Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Power of "Owning" Hearing Loss

     “Ugh! I HATE science! I give up!” my seventh grader grumbled, pulling her science book out of her backpack then laying her head in her hands, eyes closed. I opened the book to the unit her teacher had told me the class would be starting so that we could preview the material and concepts. He’d given me the page number, but not the topics. My student perked up as she watched me open to the designated page. “Hey! It’s about hearing!” She scanned the diagram of the ear, softly naming the parts, a smile beginning on her face, until she came to the bones. “Wait- hammer? Anvil? Stirrup? It’s the malleus, incus, and stapes! I should teach this lesson!” 
    When students have a concrete understanding of how hearing works, their own hearing loss and cause, and assistive technology, it’s empowering. There’s no longer a mystery as to why it’s sometimes hard to follow in class and they can advocate for their needs regarding access. The ability to independently answer questions posed by peers about the technology creates a sense of normality around the differences. Students who are able to have a sense of humor around their differences rather than constantly feeling uncomfortable are more accepted by peers. 
     Recently, a junior high student asked for help creating a presentation that she could share with her classmates. A strong advocate, she wanted to share information, particularly around the proper use of her pass-around mic to the whole group at once. It was her idea to personify the microphone as “Mikee” and do the presentation from his perspective. Her sense of humor around the equipment was well received by the group with peers laughing with her and asking relevant questions. The results have been fantastic- she reports fewer reminders to use the microphone during discussions and I’ve observed her classmates reminding each other! 

     And as for my seventh grader? Not only did she talk to her science teacher about a more in-depth lesson on hearing, after creating an in-service for her teachers, she supported two of my younger students in the school when presenting to their class, emphasizing for me to, “Teach them the real names for the parts!”  Alongside the two second graders, she served as a role model, expanding on what they shared with the class, comparing cochlear implants and hearing aids, and helping them to answer questions posed by the other children. This group has now reached celebrity status in the elementary school, featured as “Scientists of the Week,” further empowering all three! 

One of the second graders shyly slipped me this note as I was leaving. I agree! I think hearing aids are so awesome, too!