The primary school experience and identity

In the Preschool years, chances are your child has been in an early intervention program in which all children with hearing loss are experiencing the same language intervention and language modalities.

However, your child’s world will change dramatically when they enter Primary School. From the protected and controlled environment of Early Intervention and Preschool, they will suddenly find themselves in a far more expansive world.

Primary School often involves your child coming into contact with hearing peers and even more variety in the deaf experience determined by the schooling you choose:

Specialist Deaf School
Mainstream School with or without support of an itinerant Teacher of the Deaf
Mainstream School with a Deaf Unit

Diversity and inclusion

Your child will have an emerging identity that includes being a person that is deaf or hard of hearing. There will be conflict in heart and mind as they navigate feelings of diversity from their peers matched by a corresponding need to belong and feel included.

Issues which deaf and hard of hearing kids may feel or express at this age:

Where do I belong?
Everyone communicates so freely in ways that leave me feeling left out
Why am I different from my hearing friends? Why can’t I sit with them?
I missed that piece of information in class

You will play an important role in nurturing their emerging identity. Developing a community of social networks and supports plus linking your child with children who are a further along the identity journey will be vital.

To find out how we can help support you and your child on this developing identity journey:

Useful links

Here are some further links for Identity and reading the world as a Deaf Person:

Deaf adults give their memories of primary school

A letter to my younger self

Dear Daniel,

You’re a full-fledged adult now. Can you believe it? I remember you going to Primary School is the 80s wanting the years to fly by.

Now I wish they would slow down. One thing’s for sure the world has changed a lot since those days, mainly due to technology. And that’s a huge help for people like us, that are deaf or hard of hearing.

What I wanted to say is what you felt then was very normal:

  • Wanting to be in the same class as your hearing friends
  • Being the only kid in the neighbourhood with an Atari 2000
  • Feeling inadequate not being able to use the dial telephone to communicate with others.

Instead of using the phone, I remember you having to look out for your mates’ bikes on their front lawns to work out if they were home. You’ll be relieved to know they got rid of the dial telephone for mobile phones with awesome features like texting!!

Things do get better for you. Mostly, you do end up finding your place in the world.

Your older self.

Dear Taryn,

Looking back, going to a mainstream Primary School with a Deaf facility is the best thing that ever happened to you.

I know it was difficult at first, but when you started learning the Auslan language, it made you feel like part of a community. You connected with friends who were also Deaf plus you had an interpreter that made life feel normal and fun.

That’s what began your journey to a more positive Deaf identity.

Your older self.

Dear Ella,

I remember you being the only Deaf student at Primary School, something that would probably not happen today. You didn’t have the benefit of interpreters or note takers!

What did help was having one teacher per year, which became a big challenge when you went to High School. However in Primary School, I am proud of how you managed, not letting your hearing get in the way of your school experience.

And what an amazing Year 6 you had helped by a wonderful teacher who was always there for you. Do you know you still keep in touch with her to this day?

My only advice to you and other Deaf students that might be reading this is to not be afraid to ask for help!! I wish you did that more often back then. Also not to worry about being inadequate in sport.

Your older self.

Dear Kate

So, off the top of my head you had no idea in Primary School. It was a big change that no one prepared you for. You were teased and called, “deafy” but lucky for you, it was water off your back. You learnt to manage with whatever was thrown at you.

You had friends. But no boys were interested. You didn’t have much of a Deaf identity or the language to talk about your experience. I remember you did love going to the audiologist because she understood the deaf side of you. But then she only ever looked at your hearing aids and not your adjustment, social development or deafhoodness.

Your sister hated waking you up. It took many times as you did not have an accessible alarm clock. No surprise, she was a little resentful looking after you at times. Things like this can cause tension for siblings.

The great thing is you meet another Deaf girl in late Primary School and that was an amazing connection for you. Having another person to compare notes with and talk about your hearing loss was an important moment.

It started your keenness to know of other Deaf people.

Your older self.

Further information

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