids or cochlear implants are working well and providing a clear crisp signal. Check that your school is sending FM systems back to the manufacturer to be reconditioned. (Close to end of summer, check that the equipment is back and in good working order.)
Managing technology around water
Some technology is waterproof but not all. For children who have technology that is not waterproof, not being able to swim with technology is frustrating. Many of the hearing impaired kids I know find not being able to hear in water to be one of their frustrations. It makes it difficult for them to fool around easily with friends at the swimming pool, by the lake or ocean. We need to talk to kids about this and be sure that they understand that their devices cannot get wet. Everyone also needs to know what to do if they do get wet. If a device falls into saltwater, rinsing it out quickly with fresh water may help prevent corrosion – but it may not. There are hearing aids and cochlear implants that can work in water or can be placed in an airtight sack which will prevent water coming in but the choice of technology cannot be made based on swimability alone. Ability to use hearing to learn has to be the primary goal.
Having backup technology
Whenever possible, it is good to have backup technology. If the technology gets wet, or stops working from sweat or just falls and breaks, we do not EVER want a child to be without technology. Not many people can afford to have back up technology but, in an ideal world, every child would have back up equipment. Families who use hearing aids should keep the last set of aids just so the child can hear something, until their primary technology can be repaired. Children with cochlear implants may have two devices and may be able to use their back up device while one is being repaired.
Language and learning
Summer cannot be time off with no work. Children with hearing loss can use summer time to catch up on things they are behind in at school, they can use the time to read ahead so as to be a bit ahead when school starts. Children who do not have language that is at age level, in every subtest of language evaluations, would benefit from therapy over the summer to build skills. And every child MUST read and read a lot during the summer to improve skills.
Talk to teachers before school is out
Parents should be communicating with teachers all the time so they know what areas need to be worked on. Ask this year’s teacher to give you some activities to work on with your child. If you can, try and talk with next year’s teacher. Discuss that you have a child with hearing loss and ask if you can borrow some textbooks over the summer to go over vocabulary to help your child be better prepared. Find out what is going to be studied. If they are going to study dinosaurs, take a trip to the Natural History Museum. If they are going to study Asia, find out where there are exhibits about Asia and go visit, and visit Asian restaurants and discuss food. Think how good your child will feel knowing more than her peers when school starts.
Camps for children with hearing loss
Everyone needs contact with peers. Children with hearing loss are frequently the only child with hearing loss in their class and maybe one of only a few in their school. If the school does not provide support groups so children can meet other kids with hearing loss and develop support systems, camps for children with hearing loss may be the perfect solution. It is important to find a camp with kids like yours – either mainstream kids or a signing program. Kids love being in contact with other kids. I know many who have developed lasting friendships in this way.
Make time for fun, too
It should not be all work. Kids need a break too so figure out how to get it all in. Schedule some time every day when work will be done but leave much of the day for fun. Enjoy!!