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Special Needs


FM Systems Help Children Learn

by Paula Rosenthal, J.D.

Founder and Editor of HearingExchange.com

Daphne Potter, a mother from Rhode Island wrote powerfully about the impact her son's FM system has had on their lives. Her son has a mild-moderately severe bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. "I wanted to share with you the immense value an FM system has made in my son's life. Last year he entered nursery school -- his first group learning environment. He was in a classroom of 16 children and even though he loved school, he immediately started showing behavioral problems. In his first months in nursery school, when everyone would sing a song, [he] would hang back watching, never singing, not quite understanding how to participate. In April, 2000 [he] received his Phonak Microlink wireless FM system. Behavioral problems at school disappeared. [He] began singing along with the rest of his class. Not having his FM would be a tragedy for our family and for all those families like us. It would cut [him] off from experiences that are normal for the rest of the hearing world. It would throw away so much of what we have gained through his early diagnosis and early intervention efforts. It would be a terrible mistake that surely will cost much more to fix in the long term."

Another mother, Michelle Sarnese, tells what a difference the FM system made for her daughter. She got her FM mid-year in kindergarten. "The teacher immediately noticed an improvement in her listening skills and in her participation in class. She started raising her hand and answering questions, whereas previously she would sit quietly. Now she uses her FM not only during school, but during extra-curricular activities such as dance and gymnastic classes. The FM raises the dance teacher's voice above the music. The gymnastics center is extremely noisy, with a lot of background noise due to the number of kids, poor acoustics and music for floor routines being played non-stop. But despite this, she understands her instructor perfectly when the FM is used. The FM has been an extremely useful tool, and she does not function well without it.

My own family has received significant benefits from the use of FM systems. I am a hard of hearing mother of a hard of hearing child. We both have profound, bilateral hearing losses and wear hearing aids. Without our FM listening systems, we struggle to hear even in the smallest rooms with few numbers of people. Chairs moving, cars passing, heat and air conditioning units and more all contribute to environmental sounds that have little if any effect on people with normal hearing. But to those of us with hearing loss, these noises can drown out teachers, lecturers, fellow classmates and others. We are rendered unable to hear the people around us. Using our FM assistive devices, environmental noises can be entirely shut out, making the speaker the only thing we hear and enabling us to learn what we have come to learn about.

My daughter and I use our FM systems on a regular basis. Without it, I would not have been able to graduate from law school in 1992. Today, I use my FM system for school meetings, continuing education programs, conventions and many other important functions. My husband is also hard of hearing and uses his FM during management meetings at work. My daughter uses her FM on a daily basis for all of her classes at school, for after-school and weekend activities, in the car so she can hear without road noise and when we attend religious functions.

FM listening devices are quite expensive and are widely used by deaf and hard of hearing children and adults nationwide in public schools, private schools, special education settings and public and professional arenas. Our FM listening systems are vital to us in many aspects of our lives including education, socialization and employment. The FCC needs to continue to reserve radio spectrum 216-217 MHz for use by these devices. The quality of both our education and our lives depends on it.

Send your comments and stories about the impact of FM systems on your child by February 22nd to FCC. Directions and the link follow.

Directions for submitting comments to the FCC:

The FCC has established a web page that allows you to submit comments electronically. The process is reasonably easy to use.

To help you submit your comments we have put together step-by-step instructions.

1. First, save your comments in a word processing file. The FCC can accept comments that are in the form of Microsoft Word, or WordPerfect files.

2. Go to the FCC's Electronic Comment File Submission page. You may click the link here:

[The Comment File on this subject has been closed by the FCC.]

3. Sending your comment is a 2-step process. The first step is to complete and send the coversheet.

4. Type the proceeding number in the first space. The proceeding number for this proposed sale is: 00-221. You must type this in exactly this way for the computer to accept your comments.

5. Unless you are an attorney who is submitting this comment for client you should click on the Name box on line 2.

6. Type your name in the space on line 3.

7. Unless you are an attorney who is submitting these comments for a client you may ignore lines 4 and 5.

8. You may type your email address in line 6. This is not required, and the computer will accept your comments without an email address. If you do include the address in this space the computer will send you an email acknowledging receipt of your comment.

9. Type your street address, city, state, and zip code in spaces 7-10.

10. Unless you are filing your comments after February 22, 2001 you should ignore space 11.

11. Line 12 has a pull down menu. The default choice is "COMMENT". You should leave that in place.

12. Make sure all of the information is correct, then click on the button labeled: "Send Cover Sheet to the FCC"

13. Computer will bring you down the page to the section labeled: "Send Comment Files to FCC (Attachments)"

The space labeled: "File Description" should have the word COMMENT in it.

14. Click the Browse button, and find the file containing your comment on your hard drive. Click on the file, and then click the open button. The name of your file should appear in the space labeled "File".

15. There is a pull down menu below in the space labeled: "Select one of these file types or convert your file to one of these types:" Select the type of file you have used, Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, etc.

16. Make sure that you have chosen the right file, and the right file type then click the button labeled: "Send Attached File"

17. That's it! You have submitted a comment to the FCC! An acknowledgment of your comment should appear on your screen. I recommend that you print this out for your records.

Note: If your comments are very brief, or if you prefer you may follow steps 2-12 and type your comment directly into the space labeled: "Send a Brief Comment to FCC (typed-in)" However, there is no spell checker feature when doing this.

For further information on FM systems and acoustics, review these resources:

FM Applications in Pediatrics (video) 1-800-777-7333

Teachers' Guide, "Information for Teachers About Hearing Loss, Hearing Aids and FM Systems" (brochure) Cheryl DeConde Johnson, Ed.D, 1-800-777-7333

Paula Rosenthal, J.D. is married and a mother of two young children. Paula, her husband and their daughter are all hearing impaired. Their son has normal hearing. A law school graduate, Paula is the founder and editor of HearingExchange.com, http://www.HearingExchange.com, a community for people with hearing loss, parents of deaf and hard of hearing children and the professionals who work with them. Subscribe to HearingExchange News at http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=hearingexchange/LHpy.

Copyright © Paula Rosenthal, 2001. Reproduction of this article requires written permission of the author. Email info@hearingexchange.com with your request.

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