Wow..Somehow, you made it through another year with your child. You bought new school supplies, bought new school clothes,went over the rules, met new teachers, had to navigate new experiences, went to 1 or 2 or 3 IEP meetings, met new special ed or deaf and hard of hearing teachers,etc etc. Your children had ups and downs, met new friends, lost some friends, had self esteem issues, found their confidence, met their goals, did not meet some goals, learned to advocate,etc. The list is endless as far as what you and your child has accomplished in the last year.
Suddenly , in what seems to be a blink of an eye, the end is near. Some schools are ending now, some have a few more weeks. Either way, you sit and ponder how on earth did we get to this point?Some of your children are going to graduate from the Early Childhood program. Some will graduate from Kindergarten. Some will graduate from fifth/sixth grade and move onto Middle School.Some will graduate from 8th grade and move onto HS. Some will graduate from HS and move on to college, post secondary options, work experiences..The lists again are endless!
What does this all mean?Really, in a word, it means transitions. Along with transitions come change and along with change can be amazing new opportunities,as well as scary unknown things. Children and families with hearing loss often experience the latter more often than families with normal hearing children. Children with hearing loss are not always able to understand the concept of whatever level is coming next-the abstract is hard. The word "graduation" may be a new word. If they had a brother who graduated from HS, that is the picture of understanding their mind. However, they may only be in K or 5th grade, so the picture does not pass over from one situation to the next. There is a lot of vocabulary associated with graduation. It is important to preteach and post teach this stuff. Kids with hearing loss do not learn these terms thru incidental learning like kids with hearing. Talk about the "cap" and "gown" and the "ceremony". Draw pictures, watch videos, act it out. Do what you need to make sure your child understands these thing before the big day. Also be sure to explain it is moving on...to new teachers/new schools/new schedules,etc.
Kids are much more resilent than we give them credit. They will be able to do fine after we fill in the gaps. It is the unknown that is scary and confusing. ASk them to explain these things to you-don' t just ask if they understand. Have them explain to their dolls/stuffed animal/parent what it means to ensure they do understand.
Be sure your child's case manager has everything considered-does your child need an interpreter the big day? Does she need a partner to walk with her?Does she need the graduation speeches ahead of time?
After that, be sure the paperwork/IEPs/Summary of Performance, etc are all up to date.
After that, pop open a soda, grill the brats, throw a party and enjoy the special day with your child!
Congrats-the best is yet to come!!
Allison Schley has been in the field of deaf and hard of hearing education for 20 years. She founded a nonprofit for families with hearing loss. She most recently wrote a children's book, entitled Forever Friends. This book shows the how a deaf dog and deaf boy teach the world that all kids are good and being deaf is okay.