How Have Kids with Hearing Loss Managed in Online Classrooms?

Jane Madell
June 9, 2020

One of my old babies has been a social worker in a large hospital for about 15 years. She has been doing discharge planning for patients leaving the hospital. She uses a cochlear implant and communicates extremely well. She does so well that people don’t even know that she has a hearing loss. At least, until now.

While she has always done well on the phone, she is now struggling because, now the phone is her full time work. Instead of meeting with hospital staff and families face to face to provide support and to determine what is needed, everything happens on the phone. Phone calls are difficult. The quality of many phone calls is not as good as face to face.  So she is now going from 30% of her time being on the phone, it is now 100% of her time and it is very very difficult.


Challenges of Videoconferencing


I attended a zoom meeting last night in which several members had a difficult time hearing. Not everyone had a good phone connection, some had age related hearing loss, and people talked over each other making listening difficult. There was a lot of frustration.

This  forced me to think about how kids are managing with zoom school and maybe phone calls with friends. There has been a lot of information coming out about how much more difficult zoom and phone work is than traditional face to face work. It is more stressful. The quality of the signal may not be as good. In a zoom classroom with a lot of kids it is not possible to locate who is talking so you don’t get to use facial cues. The teacher is likely not use a remote microphone so if she turns around to write on the board, the signal may not be clear. In this example, the teacher’s face is tiny, at the bottom of the screen. Not easy to see.

It is very important that we really pay attention to each child and determine if they are hearing well.

  • If the zoom system is working well the signal can be fine. Check and make sure it is.
  • Is the teacher facing the computer so that the child can both see and hear?
  • Is the teacher controlling the situation so that children are talking one at a time?
  • Does the child have the opportunity to ask questions if he does not understand?


What About Special Services?


Is the child with hearing loss getting all the services listed on the IEP. Some kids are not getting services during the pandemic. NOT ACCEPTABLE.

Teacher of the deaf (TOD) services are essential. TOD’s should still be providing preview and review of vocabulary and concepts. If it is not happening the child will be struggling with classroom material. Are speech-language services on the IEP? If yes, is the child receiving them?

A lot of families are being told that it is not possible to provide speech-language services via tele-conference. NOT TRUE. If the child is receiving services,  how are they being provided? A parent should be observing to see what is happening. This could be a good opportunity for the family to learn from the speech-language pathologist what kind of follow-up they can do at home.

Is the child scheduled to receive other special services such as OT or PT? These services may be a little more difficult to provide via teletherapy but not impossible. If services are listed on the IEP they are there because the child needs them. It is not okay for the child not to be able to get them.


Ensuring Children Get Services They Need


If the child is NOT receiving the services that she needs, it is important to be in touch with the school principal, the director of special education, and if you do not get a positive response, the Board of Education. Your child is entitled to these services. More importantly, she needs these services.

Schools are opening up a little and even if full blown classes are not happening, insist that the school find a way to provide all the special services that your child needs. If not during the summer, services will need to be expanded for next school year.

These are difficult times for all of us. But children with hearing loss need to be educated. Make sure they are hearing, and make sure they are receiving all the services they need. And don’t forget socialization. Figure out a way for them to have contact with other kids. One on one Zoom calls work really well.

Stay safe everyone.

  1. Just once, when I exceed a speech-language-hearing-health professional’s expectations or demonstrate abilities beyond normal or average status, I’d like to hear that professional tell me that I’m doing better than most people who don’t even have my condition/disability, rather than just that I’m “doing extremely well”. Because the feedback of “extremely well” doesn’t help if my concept is “”Elmer Fudd” and yours is “John Wick”.

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