Starting school

Starting school is an exciting time in any child’s life. It can also be a time of some stress for families with a child with UHL. Is my child ready to start school? Which school will best suit my child’s needs?  Will the school provide the right listening environment for my child? All these questions need to be considered when choosing a school for your child.

A school will appreciate knowing well in advance (at least six or nine months before school starts) that your child will be attending their school. This will give them time to prepare for your child’s arrival.
Is my child ready to start school?
School readiness depends on many things, including the child’s age and level of maturity.  Listen to the advice from preschool teachers and health professionals and weigh this up against what you know about your child.

Providing a stimulating learning environment at home will set the foundations for a successful transition to school. These include:
  • reading a wide variety of books to your child including fiction, non-fiction, nursery rhymes and poetry
  • visiting interesting places and providing them with a broad range of experiences
  • playing with numbers and letters
  • giving your child opportunities for social interaction with family and friends
  • supporting and nurturing your child’s early friendships
  • teaching your child about their hearing loss and what they need to do to hear properly e.g. your child should know where to sit to hear the teacher
  • giving them opportunities to advocate for themselves - you will not be at school all the time to do this for them
  • building their confidence in small supportive settings so that they feel comfortable getting their listening needs met when they are at school.
Which school will best suit my child’s needs?
Choosing the right school for your child with UHL can be a difficult decision. You will need to start your research and preparation early. Children with UHL will attend mainstream schools and it is unlikely that they will receive any additional support at school. So you need to be sure that the school will be understanding of your child’s needs and provide him or her with assistance they need to have full access to the curriculum.

It is a good idea to visit the schools in your area and get a feel for each one. You might like to visit the school on one of their open days. Take your child along and get some idea about what they liked and didn’t like about each school. Talk to other parents and children attending the school – they can provide you with valuable insight into the school community. And, finally, make an appointment to visit the school, talk to the principal and have your questions answered.
Will the school provide the right listening environment for my child?
Children with UHL need to concentrate harder to listen. This can make them tired, which makes learning more difficult. A good listening environment at school makes a considerable difference to children with UHL.

Consider the following questions when deciding on a school:
  • Are there any deaf children in the school? If there are, the staff are likely to have a better understanding of the needs of your child and there may be a visiting teacher of the deaf who can provide the class teacher with some advice.
  • How many children in each class? The bigger the class size, the noisier it will be and this will make it more difficult for your child to hear and listen.
  • Where is the school located? Schools on the main road may be noisier and make it more difficult to listen.
  • Have the classrooms got good acoustic treatments? Classrooms with carpet on the floors, curtains on the windows and acoustic tiles on the ceiling provide an improved listening environment. Try and avoid demountable classrooms and classrooms divided by a sliding screen which can be made into a large classroom.
  • Does the school have soundfield systems in any of their classrooms? If not, what processes would need to happen to get a soundfield system in your child’s class? Soundfield systems make it easier for all children in the classroom to hear. Ask the school if it would support you with any lobbying or fundraising for a soundfield system for your child's classroom.
  • What opportunities are there for parents to be involved? As parents of a child with UHL, you will need to advocate for your child and build positive relationships with everyone who is involved with your child through the school day. The key to a successful partnership with the school is good communication  and a willingness to be involved and contribute to the school community as a whole.
Have I made the right decision?
There are many reasons why families choose schools. A school might have a particular religious affiliation or there may be a family tradition around attending a school. Many families like to send all their children to the same school and the child with UHL may follow his or her older siblings to the same school. It will take time before you know whether you have made the right decision.

Families do need to be flexible. What works for one child, may not work for your child with UHL.  Several families in our online group have chosen to change schools to one that can better accommodate for the needs of their child with UHL. While changing schools is not an easy decision to make, it is an option worth keeping in mind, if necessary.

06-Nov-2015 8:20 PM (AEST)