As summer winds to a close, students are returning to the classroom. Starting a new school year can be difficult, with different environments, classmates, and teachers. Here are a few ways to address your hearing loss at school and make the transition easier!
Send an Email Introduction
A convenient way to address your hearing loss at school is to let your teachers know through an email. If you have an IEP or 504 plan, they will receive information about your accommodations before school starts. However, it is a good idea to reach out directly as well. Make sure you do this well in advance of the first day.
Start the email with a brief introduction. This is also a great chance to start a conversation with your teacher. Explain your hearing loss and some strategies you employ. Mention what hearing devices you use. This is especially important if they are devices that the teacher or other students need to wear or pass around. You can directly list accommodations you find helpful. Some examples include:
- Preferential seating near the front of the class
- Extended time on tests or quizzes
- Captioning on videos shown in class
- Written instructions on classwork and homework
Think about modifications in other classrooms you have made and incorporate them in the email. At the end of the email, thank them and sign off with your name and class.
Utilize Office Hours
If you don’t feel comfortable cold emailing your teachers before the start of school, there are other options. If you have a resource room teacher, enlist their help. Or set up an in person meeting. Better yet, send an introductory email and follow up after the first week of school, either by email or in person.
Take the first week of school to adjust to your new environment. Make notes about any difficulties you encounter and figure out what, if anything, you still need. If you want to discuss this list in person, set up an appointment or visit during office hours.
Be Upfront About Your Hearing Loss
On the first day of school, many teachers will use icebreakers to allow students to get acquainted. A great way to let your classmates know about your hearing loss is to incorporate it in the icebreaker if possible. Your hearing loss can be integrated as a fun fact about yourself. Or if everyone introduces themselves, give a quick description when it’s your turn. That way you don’t have to worry about getting weird looks about any of your accommodations or having to repeat the same information to individual classmates. They might even offer to help once they know!
“A great way to let your classmates know about your hearing loss is to incorporate it in the icebreaker if possible.”
You could even give a presentation for your classmates (this might be easier in elementary school).
Phonak has provided Powerpoint presentation templates that make it easy to explain hearing loss at school. There is a Powerpoint for elementary-age students and middle-and-high school students. The presentations can help explain your hearing loss, display your devices, and talk about your needs.
Display Your Hearing Devices Proudly
Another handy method to signal your hearing loss is to display the hearing devices you use. When starting a new school year, I purposefully wear my hair in a ponytail so my hearing aids are clearly visible. It is a great conversation starter. It also lets those around me know without my having to announce it out loud.
Read more: SweetHearts’ braids makes hearing aids shine
Advocate for Yourself
Advocating for yourself is a must. It might be difficult in the beginning in a new environment with unfamiliar people. But it pays off in the long term. If you need certain accommodations, have them implemented as early on as possible. This makes it easier for your peers and teachers to adjust to as well.
Always keep in mind that everyone is ready to help out! Most teachers have had students with special needs in their classes. The hardest part is taking the first step to reach out.