Tuesday, September 19, 2017

After the In-Service

            Another school year is in full swing! Recently, as I was preparing for an in-service at one of my schools and setting up my laptop, I was chatting with the special education teacher about how far technology has come. During my first few years as an itinerant, I used to bring stacks of handouts, a CD with hearing loss simulations and a CD player to play it on. I also had a bulky three-dimensional ear model, as well as model cochlear implants and hearing aids. So many bags! Now, I just bring my laptop, which contains all the images, videos, audio samples and information I need! One thing hasn’t changed though: my role after the in-service.

            Although we try to fit the most important information into that initial meeting, there’s always key follow-up work to do. During my follow up visit, I demonstrate how to set up each student’s amplification—whether it's a DAI connection to the classroom soundfield (check with your educational audiologist to ensure the proper output), or a HAT system connecting to cochlear implant processors. I provide handouts with each part of their system labeled, as well as step-by-step instructions (created either by me or by my students).          


            I also review with the classroom teacher or designated school staff member how to do a listening check, and I provide step–by–step instructions with illustrations for this task as well. While it’s true that the language I use helps my student to accurately identify the parts of their technology and understand their importance and the routine, it also helps teachers who may be unfamiliar with hearing aids and cochlear implants. 

            I ask specific questions about classroom expectations and policies. One of my junior high students was in a panic because a teacher discussed what it means to be prepared for class, noting that she would not allow students to go to their lockers for forgotten items. After meeting with my student and the teacher, he can rest assured that if he forgets his transmitter or needs a new battery, he can go get it!  At times, there do need to be exceptions made for our students. Similarly, another junior high student who began at a new school told me that kids are allowed to use their phones during class. Upon further investigation, we discovered this was not true. Clarifying this policy prevented her from potentially getting in trouble for doing something that she thought was acceptable.

            And I always make sure that everyone knows my schedule! Each elementary student has my schedule taped to their desk. This not only helps them remember, but also serves as a reminder to teachers and substitutes. Older students write my days and times right into their class schedule, and I email it to all teachers, as well as my primary contact. Finally, I make sure that the office has my contact information so that if my student is out, hopefully someone will let me know. J

Here’s to another great school year!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer Break!

Like my students, I am on break for the summer. I'll be spending two weeks at Clarke's Summer Adventure camp and otherwise resting up and  preparing for next year. Hear Me Out will be back at the end of August. Cheers to another year successfully completed!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Wrapping Up!

I have a FIELD TRIP!” my elementary student excitedly announced as she ran into our room. “And it’s a walking field trip! We're gonna walk there! And they have animals!” I asked her when this field trip was happening, thinking about the multiple schedule changes that happen at the end of the school year, and wanting to know how this would impact my time. “Oh, I don’t know. I think this week,” she responded. I racked my brain to try to figure out where they could possibly walk to see animals from this particular school. She wasn’t able to tell me any more so we moved on. Later, I asked her teacher about it. Not surprisingly, my student had missed some information. The field trip was to a farm. The students would be walking around the farm but taking a bus to get there. In June… Several weeks away. The teacher was surprised—they had been discussing this trip in detail for several days, tying it into the science unit.

For students with hearing loss, the fun end-of-the-year activities can be confusing, surprising or even stressful if they don’t get all the correct information. By this point in the school year, most teachers are implementing appropriate supports for academics but forget that our students need the same accommodations when discussing upcoming schedule changes and activities. Here are some things to consider for end of the year events:

Elementary School:
Field Day is common in many schools. It’s a day of chaos, new games, noise and competition—a nightmare situation for a student who doesn’t hear well! I try to get as much information as I can ahead of time and prepare my students. Will there be teams or individual events? Will there be a rotation pattern through activities or free-for-all? What games will there be and what are the rules? Will there be water events and if so, how will my student participate (in terms of wearing or removing  and storing amplification)? Who will be the go-to adult if my student needs a break? Older elementary students can write out questions and do a Field Day interview with the PE teacher or other designated adult. Predictability helps my students participate more fully in this day. And really, wouldn’t ALL students benefit from such preparation?!

Field Trips happen all year, but I find that more are planned for the spring. It’s helpful when teachers write the trip on the classroom calendar so my students can see exactly when it will be. The same visual supports used for academic instruction are beneficial when discussing field trips, and more informative than just verbally describing what will take place.

Junior High / High School:
Graduations happen both at middle school and high schools. If my students are graduating, I make sure they get all instructions in writing well before the event occurs (what to wear, what time to arrive and where, deadlines for paperwork, etc.) Whether my students are graduating or just attending, most schools have been receptive to printing out copies of speeches ahead of time so that my student can follow along. Some have been willing to provide preferential seating for the event and with advanced planning, the FM transmitter can be used as well. This way, my students can enjoy speeches and announcements at these important events—and celebrate along with the rest of the school community!

Semi-Formal dances and proms are also happening now. If my students want to go, I make sure they get directions in writing once again. Sometimes tickets can be purchased at the door but often must be bought ahead of time. There may be a dress code that is explicit or one that is just “common knowledge” (such as underclass girls wearing short dresses and only seniors wearing long). I get as much of this social information as I can and ensure that my students are prepared!

Field trips and picnics also happen for older students. Again, getting dates and requirements in writing is necessary so that they don’t miss the opportunity to purchase tickets or participate.

Finals may not be as much fun as they other events but they happen anyway! I make sure my students have the schedule for finals as well as study guides and deadlines for classes that have papers or projects in place of exams. Many students benefit from help organizing notes in alignment with study guides as well as extra emphasis on the study strategies we’ve worked on all year.

The end of the school year doesn’t have to be chaotic! With a little extra effort, we can help our students stay on top of deadlines and finish strong!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Modifying Board Games

With only a few months left of school, spring fever has definitely hit! And when students are less motivated, what better way to renew their energy than with a game? Unfortunately, I’ve never found a game that meets my exact needs for any student. Luckily, every game can be modified!

There are several games such as Hearing Aid Bingo which is both an app and a physical game and allows students to work on the names of the parts of their amplification such as tone hook, tubing, etc. Adding language frames, as in the examples below, allows me to simplify or make the game more challenging, depending on the needs of my student. I can also have students complete a diagram as they get each piece for extra practice. 

For instance, I may write a frame on the board like, Do you have the part of the hearing aid that__(function)_____? The student then has the relative clause model and can fill in with the function of the part while also working on asking questions.  A more complex frame may be, Do you have the part of the transmitter that _(function)___ before / after the sound travels through the_(transmitter part)___? This frame includes a relative and a temporal clause and requires the student to think about how the sound travels as well as the function of the part that they need. Additionally, students work on auditory skills while listening to their playing partner use the same type of language.

Another way to modify games is to include the students! Rule the School has scenarios that ask students to think about particular situations in which listening may be challenging, and state how they could handle such a challenge. I often pick out the cards that apply to my students but also have them create their own cards. I now have a bank of cards created by several students who don’t necessarily know each other, but who are eager to see what challenges other kids have. This shared experience also inspires students who may be uncomfortable or unwilling to discuss their own access difficulties. They become more motivated knowing that their card will be read by other students with hearing loss and that they may be helping that other person.

And as always, including peers with typical hearing on occasion is valuable for everyone. The peers learn about the challenges of hearing loss without directly focusing on the personal experiences of my students, which creates more understanding and awareness.

Who’s ready to play?!? 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

“I Can’t Do This!” Advocating for Closed Captions

            It was right before February break. Vacation was so close!
At this point in the year, routines are in place. Relationships with teachers and other school professionals are established. Consultations focus on modifying or fine-tuning instruction in anticipation of upcoming lessons. We’ve covered the basics… or have we?
I walked into my junior high consult on the Thursday before February vacation. The history teacher sat with a paper face down on his desk. Somehow, I knew it was for me. He handed me the paper. It was a series of questions related to the current unit and across the top, my student had scrawled, “I can’t do this.” Scanning the sheet, I was surprised. The questions were ones I thought my student was fully prepared to answer. And then the teacher casually mentioned that the questions were related to a video that had been shown in class. Naturally, I asked about closed captions. You guessed it! The CC hadn’t worked for whatever reason and because my student generally does well, the teacher assumed she’d be fine and could just listen and take notes along with the rest of the class. He was baffled as to why she hadn’t even attempted these questions. I realized it was time to revisit closed captions…
            Closed captions are absolutely necessary in order for students with hearing loss to access audio/visual media used in class for instructional purposes—or just pure entertainment! As teachers of the deaf / hard of hearing, we know that even with the use of assistive technology, students do not have perfect access to sound. In order to ensure comprehension, captions are essential 100% of the time.

One of my junior high teachers pauses a video about Mt. Everest
with the CC on to model note-taking

But I don’t know how to turn on the closed captions… Some of my schools are still using DVDs (and even VHS tapes in one financially burdened district). While all DVDs should have closed caption options, each system (computer, television, DVD player) may have a different way to set up the CC. I’ve found it helpful to print out instructions and tape them to the back or side of the DVD player or television. This way, even if there’s a substitute teacher, there’s no excuse for not using CC. For online resources, commonly used sites such as Brain Pop and Discovery Streaming, and CNN Student News have CC available. YouTube captions are notoriously inaccurate with some exceptions. If teachers are planning to use a YouTube video, I highly recommend that they preview the video first to make sure the closed captions are appropriate and accurate. Teaching other students in class how to set up CC for various media also helps, especially in cases where the teacher may be out.

The captions bother the other students so I don’t like to use them… A teacher actually said this to me once! When teachers use CC in a meaningful way, all students benefit. The names of people and places are on the screen. Dates are right there in print and key details can be read for students who are not auditory learners. I’ve watched many teachers begin to really own the CC, pausing the video at key points so that students can copy important details into their notes. Framing closed captioning as a tool that benefits everyone rather than as an accommodation for one student allows the whole group to embrace CC.

I connected the transmitter with the splitter like you showed me so she doesn’t need CC… While a DAI connection to a media source allows students to listen to media through their HAT system, it does not replace CC. This connection cannot improve clarity.

It’s in Spanish. They’re supposed to listen and repeat for practice… Especially with foreign language, CC are necessary. Turning on the Spanish CC on a Spanish video for example allows students with hearing loss to follow along. A second language is even harder to comprehend than a first language so CC are even more essential.

Well, the homework is to listen to this podcast. It doesn't come with CC…  In this situation, the teacher approached me to ask how to accommodate my student. Originally, he offered to type out a script for my student.  While this would be fine for one or two podcasts, he had many that he planned to use throughout the year. He mentioned that he also had several TED talks that were similar and did have CC. A solution was found! Now, when a podcast is assigned, there’s an option to watch the related TED talk instead. As this teacher astutely pointed out, if my student needed a visual, there were likely other students who would do better with that format as well. Offering alternatives allows all students to engage without singling out the student with hearing loss.

I put the CC on so why didn’t he answer the comprehension questions? While reading the CC, students with hearing loss are not able to take notes simultaneously. If they look down to write a response, they will miss the next portion of the video. Alternatives include pausing the video and giving all students an opportunity to write, allowing the student with hearing loss to copy responses from a designated note taker, or, my first choice, allowing the student to receive a copy of teacher provided answers prior to watching the video. While sometimes perceived as cheating, previewing information allows the student with hearing loss to better follow along while watching the video as they know the important information to tune into.

It’s Friday before vacation. This video’s just for fun so we didn't bother with the CC… Even if it’s not educational, CC are still necessary. Students with hearing loss deserve equal access to all aspects of their education—even the fun parts! Not using CC means that the student may not be able to engage in the social conversations later and could feel left out or confused. If it’s happening in school, CC are mandatory.

I’m. Not. Using. Captions. One year I had a high school teacher who was incredibly difficult to work with and for reasons I still don’t understand, adamantly refused to use CC. I enlisted the help of my liaison at the school, and together we advocated all the way up to the special education director. In the end, my student was moved to a different history class where the teacher was more accommodating. This may not always be an option but my students’ needs come first.

And most importantly, remember that training students to advocate for closed captions is highly effective. Teachers often hear students in a different way than they hear us when it comes to what’s needed in the classroom. Practicing for situations involving captions (through role play and conversational scripting), and then supporting their requests allows students to feel confident—even when we’re not there.

How do you advocate for the use of closed captions?