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A Young Adult's Perspective on Life with Cochlear Implants
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Classrooms

Posted By Miranda Meyers, Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 17, 2017

 


In this post, Miranda shares valuable insights into the challenges faced by a student with a cochlear implant who is mainstreamed, attending school in a regular classroom. She is also demonstrating how she addressed those challenges in a way that was comfortable for her.

From an early age, Miranda received optimal auditory and educational support. The availability of a personal FM system during her early school years enabled her to cope with the communication and academic requirements in her classroom. As she aged, she herself defined her needs and she also managed those needs according to what she felt best served her—socially and academically.

Growing up with the experience of using assistive listening devices and learning self-advocacy skills has helped her cope successfully with even greater challenges as a college student. The way Miranda expresses her needs, takes responsibility, and works for what she believes is in her best interest, has made it possible for her to gain understanding and empathy among the people she encounters who can help her obtain what she needs.

In her own special way, Miranda manages the difficult task of coping in the classroom demonstrating her own positive and successful experience. This post is an inspiration for parents and teachers as well as for cochlear implant recipients of all ages.

Thank you, Miranda.
Naama Tsach
naama@acialliance.org

 

Classrooms

I mentioned in a previous post that I went to mainstream schools after preschool. As soon as kindergarten hit, I was in public schools. I was well prepared because of my preschool, the Summit Speech School. As a preschool for deaf and hard of hearing children, it aims to prepare its students for mainstream education. If it weren’t for the Summit Speech School, I’m not sure I would have done as well in school and in other settings.

Mainstreamed from Kindergarten On
I started kindergarten right on target, at 5 years of age. I don’t remember my first day at all, but I do have some memories of sitting on the floor doing some of the activities. I remember my teacher wore an FM system microphone. I used an FM system for a long time, all the way until high school. The technology improved and eventually the FM connected directly with my processor, and I would be the only person to hear it. 

Using an FM System
For a long while, I relied heavily on the FM system. It allowed me to hear my teacher extremely well and it was also easy to use. However, I stopped using it my freshman year of high school. I remember the first day of the second quarter that year when I decided I didn’t need it anymore. I was done using it. It was bothersome to pick up the FM every morning, give it to all seven or eight of my teachers, retrieve it each time at the end of class, and return it at the end of the day. This wasn’t an issue in elementary school as I was with one teacher throughout the day and they would store it at the close of the school day. But as I got older, it started to take time away from learning and I would repeatedly need to remind my teachers to turn it off if we were doing group work and back on when (s)he started to lecture again. Working in groups wasn’t as common as in elementary or even middle school, so this was a new issue that I had to deal with. It’s important to note that FM systems are not always used properly, putting the student in the position of advocating for its appropriate use. I did not have this issue, thankfully. I did benefit a lot from the FM system when I was younger and I am grateful to have had it at that age. It’s important that deaf and hard of hearing individuals determine what works best for them; what works for one individual, may not work for another.

My Decision to Discontinue Use of the FM System
I was totally fine without the FM system. In fact, it helped me gain so much more confidence since I knew I could hear without the assistance of yet another piece of technology. There was less attention on me since everyone knew the microphone the teacher wore was for me and that I had a “problem.” With the FM system, sounds that weren’t picked up by the microphone (i.e., my classmates) were just noise. I couldn’t hear what other people said, which made me feel left out. As I got further along in high school, it became more important to be able to participate in class discussions. Hence my decision to dump the microphone. Participating in class is important. Listening only to the teacher is never good enough. Oftentimes other students have important comments that add to the discussion. Also, if a student was asking the teacher a question, I didn’t know what the teacher was responding to. Only being able to hear the teacher was very isolating. I didn’t want to be different—I just wanted to be like everyone else and this was an important step for me. My confidence improved because I was more involved and included in class discussions. For a while, I thought classrooms were difficult. I couldn’t always hear everyone, especially when the teacher was wearing the microphone. Once I stopped using the FM, I could hear much more of what was going on. 

Preferential Seating
My IEP (Individualized Education Plan) noted that one of my accommodations was preferential seating. In middle school, I found it embarrassing to sit in front. But, once I got to high school I realized how beneficial it was for me. I was advocating for myself more and more as I got older, so I always told my teachers that I needed to sit in the front. If they said no, I would get a copy of my IEP sent to them and that settled everything. If I sat in the back, I wouldn’t be able to hear the teacher or understand my classmates, so the front was always the best place for me. (Some people prefer being more in the middle but the front works best for me.)

Reducing Classroom Noise Helped Me
Another one of my accommodations growing up was noise reduction, and that included silencers on the desks and chairs. It was so important for me because any extra noise is very distracting and I can’t focus. A lot of the hearing students appreciated the silencers too! The desks and chairs were so loud on the floors and any slight movement causes a screeching sound. I remember my first day of junior year, I was checking to make sure the desks and chairs had the silencers. But, I found the silencers were not on the desks and chairs in my English classroom. I was not happy. As soon as the day ended, I went to my case manager and she got it sorted out. It took a few days but eventually the furniture with the silencers was moved into that classroom too. 

Asking for Teachers Who I Could Understand
In high school, I took Spanish for three years. For Spanish II, I was placed in a classroom with a teacher who was a native Spanish speaker. It was not going well. I could not even understand her when she was speaking English! Trying to understand any Spanish when she was speaking was impossible. I spoke to my case manager about it and she agreed that the best solution would be to change to a section taught by a different teacher who was easier for me to understand. I could understand her when she spoke English as well as Spanish, for the most part. Not all classrooms work for everyone and that’s okay. I did much better with the other teacher, and I actually learned more Spanish since I could understand what everything meant in English!

Taking Charge of What You Need
The classroom is not always an easy place to be, even now in college. It can be difficult at times when teachers and professors don’t understand quite what they need to do to help you learn. I’ve always ended up being okay after talking to the teacher or professor about my specific needs. Sometimes it can be as simple as asking to switch seats; other times it’s asking that the teacher not wander all over the room while lecturing. Since I am now at Rochester Instute of Technology or RIT (where National Technical Institutre for the Deaf is located), the accommodations I need are readily provided. For example, I usually have note-taking and captioning when I request it. If I went to a different university, it might not have been so easy to obtain these accommodations. I am glad I’m here at RIT where I can readily have what I need. Another great thing is that if I miss something and I ask another hearing student what was just said, they’ll always help me. Everyone here is very understanding. This was the case in high school as well; people would tell me what I missed and I was always grateful for that.

I’ve always felt comfortable in the classroom. Any issue I’ve had in school has been resolved quickly and this has certainly contributed to the fact that I’ve never struggled in school. I’m thankful for all of the support I’ve had in school from my parents, guidance counselors, my case manager, support teachers, classroom teachers, and other students. Without their support, I would not have had the opportunity to do as well in school as I have. Classrooms can be hard but with the proper support, they can be a place of wisdom and dreams.

 

 

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