A magical necklace

This was originally posted 9/18/08 and is being re-posted as part of the Chicken Soup for the SLP Soul blog hop!10407482_10206294490627052_3466057098881807587_n Screenshot 2015-01-25 15.33.15Clipart by Krista Wallden @ https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Krista-Wallden

One of my students is a gorgeous little princess-like girl who is severely language delayed. I spent her entire Kindergarten year trying to figure her out. I probed, tested, guessed, talked to parents. The girl didn’t talk or imitate. She couldn’t follow verbal directions.

Was she severely cognitively delayed? No… she could imitate writing and pictures beautifully. She could follow the examples of her peers and tried very hard to “fit in”. She could imitate physical tasks quite well. These are not skills that my students with severe cognitive difficulties have. Was this just a factor of her having two languages at home? I would normally have said absolutely not! But with this little girl I didn’t know. Maybe she was going through a silent period as she adjusted to a new culture? But her parents claimed that they speak both English and their native tongue at home. Plus, her little brother was developing both languages without difficulties.

Was she hard of hearing? Her reports stated that she passed her hearing screening in Early Intervention and at a doctor’s office. But then she failed her hearing screening in first grade. After dozens of phone calls, arrangements of tests, meetings, more tests, and more phone calls (did I mention I HATE phone calls?), she was diagnosed: She has a moderate to severe hearing loss and is a very good candidate for a hearing aid.

Oh. My. Gosh. For the first six years of her life, she was not hearing language.

I should have further explored her hearing status when she started Kindergarten. But I didn’t. And I’ll never fully forgive myself for that.

This post describes and simulates what a child with hearing loss can actually hear in a classroom setting. Although my student received hearing aids within a few weeks of her diagnosis, she made extremely slow progress–she was trying to make up for six years of loss. During the time that most children’s brains are most pliable to language learning, hers was hearing fuzz. Plus, there were other issues. Two or more days of each week she would come to school without her aids on. Or the aids had dead batteries. Or she wasn’t wearing them at home. She is such a sweet girl and I would tear my hair out wanting to help her, but not knowing how. At her most recent IEP, I told the hearing specialist that I wanted more for this little girl. I wanted an FM system or a classroom speaker, or something . And I got it. Within a week.

My sweet student is about to have an FM system. The teacher will wear a special microphone. The signal will be transmitted by FM waves to the loop around my student’s neck. Like a necklace. A magical necklace. Her hearing aids will pick up the signal. And, ladies and gentlemen, my student will be able to hear the teacher.

I found a simulation of this phenomenon at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater website. This is what a person wearing a hearing aid hears at a pizza place (keep in mind that this is still way better than what they would hear without the aids). Exhausting! Now this is what that same person will hear if the speaker is wearing a microphone and the listener has an FM system. But that is in a crazy and chaotic restaurant/mob scene. Surely a classroom would be quieter, right? I mean, we give students “preferential seating”! Really? Listen to this example in an unusually quiet classroom. And I promise that my student’s classroom is MUCH noisier. Now, put an FM system into place and this is what she will hear.

I’m going to cry.

My princess is going to hear .

As a cautionary note, however, I must remember to tell the teacher to turn the microphone OFF before using the restroom…


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  1. Oh my goodness…How unbelievable. Will she pick things up quickly now? I just wonder how fast something like this goes once the problem is solved? Good luck to the princess, and her magic necklace:)

  2. That is so wonderful! A happy ending for her!

    We had Mr. B’s hearing tested when he was 3–he was not talking and we wondered…he had slight loss in one ear, but not enough to affect him. We were thankful and still stymied by his language skills.

  3. My stepson supposedly had a hearing problem — it turned out that he simply didn’t understand the directions given to him during the preliminary tests. His hearing is just fine — it was just a communication error.

    Blessings to you!

  4. I have never heard of this necklace. That is AMAZING!

    And – as to your feelings of guilt about missing it – I and RedFish’s momma spent three years trying to figure out why RedFish seemed like such a space cadet… didn’t learn to walk until 20 months of age… appeared to have cognitive delays – but not really. Turns out she’s legally blind. They discovered it after she turned four (home more than three years). FOUR!!!!

    Sometimes all the signs are there, but they are difficult to see. It happens to the best of us. Hugs!

  5. I am so happy her hearing was tested again. Not hearing for 6 years–heart-breaking!

    That necklace is amazing, just amazing!

  6. That is so wonderful that she will be able to hear now!!!

  7. I just love stories like this. Truly. That is nothing short of amazing.

  8. What a wonderful story! I feel like cheering!!

    What a wonderful advocate you are. Her life will never be the same – because of YOU!!

    This concept is amazing to me.

  9. Hurrah for FM systems! Those links were fantastic. They really helped me to see how these systems can benefit children with hearing/auditory processing problems. I’m going to email them to one of my professors so we can use them in class. 🙂
    I’m sure the little sweetie will start to pick up once she gets used to hearing. All of a sudden her world has sound! That must be a bit overwhelming at first.

  10. I can just feel your heartbreak reading this, but it’s WONDERFUL news that she’ll FINALLY be able to hear!! How incredible is that magic necklace?! I’ve never heard of anything like that either, but wow, what an awesome piece of princess equipment!!!!

  11. HMM i wonder if that would help Monkette since she can hear but can not concentrate on the teacher because all of the surrounding noise bothers her.

  12. Wow. Fascinating. It’s really hard to differentiate sound with a hearing aid.

    I the FM system makes all the difference.

  13. Im teaching at this moment (with huge passion of fitness ), last year there are 5 students with learning difficulties. It was hard and your blog its remind me how I dealt with them
    And your blog reminds me of Torey Hayden’s Book.

  14. I originally popped by to thank you for your comment on my blog, but I got all wrapped up in your stories and WOW. You have an amazing blog and wonderful way of sharing ideas and concepts. THANK YOU! I am learning so much and I’m not even to your older posts yet. LOL

    We are huge Signing Time fans too. I did reviews of the first 3 DVDs years ago when they first came out and we got hooked. My daughter and I loved to sign and now my little guy is 15 months (today!) and loves it as well. It’s always a joy to find someone else with a passion for ASL.

    Oh and one last thing: your lunch system is flippin’ AWESOME. I am so borrowing this concept when we get to our next house. I’ll try to think of that name to trademark…. and I know a good copyright attorney who can help you do it, too. heehee

  15. Wow. Thank you for sharing this. I have a student in my setting that uses a similar FM device. Whoever is the key person she needs to listen to wears that device during the lesson. It may be the SLT, or is could be the learning support assistant. It isn’t always the teacher. It’s fascinating the difference she can hear with the device, than with just her aids.
    Are we OK to share these links/sound clips with others? I’d love to share them with my colleagues.

    Thank you!

  16. WOW! I mean, wow! What an amazing difference. I will never look at the FM system the same. How exhausting it must be for students with hearing impairments! I don’t think I truly realized this before. Thank you for sharing these links, I am going to share these with my colleagues and parents. thank you!!!

  17. Sooo glad she had you! Amazing post about your perseverance to figure out what was going on with this little princess!

  18. Love the “magic necklace” idea!

  19. Annie Doyle says:

    Now you can say you’re the SLP of royalty! Great post!

  20. AH! Another beautiful story! And I literally LOL’d at the last line….yes do remind the teacher to take it off before using the restroom…;)

  21. That is great that she will be able to hear at school! I wouldn’t blame yourself for not realizing earlier that her hearing was so poor. If she had already passed two hearing tests in two different settings, there would be no reason to suspect anything different! Good thing schools test on a regular basis!

  22. My mother does daycare at her home. She had a child who was in a similar situation. He had a lot of hearing problems and it was discovered until he got into school. He is doing a lot of work to make up for the time that was lost. I am sure they would love to hear about this necklace. Thanks for sharing.

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