Second grader August is a creative and energetic seven-year-old who loves to swim, jump on his trampoline, listen to music and play Roblox with his brother. He also has a severe to profound hearing loss, which his family discovered when he was two and a half years old.
“August began in [Clarke’s Birth to Age Three] Program receiving home visits, as well as attending the Clarke playgroups,” says his mom, Lisa. “From the beginning, when he was first diagnosed and in early intervention, Clarke was immensely helpful to our family and the medical and educational team.”
August uses a bone-anchored hearing aid to access sound, and he has been enrolled in mainstream educational settings since he began preschool at age three.
Mainstreaming at a Young Age
Following a choppy first year of mainstream preschool disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, August began kindergarten in a mainstream charter school with support from Clarke’s Mainstream Services team.
“The transition into a mainstream school setting is a major step for children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families,” says Katie Jennings, teacher of the deaf. “August’s ability to understand the basics of his hearing loss, advocate for his needs and meet appropriate academic milestones along the way has paved the way for his mainstream success.”
August now attends a virtual public school and continues to receive support remotely from Clarke’s Mainstream Services team. The online program staff did not have experience collaborating with teachers of the deaf, but they were welcoming and open to meeting August’s needs.
“Clarke contacted the school and they very willingly contracted,” recalls Lisa. “August received support virtually to not only learn about his hearing loss and how to advocate for himself, but they also do an incredible job helping access appropriate equipment… to access the most sound.”
In addition to the support Clarke provides directly to August and his family, the Clarke team helps August’s mainstream team meet his needs and use best practices in Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) communication.
“The team at Clarke communicates well with the school and educates the staff on August’s needs as well,” notes Lisa.
Part of this support includes annual in-service presentations and ongoing consultation to the school team, support staff and sometimes fellow students, when appropriate. In the presentation, the Clarke teacher of the deaf typically supports the student to explain their hearing loss, how they access sound differently, the accommodations they use and tips for helping them thrive—for example, ways to help them avoid listening fatigue.
Meet August, 7, and learn how he advocates for himself.
Training Students to Advocate for Themselves
Many families of young children with disabilities work doggedly, from early on, to ensure their child has the necessary accommodations, therapeutic team, social opportunities, support network and educational system in place. What happens as they grow older?
The goal of an effective mainstream support team, like Clarke’s Mainstream Services, is to essentially make themselves less and less necessary to the child and their family. When the student is in elementary school, for example, the teacher of the deaf works closely with the mainstream school team and the child’s family, explaining accommodations, making sure they’re in place, advocating for access needs, creating and updating an effective IEP (Individualized Educational Plan), and reporting success and challenges back to the family.
“Clarke worked hard to advocate for August to receive services,” says Lisa. “They also did a phenomenal job working with August independently to teach him to speak articulately about his hearing loss and what he needs to access sound.”
This support evolves over time as the child gains communication skills and self-confidence. Ideally, by the time the student is nearing the end of high school, they understand their hearing loss, the accommodations they need and how to advocate for what they need. Knowing their worth, their rights and what they need to succeed, these students will enter continued education or the workforce in a position to learn and thrive.
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