Hearing Impaired Students Strive to Overcome Challenges in School

Every day 33 babies in the United States are born with hearing loss, making it the leading sensory disability in the nation, according to the Alexander Graham Bell Association.

While early intervention and amplification has come a long way, there are still challenges for children with hearing loss. A new study aims to shine a light on some of these difficulties and ways to improve them.

Colton and Olivia Forry have been hearing impaired since they were babies. 15-year-old Olivia was diagnosed with bilateral hearing loss when she was just two-years-old after having trouble developing her speech. Her younger brother Colton was born deaf, and wears a cochlear implant.

"I feel pretty much the same as my peers in school, although sometimes it can be hard in social interactions I usually am able to get past that and participate normally in a group conversation," Olivia said.

Their mother, Jackie Busa, says raising two children with hearing loss hasn't always been easy. Busa says when Colton was born in 1999 resources were limited and getting a proper diagnoses was hard.

"There's a lot at stake. The time, the money, and the pieces that have to come together to give children what they needed, early intervention, once you find out what that is going to be for your family," Busa said.

In February, the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing released the results of a survey sent to more than 1,100 families across the country. They found that many parents struggled to get appropriate services from schools.

"At school I could see why it would be hard for most kids with hearing loss because certain classrooms aren't the best environments for hearing in, and sometimes your needs might not be met," said Forry.

Early on Busa fought for appropriate resources for her children, especially proper pre-school placement, something the study found to be challenging. Olivia and Colton's school district placed them in a class with other students who had disabilIties, but no typically developing peers who had good speech and social skills.

"That just wasn't going be the way it was going to be because I was thinking about the long term outcomes of maximizing their potential," said Busa.

Today, 14-year-old Colton is an eighth grader at Henley Middle School, and Olivia attends Western Albemarle High School. Before the start of school each year, the kids meet with their teachers to discuss the adjustments needed in the classroom. AG Bell found setting up Individualized Education Programs were beneficial for students.

Some of the adjustments help cut down on the back ground noise, like putting tennis balls on squeaky chairs, and making sure teachers are speaking loud and clear.

"Having preferential seating, where I get to sit where I need to based on hearing and seeing because I use lip reading," said Forry. "There's just accommodations I have to make sure I'm getting, so I can have the best experience in school."

Teachers say without these adjustments hearing impaired kids like Colton and Olivia would struggle to keep up.

"They would fall through the cracks. The would miss information, they would miss homework assignments, they would miss all the homework all the discussions that go on," said Judy Franco, the teacher for deaf and hearing impaired students in Albemarle County Schools.

Olivia and Colton, who are straight A students, say these accommodations have not only not only helped the keep up, but allowed them to strive for success.

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