March 24, 2009

Taking the Big Step: Kindergarten

As kindergarten grew closer, Dan and I discussed more and more whether the local neighborhood school was the best placement for Hadley. While our town’s integrated preschool had been a wonderful place for Hadley, it was located in another elementary school in town. Only Hadley and two preschool classmates would be continuing on in the neighborhood school; her friends would be spread out in the other two buildings. I had some reservations, some related to her hearing loss and others centered around her total education. In addition, our house no longer worked for us as a family of five and we were interested in finding a new home. After some thought, we decided to move to my hometown, 15 minutes down the road. Not only would we be closer to family, but Duxbury had a long history of educating oral deaf children (as opposed to the town we were in) and we knew of two families there with children with profound hearing loss around Hadley's age, both of whom were oral. Two days before school opened, we made the move!

Hadley on her first day of kindergarten, September 2007

Our priority for Hadley was to focus on her social skills. We were content to put academics in the back seat for the year and just wanted to help her with basic social situations that still seemed to mystify her. Like many kids with hearing loss, Hadley loved to control the activity (which makes it easier to anticipate what is being said or done). Kindergartners were less likely to acquiesce to Hadley's ideas, which Hadley took as a personal insult. Hadley was used to adults listening to her and extending her conversation; five and six years old were making giant segues in topics. Hadley missed little social cues; she would sometimes have no idea that her words or actions hurt or angered someone (if she were focused on listening to another speaker). Likewise, she would sometimes imitate the physical behavior of other students, not realizing that the behavior was teasing. We absolutely knew that some social strategies needed to be directly taught to her. As the year progressed, Hadley made improvements in small, but specific, ways.

Additionally, kids were beginning to ask more questions about Hadley's hearing aids. While she was very adept at giving basic information, she was also really tired of talking about her ears. She became more conscious of being different from other kids, although she still enjoyed accessorizing her earmolds and hearing aids-- the kids in her class were always enthusiastic about her colorful and glittery earmolds!

We had always planned to purchase new hearing aids for Hadley by kindergarten, but delayed that purchase as we were interested in learning about several aids that were due to enter the market. When we had last purchased digital hearing aids for Hadley in 2003, options were somewhat limited for a child with a severe hearing loss. This time around, there were more good choices, but we were able to narrow the selection down to three. When we took a closer look at the technical specs, I was surprised to see that there were aids that were actually too powerful for her hearing loss! The market had certainly expanded. In the end, we only trialed one set of aids: the Siemens Centra SP. After discussing it with quite a few professionals, we opted to stay with the Siemens brand, as Hadley had done extremely well with their technology. It took several months for us to get the program just right, but it was clear from the start that Hadley could more easily discriminate subtle sounds. Most importantly for Hadley, she was able to select a new color for the casing: translucent purple!

All in all, kindergarten was a good year for Hadley. We had anticipated what would be most challenging for Hadley and were able to work with the school to bring about good improvement, both socially and emotionally. While not a perfect process, we all felt confident that Hadley would have a succesful transition to first grade in the fall-- especially Hadley.

Hadley on her last day of kindergarten, June 2008


  1. Great Blog! I live in Houston and just found out my 15 month old son has a moderate hearing loss in the right ear and moderate/severe in the left ear. He passed his newborn screening so this is some kind of progressive loss. I am very interested in the AV therapy approach. Like you, I want him to start kindergarten mainstreamed with all the other kids. He gets fitted for hearing aids this week and will begin speech therapy with a certified AV therapist at the end of the month. Did you have an FM system for at home? I was thinking of doing this to assist with langauge at home.

  2. We have never used an FM system at home; it was our intent to start broadly, in order to see Hadley's language develop in natural hearing conditions (optimal and awful!). We were open to adding an FM, but never felt she needed it. First grade was the first year that she used a sound field system in the room. Carol Flexer has some interesting thoughts on using an FM early and everywhere: You are welcome to email me as you start the AVT journey.