If you’re a teacher, one day you might be introduced to a new student who has a cochlear implant or hearing implant. Or you already have a student who is a cochlear implant recipient.
Wait, what’s a cochlear implant? Why does this child have a cochlear implant? What does that mean?
To answer these questions and more, I’ve put together this resource with answers and some tips that can help you give your student an environment that is conducive to listening and learning.
Quick Intro: Cochlear Implants
In brief, a cochlear implant system is a medical device for children who have a severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss. It processes sounds and uses electronic signals to send a reproduction of sound to the child’s brain. While this does not replicate sounds exactly as you would hear them, it does allow children to hear and understand sounds, voices, and music.
Here’s a quick video on how a cochlear implant works.
Teaching Tips for a Child With Cochlear Implants
So, you might have a lot of questions: What should I do? Should I change my teaching style? Should I talk louder, or quieter? Should I single out the child with a cochlear implant, or should I let them do their own thing?
Relax, don’t worry. With preparation, it will all be fine.
In some ways, teaching in a classroom where there’s a cochlear implant recipient is exactly the same as teaching in any other classroom. To start, here are some factors that can help children with a cochlear implant to do their best:
– Classmates that speak one at a time, without interrupting each other
– Instructions that are presented clearly, when the class is quiet
– Speakers that talk in clear and understandable language at an appropriate volume
– Curriculum and lessons that are presented with a structure and in a predictable fashion
– An environment where background noise is reduced (read on to find out how this can be done)
Preparing the Parents, Professionals, and More
Generally, a child with a cochlear implant will have a group of support professionals who help in various ways. These can include speech/language pathologists, teachers of the deaf, audiologists, interpreters or transliterators, physiotherapists, auditory therapists, or teaching assistants. It isn’t uncommon for some of these professionals to accompany the child occasionally throughout the year. It’s a good idea to keep in communication with these professionals to avoid unexpected interruptions in the classroom. To make this communication easier, you might want to designate one support member as your main liaison.
Of course, the child’s parents are some of the most important people in his or her life. Each child will learn and expand their language skills at home, and school is the place where they need to apply these skills.
By staying in contact with the child’s parents, you can make sure that there’s a healthy balance between this learning and application of skills. But how can you maintain a partnership?
– Learn about the family’s insights into their child’s learning style and personal strengths. By doing this before, or early in the school year, you can show the family that you want to be actively involved in their child’s wellbeing and development.
– Maintain regular communication. It might be by email, telephone, or a communication journal that travels with the child between school and home.
– Let the family know about any changes that you notice at school—positive and negative!
– Invite the parents in to see your classroom. This lets the parents understand where their child is learning and, since they know their child’s learning habits better than anyone else, suggest strategies for learning that might help both you and the child.
Preparing the Classroom
There are a few different ways that you can prepare your classroom to maximize the child’s ability to hear well. This is important even if a child recipient is high-performing, as it’s easy to forget that though they have a cochlear implant they still also have to some degree a hearing loss. Here’s what you can to do minimize classroom distractions:
– Reduce background noise and echoes. Carpets, wall hanging, and curtains are ideal for reducing the reflections of sound off of hard surfaces.
– Put rubber tips on the bottoms of chair and table legs. This way, even if other children shuffle around, the noise will be reduced.
– Reduce visual distractions—like glare, or poor lighting—around the desk or podium where you’ll do the most of your teaching.
– Give the child a preferential seating position, for example close to where you do most of your teaching. Also, the seat should be away from other noise sources like ventilation or air condition units, fish tanks with filters, printers, entrance or exit doors, and bathrooms.
– Think about using a wireless microphone, such as AudioLink. This is a small device that you can wear, which then transmits your voice directly to the child’s cochlear implants. It helps them to hear you across a busy classroom, making it easier to learn.
Preparing the Child
Some of the greatest challenges that a child can experience is being confronted with new information. Although the child may do well on normal exercises where they recognize and know the words that are presented, it can be difficult for the child to perform when there are new words that they haven’t heard before.
A great way to get around this is to pre-teach vocabulary and new coursework content. Whether it’s by working with a parent, teacher of the deaf, tutor, or speech pathologist, providing these professionals with coursework or relevant information in advance can make it easier for both you and the child to benefit from a day’s lessons.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
So, you’ve prepared yourself. Now, staying actively involved with your student’s hearing and studies you can make sure that they have the chance to succeed. Here are some questions you can use as a brief checklist:
– Am I aware of the background noise in my classroom? What can be done to reduce or eliminate it?
– Am I sensitive to the child’s seating placement in groups and their distance from speakers?
– Do I monitor the child’s responses to sounds, and do I know how to replace batteries and work their AudioLink or other assistive listening device? Do I know where to ask for help if it’s necessary?
– Do I stay in regular contact with the child’s family, auditory professionals, or cochlear implant center?
In the end, it’s all about communication. The best way to deal with any questions about handling the device or working with the child is to schedule an appointment with the child’s parents or a member of their cochlear implant team.