Corbin’s Story as Told by His Mom

corbin-1-3Corbin is currently five and a half years old. Corbin had health problems from a very early age. He has suffered from chronic ear infections and sinus infections. He has had 5 sets of tubes and had his adenoids out. At age three and a half, he had a hearing test done due to his severe ear infections and our increasing concern that there might be hearing damage. Unfortunately we were right, his left ear had significant hearing damage due to scar tissue from severe ear infections and multiple surgeries, and it was recommended that he be fitted for a hearing aid. Later that year, we found out that he also had severe environmental allergies, and he began receiving three allergy shots per week. The doctors estimate that he will need to receive these shots once a week for five years.

In January of 2014, Corbin received his first hearing aid. This was a lot of new territory for us as parents. All of a sudden our three year old was struggling with allergies (and shots), a new hearing aid, and starting preschool. He adjusted very quickly, probably even better than his parents! Towards the end of February of that year, he was tested for his readiness for four year old preschool in the public school setting. We were hoping he would qualify for this needs-based program due to his new disability. As parents, we were concerned about his success in school in relation to his hearing loss. He performed exceptionally well on the preschool assessments therefore did not qualify based on academic needs, but still qualified for the program due to low enrollment. He began public school preschool in August of 2014. The first several weeks of school went well, and he was adjusting to his new normal. At the first parent-teacher conference, his teacher expressed concern about his volume level in the classroom, as well as his listening skills. She explained that she had to tell him directions and things multiple times before he would follow through, about twice as much as she was having to tell the other children. I had also noticed this at home, and felt that Corbin had gone so long without being able to hear, that he was unaware of social cues to know when he needed to be listening. Also, his hearing loss was a moderate loss, and the hearing aid was only able to correct the loss to a mild hearing loss, so he was still having to function with a hearing loss despite the hearing aid. I contacted the teacher responsible for the deaf and hearing impaired for his district. She was surprised that she had not been informed about Corbin previously, and assumed that the hearing loss was a new discovery. I informed her that he had been tested that previous February for preschool. She told me that she or one of her staff should have been at his evaluation and been able to assess his hearing ability at that time. I wasn’t aware of this, or I would have insisted that someone in that capacity be there at his testing. She immediately put into motion an action team meeting to meet with school professionals about what to do next.

At this point, I was overwhelmed by how much I did not know or understand about the educational system in regards to disabilities. We had his meeting where they decided that he would be tested to see if he qualified for an IEP or 504 plan. He performed exceptionally well on the academic tests, and it was decided that he did not qualify for an IEP. I had heard about an FM system that students and teachers can use in the classroom to help with hearing, and asked about that in the meeting. I was told that the only way that would be provided was if his hearing loss caused “an adverse effect on his academic learning”. According to his tests, it did not, therefore they would not be able to do anything, even though his audiologist and ENT said he needed the FM system in the classroom. If we wanted him to have the FM system in the classroom, then we would have to provide that ourselves.

At this point, his audiologist recommended we get in touch with a new parent advocacy group, Beginnings, which was created to support parents through the process and information on a child with hearing loss. We received a letter stating that, due to employees with full caseloads working part-time, Corbin would be put on a waiting list, and they would contact us when they could take him on as a client. Corbin continued to struggle through preschool. We were concerned that even though he was doing well academically, he would begin to be introduced to new material, and would struggle to learn that material in a classroom setting with so many distractions and loud activities. The school finally allowed Corbin’s teacher to use a modified FM system on a trial basis in the classroom. We saw a major improvement in his behavior in the classroom and his teacher was excited and impressed with the difference. When we met back together as a team, everyone was willing to let him use the device while in the classroom, but were reluctant to create a 504 plan, stating that “he wasn’t that bad”. I was concerned that we would have to fight every year for this equipment, and that there would be significant delays for Corbin to get what he needed to be successful in the classroom.

In the summer of 2015, we were contacted by Mary Reaves with Beginnings, and told that, due to funding, they were able to operate their program on a permanent basis, therefore were able to include Corbin as a client. The next week I met with Mary and went over Corbin’s journey, much like everything that is written above. Mary gave me tons of literature to read, and told me what steps I needed to take to get my son the help he needed and deserved. Within the first few weeks of school (Kindergarten), we had a meeting set to determine Corbin’s needs. Mary attended the meeting along with us, and was extremely knowledgeable about the process and rights of Corbin, and was able and willing to act as an expert on the subject to support us in the process. It was decided at that meeting that Corbin did qualify for a 504 plan. We created one that would include the use of an FM system, as well as hearing aid “breaks” when he got tired, someone to read the questions to him on the standardized computer assessments (it’s hard to wear ear phones with a hearing aid), along with other needs and goals that I would have never thought of.

I am writing this to say Thank You. Thank you for funding a program that supports and encourages parents like me that have little knowledge about the needs and rights of their children with a hearing disability. I am so grateful for Mary’s expertise, insight, and diligence in making sure that my son has what he needs to be on a level playing field with his peers, and a successful school experience. We went from frustration and anxiety about his school experience to completely satisfied and encouraged about it in one simple meeting. I have referred other people experiencing hearing loss in their families to this amazing program, and I am sure that they will reach the same goals that Corbin did and continues to do.

I will forever be grateful for DSS funding that allowed Beginnings to accept more children that desperately needed their services! I am excited about the future with them, and know that they will continue to help and guide us through the educational system as Corbin continues his journey. I am also thankful that other children like Corbin will be able to take advantage of this early intervention, so that when they start public school, these services will already be in place, and students will have the maximum amount of time to learn and grow.