Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Question from N.F., Minnesota

I have a 7 yr old son who is in 1st grade. At birth he was thought to have CHARGE syndrome but after doing gene tests and chromosome tests it wasnt diagnosed due to normal results. He is proufoundly deaf in his left ear and has a mild/moderate loss in his right ear, which is aided. He has an interpreter at school and his teacher also uses an FM system, though it seems to be forgotten on some occasions. He started out the year doing okay but all of a sudden its the end of the school year and his reading is at a kindergarten level. Now the question has come up whether or not to retain him. His special ed team cannot come to an agreement on this, some of them say yes while others say no. The psychologist is the one saying he should go on to 2nd grade since the IQ tests they did with reasoning and puzzles (visual, no reading involved) had normal to high scores. Others believe it would be beneficial for him to repeat 1st grade to have time to learn skills he has not accomplished quite yet. So the professionals that I am relying on to lead him in the right direction have now left it up to me to decide. If he were to stay in 1st grade I feel he would like that he already knows some or mose of the lessons, have more time to learn how to read and figure out the sounds required to put the words together. But he may also be smart enough to go onto second grade though I fear he is already so far behind in reading that he will get frustrated and lose interest and know also know that he is struggling more then his classmates. But I also dont want him to feel like a failure if he were to stay in 1st grade again. Theres so many things too look at and think about. Initially I thought yes of course give him time and let him repeat first grade but then the psychologist said otherwise. Im really stressed about making this decision. Im also disappointed that the final decision is being left up to me since his team is 50/50 on what should be done. I want to do what is right for him. I want him to take pride in school and enjoy it. I dont want him to be left behind or pushed through and I dont want him feeling like a failure.

Question from N.F., Minnesota. Posted May 3, 2012.
Response from

Great job mom on trying to look at all aspects of this for your son,if only this were an easy decision.  It would be of interest to know why at birth tests were done to “rule out” CHARGE.  Just wondering what red flag went up from the medical community that triggered that testing?

I believe, for him, he is very young to be using an interpreter and do wonder if that avenue is working.  Having a mild/moderate loss in one ear does enable him to be able to receive significant amount of information from auditory means which hopefully is helping a great deal.  I would assume the interpreter is there as additional support so he can use her/him as needed and when needed, correct?  And you are so right, the FM system needs to be up and working daily, I would stress that.

The question of retention is such an important one for you and your son.  I believe I would ask a series of additional questions to try and come to the best possible decision for him.
1.  Does he emotionally fit with his current class?
2.  Has he developed true “friends” for a 7 year old?
3.  He is reading at a kindergarten level at the end of 1st grade, correct?
4.  If he moves will he continue where he is or will he be expected to go straight into 2nd grade work?
5.  Is the reading series and approach being used one that allows for children with additional learning
needs and support or if behind can help be provided?
6.  Is it possible to have some one on one tutorial help if the decision to move to 2nd grade is made?

It’s very important to remember that at this age he probably is very flexible.  He will adjust in either setting is my bet.  You are right, he appears to love school right now and you don’t want him frustrated and loose that love of school.  That is such a critical part in success of a child.  Reading is the number one factor in my opinion for success now and later.  I do respect the IEP team in “allowing” you to make this decision.  And do remember while his IQ tests appear to be normal you are right that’s visual processing only.  It appears he is having some learning problems related to reading and you are right on top of that, good job mom!