“We as teachers and experts also have an advisory function, of course, but ultimately it is the parents who choose the method of education for your child.“
Katharina Strohmayer, BIG Direktion
School is just around the corner – these next years are not just about acquisition of knowledge, your child is permanently shaped for the future by those around them – teachers and school friends. Nothing will prevent successful and happy schooling for your hearing-impaired child, if you, as parents, have made the right choice of school.
You can find some tips and information here about how your child’s school time can be the most successful!
Useful information about starting school
As for all other children, children with implants have to learn to deal with school routines as best as possible. To do this, they rely on the support of teachers and parents.
Whatever form of school you choose for your child, it is always advisable to contact the school leadership and the teachers responsible in advance and get to know them. Not everyone is familiar with cochlear implants and they are still often confused with hearing aids. For some children with a CI, the audio processor disappears completely under their hair, and the teacher may not even be aware that a child who acts like a normally-hearing child with the CI will not hear at all without it. A personal conversation can answer some questions and also clear up any uncertainties.
You have an important role in coordination of aids and information, particularly if you have chosen individual integration of your child, especially as the school concerned might not yet have any experience with individual experience in general or with this disability specifically.
In short: early information exchange with the school smooths the path to an untroubled and successful time in school for your child.
Different options for schooling in primary school (elementary school)
It is your wish to lay a good foundation for a successful school career for your child. The choice of the right form of school is thus of particular importance for you as parents/guardians.
In Austria, a variety of forms of school is basically available to hearing-impaired children. Depending on where you live and in consideration of the needs of your child, you can choose from the following models:
Mainstream school class
Your child can be educated in a mainstream school class local to you in the context of individual integration. The mainstream school teacher then takes the hearing impairment into account. A support or additional teacher will then come into lessons as needed. This teacher will support your child in lessons, give individual tuition or advise the staff at the mainstream school on particular issues of teaching and testing.
How many hours of support your child will receive varies between states and of course depends on special educational needs – there are various models, stretching from one visit per school year to several hours a week. Applications for support teachers involve experts in hearing either via the school leadership or directly at the education offices of the state concerned.
The parents of individually integrated children have an important role in explaining the child’s individual situation, especially as the school concerned may not have any experience of the particular disability or the method of individual integration.
Even if there is a good chance with early and optimal hearing provision that your child will overcome the challenges of individual integration, you should carefully ascertain again at entry into the school that the hearing and language development of your child is sufficiently advanced for individual integration so that frustration and future problems can be avoided.
Inclusion class for children with various special educational needs (successor model of the integration class)
When people speak of inclusion classes, they usually mean general integration, in which two teachers support four to six children with various support needs in a class together with other children without disabilities, where one of the teachers is trained in general special educational needs.
Inclusion classes contain fewer students than mainstream school classes in the same school phase. The lower number of students and the constant support are advantageous to the children affected. However, the type of the support need will be very different for different disabilities. There is also the danger due to possibly insufficient resources, that not enough attention is given to your child’s hearing impairment.
Even in inclusion classes there could be an entitlement to an additional, hourly-appointed support teacher, if the special education teacher has no specific experience with hearing impaired students.
Inclusion class with a focus on hearing impairments
The class size for hearing impairment inclusion classes is reduced to 18 to 20 students, which improves the acoustic conditions in the classroom. A special hearing-impaired teacher supports the four to six hearing impaired students, who make up about a third of the class, in all the lessons in a mainstream class. Additionally, the hearing-impaired students receive weekly individual and group language support and listening units.
One reason for choosing his form of school is the possibility that hearing impaired students will receive lessons together with hearing students as a “peer group” with a strong inner solidarity. This enables these children to interact with other hearing-impaired students, which strengthens their self-confidence and promotes their personal development. There are beneficial stimuli from lessons with hearing children which promote the social and linguistic development of hearing impaired children.
On the other hand, this form of school is recommended to those children who are striving for individual integration, but at the time of entering school, are not yet sufficiently prepared or consolidated linguistically to meet that challenge.
This type of intensive class with hearing and hearing-impaired students and two teachers can be offered both at a specialized hearing loss institution (preventative inclusion) or as a branch class at a mainstream school.
Small classes for hearing-impaired students
Alternatively, students with hearing impairments with additional needs in individual states (Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Salzburg, Upper Austria and Vienna) have special classes for four to eight children available at hearing impaired institutions, where they are taught with individual support concepts and where additional therapy provision such as language therapy, physiotherapy and psychology is available.
Middle and upper schools
Secondary Phase I
Secondary Phase I includes the General Secondary School, Cooperative or New Middle School, the Higher General Education Lower Stage, Polytechnic, Vocational School.
As long as your child is still of compulsory school age – up to 9th grade, that is, to the age of 15 – the same options are fundamentally open to him or her as in the primary school phase.
After the end of compulsory schooling, your hearing-impaired child has the choice between an apprenticeship or further education.
Secondary Phase II
Secondary Phase II includes the upper school in the general higher schools (AHS) and the vocational schools, such as trades academies (HAK) or the higher technical schools(HTL), and leads to the higher school certificate.
Support teachers for middle and higher schools:
The support teacher system for individually included hearing-impaired students in state schools is regulated differently in different states . The number of hours depends on resource allocation of the respective education authority. The respective contact person (see contacts) in the state concerned or the head teachers of the hearing-impaired institution will give information about the procedure for applying for allocation of support hours and about the weekly number of hours.
Generally, up to four hours a week are available for support teachers in the federal schools. The application is made to the relevant education authority via the head teacher of the school attended.
Agreements for hearing impaired students (e.g. cancellation of listening exercises, time extensions for school tests, agreements on the school leaving certificate) must also be made to the relevant education authority via the head teacher of the school attended.
In the Secondary Phase II, an application for the deployment of a written-/Austrian sign language interpreter (generally per class with at a maximum seven hours a week) can be made by the school to the federal ministry for education, science and research (bmbwf).
Vocational training school, apprenticeship
There is an obligation up to the age of 18 in Austria to be in some form of education or training, which a hearing impaired young person can take up at either a further education school or as part of vocational training. If a further course of training is completed before the 18th birthday, this obligation ends, including for young people with disabilities. Depending on ability and availability, young people can complete their obligatory education in a regular apprenticeship, an apprenticeship with partial qualification, a cross-vocational training or in a so-called daily structure.
An apprenticeship is training following compulsory schooling in a trade, agricultural or commercial area.
The initiative https://www.neba.at/ provides support in learning about the various training possibilities and finding your way around the employment market better.
Tips for lessons
“Through early provision as a small child, the language development dependent on hearing is positively promoted. Good hearing and language knowledge later contributes to being able to keep up in school better.”
Prof. Joachim Müller, MD, University Clinic Munich
You can only keep up in school if you can hear well in lessons. Children and young people who have hearing impairments and have been fitted with hearing implants and who attend a regular school can also do this – if the framework conditions are right.
In case the school is not familiar with the issue – you can find a series of tips here that you should discuss with the teaching staff or the school leadership to create the best conditions for your child:
Framework conditions in the classroom
So that a child with a hearing loss and a hearing implant hears as best as possible, it is important to design the classroom so that there is as short as possible reverberation time and few interfering sound sources.
Here you can find a list of actions that could support your child in this respect:
- Noise insulating ceilings shorten the reverberation time, curtains and blinds absorb noise.
- The affected child should sit as near to the front as possible in order to have direct visual contact with the teacher and classmates.
- Floor composition, to avoid additional noise.
- A seat on the window side also prevents glare and ensures a better overview.
- A rotating chair makes it easier for the child to turn quickly to the source of a sound or the person speaking.
- Interfering noise from the chairs can be avoided with rubber fittings on the chair legs or with carpeted floors.
- Sitting next to a quiet classmate and being as far as possible from noisier students can also be of benefit.
- In general, using an FM system is also helpful – with this, a mini transmitter carries the teacher’s voice directly to the child’s audio processor and makes understanding easier in noisy backgrounds.
- A class microphone can transmit classmates’ contributions.
- A class loudspeaker, so that teacher and classmates can be more easily understood (see the new Roger system by Phonak or similar)
- So-called Smartboards/Whiteboards,B.: for visualisation of the subject matter or a page from the internet
- Written language interpreters or classmates as mentors, who take notes for the hearing-impaired child when there is particularly material-intensive lesson content
If the school does not already have this various additional technology, such as FM-systems, smartboards, acoustic solutions etc., you can discuss acquisition of these with the school leadership.
Guidelines for teachers
Active didactic support by the teacher is indispensable for children with hearing impairments. You can find some useful tips here which can improve communication between the teacher and the child :
- Speak rhythmically and clearly
- Give more visual support with content, for example with a smart- oder whiteboard (successor to the overhead projector or data projector), so that images can be brought up faster by internet
- Write the subjects to be covered on the blackboard/whiteboard
- Write deadlines and homework tasks on the blackboard/whiteboard
- When using audio recordings, provide the text to read along
- Explain the content of films briefly before showing them
- Allow and encourage the child to ask questions
- Remove the processor or use WaterWear for swimming lessons
- Be careful with ball sports (impacts could damage the implant)
Tasks of the support teacher for older children and young people:
(Support in lessons or in an individual setting)
- Information about “hearing impairment” for the teachers, for other students and if necessary for the parents/carers
- Mediator between parents, students, head teacher, youth coaching for hearing impaired persons
- Increasing self-confidence /dealing with the hearing impairment
- Note-taking and visualization of lesson content
- Explaining words, specialist concepts and foreign words, text editing
- Preparation and follow-up work
- If necessary: Use of Austrian sign language
- If required: Articulation exercises/ hearing training
You can find further tips on the subject at endlich-wieder-hoeren.org
Free download: MED-EL Guidelines for teachers
Adjustments for disadvantage in school tasks and examinations
It is important that the expectations of the teacher are adjusted to the situation for the hearing-impaired child and, most of all, are realistic. To be able to design lessons as fairly as possible, measures for adjustments for disadvantage have been discussed together with the teaching ministry.
Here you can find the most important measures, which could be requested if needed from the education authorities via the head teacher:
- Increased time for school tests: 15 minutes for a 1-hour test, 30 minutes for two-hour tests
- Explanation of content before and during the school tests by the teacher
- Use of special equipment (e.g.: definition dictionary)
- Use of a replacement text for listening tasks
- Reading instead of Listening comprehension in foreign language tests
- Presentation, projects or creative extra tasks instead of oral tests
- Presence of a teacher of the hearing impaired during final examinations