What Parents Want
General Educators to Know
Many studies have been conducted over the past 30 years that identify parent involvement as the one most important factor in student success in school (Henderson & Berla, 2000; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997; Epstein, 2001). While these studies looked at general education and not special education, we know intuitively that parent involvement is crucial to the success of all students. Due to the unique and sometimes complex communication needs of children who are deaf or hard of hearing, it is vital for their parents to be involved in their education. By having a better appreciation of the parent perspective, others can learn how to be more effective education partners. In an effort to begin to understand the parent perspective of their experience in the education of their children who are deaf and hard of hearing, I designed and conducted a qualitative study.
In the summer and fall of 2003, focus group discussions were held with five different groups of parents of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The parents were asked to describe their involvement in their children's education and talk about what helps and what hinders their involvement. There were several overriding themes from the study. One of those themes was that parents often encounter bureaucratic barriers in school systems or deaf education programs. They believe these barriers prevent their children from receiving the education they deserve, and they believe the barriers often prevent the trained teachers of the deaf from providing the services they know the children need. Another of the themes was that the participants in the study have a clear and thorough understanding of the unique communication and learning needs of their children. This understanding came from their personal experience as a parent. Because of this understanding, the parent participants know their children need to be held to high standards but also will need complete communication access. A third theme was that their involvement in their children's education was basically due to self-education and self-empowerment. Some professionals, particularly early interventionists, auditory verbal therapists, and teachers of the deaf, had made the effort to provide initial information, but over time, the parents who participated in the study realized that they needed to take the responsibility to learn more about how best to support their child's education at home and/or at school.
This piece will focus on topics discussed regarding general educators.
Knowing that teachers have a challenging job, parents are grateful for those who work hard for individual students, remain positive in their outlook and approach to problem-solving, and are willing to make adjustments so all children are thriving.
Parents want to have regular two-way communication with teachers so they know specifically how to support their child's learning. The form of this communication can vary according to what works best for teachers and parents (e.g. daily notebooks, weekly notes, phone call, email, etc.).
Understand that the target for a child who is deaf or hard of hearing is to have full communication access throughout the day. If a child uses hearing aids or other amplification, or has an interpreter, simply having those does not equate to full access. Additional adjustments will likely need to be made. When a student participates in all educational and social activities as other children do and learns at their individual best, they might then have full communication access.
Learn about the variety of accommodations that are typically helpful to students who are deaf and hard of hearing, such as pre-teaching concepts or vocabulary. Teachers may need to start with simple steps, but work with the parents and the teacher of the deaf to create a plan for including more accommodations over time. There is an IEP checklist of accommodations and modifications to consider in the Colorado Resource Guide. We have placed it on it's own page on this site as well. Visit the IEP Checklist.
Teachers should have the consultative or direct support of a trained teacher of the deaf for the optimum use of accommodations and equipment within the general education classroom. However, parents hope teachers will be creative, and open to trying parent suggestions too. Adjustments made in the learning environment or instructional delivery for students who are deaf or hard of hearing are beneficial to many other students too.
Teachers' knowledge, acceptance, and high expectations of students who are deaf or hard of hearing are crucial to their social development as well as their academic development. A hearing loss can be very isolating, but this doesn't have to be the situation. The tone teachers set and the facilitation of friendships and partnerships they offer help children truly become full-fledged members of the class and the school.
Request inservice training and/or additional consultation from the teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing, if you continue to struggle with how to provide needed services within your classroom.