Moji's big move
When Moji moved to secondary school, he started feeling self-conscious about his hearing aids and radio aid. With support from his family, friends and Teacher of the Deaf, Moji is now taking charge of his learning.
Starting secondary school is always a big change, but for Moji, moving school during the Covid-19 pandemic brought the additional challenge of face masks.
“We were wearing masks for the whole of Year 7,” says Moji. “I rely a lot on lip-reading, and I couldn’t see anyone’s lips, which made things harder.”
Now 13, Moji began losing his hearing when he was four. “He’d had an ear infection,” remembers mum Tabassum. “We went away, and halfway through the holiday, Moji stopped listening to us. That’s how it felt at the time.
“It took a few weeks to realise he wasn’t just ignoring us. My mum suggested we should take him to a doctor to see if there was an underlying cause, and that’s when we found out Moji was deaf.” Moji was initially given a hearing aid in his left ear. Two years later, he started wearing one in his right ear, too.
When the time came to move to secondary school, Moji, who’s now moderately to severely deaf, began to feel self-conscious about his hearing technology. “I went to a very small primary school, and my secondary school has 300 students in each year, so it was a massive jump,” explains Moji. “At first, I found it hard to make friends. I had to keep asking people to repeat things and they got frustrated with me.
“I was self-conscious about my hearing aids because everyone would ask, ‘What are those things?’ I was worried about people treating me differently.”
When he was at primary school, Moji created a PowerPoint presentation to support his classmates to be deaf-friendly. “We talked about doing the same thing in the first year of secondary school, but Moji was pretty resistant to that,” explains Tabassum. “At the time, he didn’t want to be seen as different. He wanted to fit in.”
Before he started at his new school, Moji’s Teacher of the Deaf (ToD) suggested he try a Roger Pen radio aid instead of the one he’d used at primary school, as the Roger Pen is smaller and less noticeable. Although Moji has become more confident about his hearing aids, he’s still reluctant to use the Roger Pen.
“I feel embarrassed because I think everyone’s looking at it and asking about it,” explains Moji. “My mum noticed I wasn’t using it because when I got home, it still had a full charge.”
“It’s been a struggle to get him to use it,” agrees Tabassum. “It’s a brilliant bit of kit and I think Moji really benefits when he uses it. But he’s still worried about being seen as different.
“Moji’s ToD said that lots of children feel self-conscious about hearing technology around this age, so it was important to find the right balance of reminding him to use it and trying to understand why he didn’t want to.
“The key thing is to find out why your child isn’t wearing their hearing technology, because there’s always a reason. Once you understand what it is, you can work on solutions.”
As well as encouraging Moji to use his hearing technology, Tabassum has also encouraged his school to educate their staff on deaf awareness.
“His teachers don’t realise how important the radio aid is,” explains Tabassum. “I asked our ToD for a one-page summary about deafness to share with Moji’s special educational needs coordinator (SENCO).
“Moji’s a bright kid and he’s pretty self-sufficient. He gets on with things, sits at the front of the class and does his work, so his teachers might not notice his deafness. My concern is that he won’t know if there’s something he hasn’t heard.
“My advice to other families would be to contact your child’s form tutor and encourage them to work out a solution with your child that doesn’t involve singling them out. You can also ask your child’s ToD to provide deaf awareness training to the school.”
“I don’t want extra special treatment,” agrees Moji. “Last year, I didn’t want to sit at the front of the class, but now I’m coming up to GCSE stage, I realise that sitting at the front of the class makes it easier to learn. I get extra time in exams, which I didn’t use before. For my last three science and maths tests, I’ve used the extra time and got a higher mark as a result.”
Moji also has a set of red, yellow and green cards which he can use to show his teachers whether he’s heard them. “The green card means I’ve heard the teacher. If I can’t hear them, I can put the red card down on my desk. When the teacher has finished speaking to the class, they’ll come and explain the task to me. That helps because it doesn’t draw as much attention as putting your hand up. I don’t use the cards as much now, though. I feel more confident about saying, ‘I’m deaf, I didn’t hear you.’”
Now in Year 9, Moji has a good group of friends. “Over time, as I’ve told them about my deafness, they’ve become more understanding,” explains Moji. “I feel more secure. If I don’t hear something, I can ask my friends to repeat it. You should never feel self-conscious or embarrassed about your deafness. Be proud that you have hearing aids. It makes you unique.
“If you’re struggling, tell your friends or your parents. They can help you work out what to do.”
Spring 2023 Families magazine