Medical advances are changing the way that children with severe to profound hearing loss are able to participate in classrooms. The FDA started to allow children as young as a year old to receive cochlear implants in 2000. This created a shift in learning models for preschools of deaf students. In addition to this, teachers had to be more aware of how to assist the increasing number of students that were mainstreamed.
Cochlear implants process sound and send it to a child’s brain with electronic signals. They do not replicate the exact sound, but it makes it possible for kids to understand sounds and voices that they hear. Speech and language pathologists will often work with teachers of older children to make sure that they get optimal use of their implant within their learning environment. Younger children may need more time to adjust and learn about receptive language. With time, auditory support, and language therapy, they will be able to develop their language skills.
As more students with cochlear implants come into classrooms, teachers need to be aware of some helpful information. They may need some speech, lip reading, and auditory training. In addition to this, students may still need seating closer to the teacher, help taking notes, use of sign-language, and a quiet area away from noisy equipment.
It is important that members of the child’s team of professionals and family members communicate with one another. This will make everything as successful as possible. Take time every so often to evaluate the educational setting to make sure the students with cochlear implants are responding well and not falling behind. Check for background noises and attempt to eliminate or reduce them. Monitor how each child responds to sounds. Do they need to move their seat, check batteries in FM systems, or ask them how they think things are in the environment?
Schools must have a plan of action to assist children with cochlear implants to be in the least restrictive environment. By working as a team, classroom teachers will have the support that they need to work with children so they can be thrive in school. It’s also important to think about the feelings of the individual child. Know how they feel about their device and whether they want to talk within the classroom if a problem develops. Some may be shyer and want to talk to people in a more private setting. As always, communication with all members of the team, including the student, is crucial.