School is almost out. What does that mean for children with hearing loss? There is a lot of data showing that many children lose skills over the summer. This is not limited to children with hearing loss. Many public schools programs send home assignments for kids to work on over the summer in the hope that they will not fall so far behind. What do we need to do to be sure that our children with hearing loss do not fall behind?
Summer is an important time to check out equipment. Check that the school is sending FM systems back to the manufacturer to be reconditioned. (Close to the end of summer, check that the equipment is back and that it is in good working order.) Summer is also a good time to check personal technology (hearing aids, cochlear implants, bone-anchored systems) to be sure they are working well and providing a clear crisp signal.
Managing technology around water
Many of the hearing-impaired kids I know find not being able to hear in water one of their greatest frustrations. It means they cannot 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 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 salt water it is best to rinse it out quickly with fresh water so that it does start to corrode. This will not guarantee that it will not be damaged, but it can help in some situations. Some hearing aids and cochlear implants do work in water or can be placed in an airtight sack to prevent water from getting in. However, the choice of technology cannot be made based on swimmability alone. Using hearing aids to learn has to be the primary goal.
Having backup technology
Whenever possible, it is good to have backup technology. If a hearing aid gets wet or stops working from sweat or just falls and breaks, we do not ever want a child to be without technology. While not all parents can afford to buy back up technology, in an ideal world, every child should have back up equipment. Families who use hearing aids should keep the last set of aids so if their child’s current technology fails, the child will be able to hear something until their newest hearing aid are repaired. Children with cochlear implants may have two devices and may be able to use their backup device while one is being repaired.
No holiday from learning
Summer cannot be time off with no work. Children with hearing loss can use summer to catch up on things they are behind in at school, or 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 have been communicating continually with teachers during the school year 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, also try and talk with next year’s teacher. Explain 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 eat at an Asian restaurant 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 one in their class with the condition 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
Summer should not be all work. Kids need a break too, so figure out how to get it all in. Schedule some time every day for work, but leave much of the day for fun. Enjoy!!