How do I… prepare my child for primary school?
Starting primary school is an exciting time but can also be daunting for deaf children and their parents. We asked four mums how they’ve been preparing their children to start school this autumn.
Summer 2023 Families magazine
Victoria is mum to James (4), who’s severely deaf and wears a bone-anchored hearing aid (commonly called a BAHA).
James will be starting at a specialist primary school for deaf children in September. We visited the school and met some of his new teachers. As he attended nursery onsite, he’s already familiar with the school layout, so it doesn’t feel too daunting for him.
James is non-verbal due to medical reasons, and he’s currently awaiting an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device that will help him communicate. We’ve been learning some new signs, focusing on ones to help James express his emotions so he can tell us how he feels. We need to know if he’s worried or scared about anything before he starts school.
The school’s special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) will help James transition into primary school and organise training for his teachers. James also has a great Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) who works really closely with us as a family and answers any questions we have so we can talk to James about the big changes coming.
We’re in the process of getting his Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan finalised. This has been a long process, but his ToD and SENCO have been really helpful and supportive.
James has a very confident personality and says he’s excited to meet new friends. I plan to take him shopping for his new school uniform and let him choose his school bag and pencil case. I know he’ll be excited to show these off!
Melanie is mum to Louie (4), who’s moderately deaf and uses hearing aids.
To prepare for starting school this September, we’ve been using Louie’s radio aid more regularly at home and on the way to nursery so he gets used to using it more when he starts school.
Every week, we get an email from his nursery teacher with the next week’s topic and book. This is helpful to go over with Louie at home in an environment with no background noise. We make sure he understands and gets access to all the speech sounds in the book which he might miss in a noisy classroom environment. We plan to continue this with Louie’s new teacher when he starts school.
We have a wonderful support network including Louie’s ToD, audiologist and speech and language therapist (SLT). His ToD will visit Louie’s classroom during his first week to show his teacher how to use his radio aid correctly and help maintain his hearing aids. She’ll also advise the teacher on what speech sounds we’re currently working on and let them know about positioning Louie at the front of the class at group time. With this support network, we feel confident Louie will have access to all of the same information as his hearing peers.
Emma is mum to Robin (4), who’s moderately to severely deaf and wears hearing aids.
Robin was born with Pendred syndrome, so I began thinking about primary school much earlier than my friends with children of the same age. Doing your research is key to making sure your child will enjoy a supportive space in a good listening environment, so school visits are a must.
Our focus for preparing Robin to start primary school this September is on communication. We’ve been helping her to understand some of the important things she can do at school: making sure to ask for help, sitting at the front at group time, asking to have some time in the quiet space, and letting her teachers know if her hearing aids or radio aid aren’t working effectively. It’s been great to see her build her confidence to communicate those things. When we ask her what she can do at school, she reels off the list of ideas with great enthusiasm!
Settling-in sessions have helped Robin get a feel for the classroom and her peers. Kids are great at being upfront, and at the settling-in sessions, they all asked about her hearing aids. Once they got the information, that was it – Robin is now just the same as the rest of the children, which means she won’t be a talking point on the first day. That was a big moment to witness and gives us confidence that she’ll really enjoy primary school when September rolls around.
Cara is mum to Phoebe (3), who’s profoundly deaf and wears cochlear implants.
Phoebe will be starting reception in September at the infant school next door to her nursery. She’s an August baby, so will be the youngest in her class. But since starting at nursery, doing 30 hours a week, she’s thriving and has built some lovely friendships with her peers and teachers.
Her new reception teacher has already visited her at nursery, and in a few weeks’ time, Phoebe’s key worker will be taking her to visit the new school too.
A few months ago, her ToD arranged for a radio aid to be fitted, which has really benefited Phoebe, especially at group activity time. The nursery made an information sheet with a step-by-step guide on how to set it up and take it off at the end of each school day. This will go with her when she starts reception to help her new teacher.
Phoebe’s big sister is currently in Year 2 at the infant school. At home, we always talk about how Phoebe will be going to ‘big school’ soon with her sister. I think having an older sibling and also being in the nursery school environment will really help.