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Isla’s tiredness (concentration fatigue)

Photo: Isla's story

Michelle and Graham watched seven-year-old Isla transform from bright and bubbly at pre-school to tired and miserable at primary school. They soon realised the problem…

“Isla’s a very determined and enthusiastic child,” says Michelle proudly. “She loves maths and reading, but when she started primary school her maths went downhill and she didn’t seem to be learning anything. We’d look at her work and see no logical sequence and it was the same with vocabulary – at pre-school she was 8–11 months ahead of her age group but at primary she slipped behind.

"…On Mondays it started."

“After four months at school, Isla’s teacher rang me concerned that Isla wasn’t making any progress, and arranged for the Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) to assess her needs. The ToD recommended a radio aid and soundfield system, which were provided, but there was a lack of understanding from school about what it was for. The teaching assistant even said to me, ‘we’ve no idea why Isla’s been given this equipment – she doesn’t need it’,” recalls Michelle.

Isla was having a hard time at school, suffering from fatigue from listening and lipreading all day. She was tired, miserable, and lacked energy.

“She enjoyed school at first,” remembers Michelle, “but as time went on she was getting more and more tired. She’d come out of school and not talk to me.”

Little sister Meredith (3) also felt the impact of Isla’s change in behaviour.

“Isla would come home very cross,” says Michelle. “She wouldn’t play with Meredith and would push or hit her – so unlike her. At weekends Isla was her lovely self again, but on Mondays it started. She’d say she didn’t want to go to school – she didn’t know what people were saying and no one would play with her.”

“If they can’t even get the basics right, how can we expect anything else?”

Michelle and Graham were becoming frustrated with Isla’s school.

“The foundation teachers assured us they would explain to the Year 1 teacher about Isla’s radio aid and soundfield system,” Michelle remembers. “But at parents evening the teacher had no idea what the equipment was for.”

There were other problems too, such as Isla’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) never being completed, but Michelle explains that the final straw was in June last year.

“Isla had gone into school with an earache and when I picked her up she told me the side of her face felt funny. We took her hearing aid out and there was blood coming from her ear – her eardrum had burst! She had told the teachers she wasn’t feeling right but they hadn’t taken her seriously. We thought if they can’t even get the basics right, how can we expect anything else?”

Although the school had a great reputation, it clearly wasn’t right for Isla. So at the end of Year 1, she changed schools

“We spoke to our nearest school and they had such a different outlook,” says Michelle. “It’s much smaller and they made an effort to get to know Isla. They use her hearing equipment all the time, and quickly drew up an IEP. We’ve noticed a massive difference in her maths.”

“At Isla’s first school it was like they wanted her to fail before they put any intervention in place. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

“At her old school I felt her teachers thought she was ‘doing well for a deaf child’. But the new school challenge and support her to meet her potential.” And Isla’s much happier. “They’ve given us our daughter back,” says Michelle, happily. “After school Isla can’t wait to tell us about her day.”

Isla’s deafness impacts her in other settings too, explains Michelle. “She’s starting to go to school discos where the lights are low and she can’t hear what people are saying. I have to stay with her for a long time before she’ll join in. After a while she’ll get tired and sit out.”

The concentration fatigue Isla has experienced is not uncommon among deaf children. Michelle says, “It’s easy to assume it’s an inevitable part of being deaf – the environments don’t suit you and you get tired and can’t cope. At Isla’s first school it was like they wanted her to fail before they put any intervention in place. It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Michelle’s priority for Isla is that she’s happy and continues to enjoy learning. And it seems now Isla has the right support at school, she’ll continue to flourish.