We are the proud parents of 3 very awesome boys; very energetic and constantly on-the-go boys. Our oldest, Nathan, has moderate bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. He wears hearing aids in both ears and we couldn’t be more proud of all the amazing progress he has made. He is flourishing in a mainstream classroom and loves it! He is a master at not only maintaining his own hearing aids, but he also helps his teachers and substitutes with the FM system he uses.
For most of us, 2020 brought unchartered waters: living through a global pandemic due to coronavirus. Life all but came to a screeching halt; many started working from home, restaurants restricted customers to take out only, salons and barber shops closed, toilet paper (of all things) became a hot commodity, and perhaps the biggest change for my family personally came when schools closed for the remainder of the school year. We had 8 weeks of distant learning ahead, and despite the great amount of support from their amazing teachers, it was still a huge adjustment.
Distant learning for the special education kids is not something that I would personally want to sign my boys up for on a permanent basis. The extra support and therapies they receive are just not something I can give them at home. We did plenty of Zoom meetings but it just wasn’t the same. Nathan is a very quiet and shy boy by nature and he has always struggled with confidence in new situations. Even with sessions with his teacher of the deaf (whom he knows very well by this point), he still struggled with speaking loud enough or some kind of miscommunication would happen every so often (i.e. he either misspoke or his teacher misheard.) It usually requires one of us to be present with him so we make sure he stays in the range of the camera, or that the teacher or therapist can see his face, or just to help stop the wiggling that kids tend to do. Also, some sounds can be very hard to discern on a Zoom meeting, and more than once I’ve had to correct him because the therapist wasn’t able to catch it.
We are still awaiting the decision on how our school will proceed with opening up again in the fall for the new school year. One of my biggest worries is whether or not the use of masks will be mandated. I would love for life to return to normal and have everyone stay healthy and safe; if in order to accomplish that we have to change certain policies and procedures, then so be it. However, just from the viewpoint of a parent of a hearing impaired child, I worry that it will make school even harder for him. To a typical hearing individual, it can be hard sometimes to understand someone who is wearing a mask because their speech can sound muffled; I can only imagine what it will sound like for someone hearing impaired. Nate also relies on lip reading and masks make that impossible. I have seen the masks where there are clear plastic in front of the mouth, but unfortunately I have heard that those masks tend to fog up, which defeats the purpose. It’s also difficult for him to lip read on the Zoom meetings since he isn’t able to see the speaker’s lips as clearly.
Another concern is in regards to his FM system. Typically the teachers pass it off to each other when changing (whether it be a PE teacher, music teacher, librarian, etc.) Will they continue to pass it around, or will strict guidelines prohibit it? Or will they require the device to be sanitized in between uses? Could that possibly damage the device after so long? I’ve seen some schools have decided to separate the children with a physical barrier, like a plastic divider. This could also be difficult for Nate because he tends to rely on his peers when he needs help.
There are so many questions and uncertainties surrounding these unprecedented times. Though I do know this: I will continue to advocate for my children. We feel very blessed to have such a great team and I have no doubts that each and every one of them wants the best for the children they help. We all have a part to play and will be our best when we work together.
Hearing Impaired single mother and teacher aide at a hearing impaired oral preschool program. An author of "Turn The Lights On, I Cant Hear You".