Monday, November 17, 2014

Scholarships for College Bound Students with Hearing Loss

College is expensive! Working with several students who have transitioned from high school to college has made that clear. Luckily there are many scholarships specifically for students with hearing loss. Below are links to scholarships that I’ve gathered over the years. I share these with my high school seniors (and often help them fill out the applications) and I encourage you to share them with your students as well. Many have deadlines in the next few months so let’s pass them along!

Caroline A. Yale Alumni Scholarship
This scholarship is specifically for Clarke School alums. Any student who attended any Clarke program for at least one year is eligible!

Helen Fleming Scholarship
This is a scholarship for students with hearing loss who live in Massachusetts. Below is the link to the 2014 version but students can contact the committee for the 2015 application.

Hamilton Relay Scholarship
This is another opportunity for students who live in Massachusetts.

Louise Tumarkin Zazove Foundation Scholarships
For students with a minimum 50dB bilateral hearing loss.

Minnie Pearl Scholarship Program
For students with a severe-profound bilateral hearing loss.

Sertoma’s Scholarships for the Deaf or Hard of Hearing
For students with a minimum 40dB bilateral hearing loss.

Graeme Clarke Scholarship
This scholarship is open to Cochlear Nucleus® implant recipients.

Travelers Protective Association of America

AG Bell
For students with pre-lingual bilateral moderate-profound hearing loss.

Microsoft DisAbility Scholarship
For students with any disability who plan to major in a technology related field.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

To Be A Role Model

It was one of those Mondays. Everywhere I went hearing technology was malfunctioning, students were upset, teachers were frustrated, and I was late all day long. Signing out of my last school, the receptionist and I joked about counting down the days until Friday; she was exhausted, too. Mentally composing the list of things I needed to do once I got home, I headed towards the exit when I was interrupted by an enthusiastic middle school girl. Beaming at me, she introduced herself, said she had seen me around the building and asked if she could talk to me about my job. Caught off guard, I agreed. As she ran off to let her soccer coach know she’d be late for practice, the French teacher approached me. “*Kara has been talking non-stop about you so I encouraged her to talk to you,” she informed me. I let her know Kara had done just that.

For the next hour Kara and I sat in an empty classroom while she asked questions about my role as a teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing. She inquired about hearing loss and hearing technology, about my educational background and college coursework, and about the day-to-day responsibilities of the job as an itinerant. I pulled a model cochlear implant and hearing aid from my bag as well as a three-dimensional model of the ear, explaining each one to her. Kara examined each piece, running her finger along the electrode array of the cochlear implant, and gently opening and closing the battery door of the hearing aid. Frequent exclamations of, “Cool!” and “Wow!” escaped her.

 Kara talked about her own interest in the field, sparked by watching me work with several students at her elementary school and the two students in her current school.  She commented on the ease with which I interact with my students and the patience I demonstrated while re-syncing the FM transmitter and pass-around microphone students used during history class that afternoon. She described her fascination with the way that I am part of the class, co-teaching, observing, and collaborating with classroom teachers.  I was impressed by Kara’s articulate questions, but more so by her observations. I’ve always worked to be a role model for my students and the teachers I support, but never gave much thought to the role I play with the hearing students other than being generally friendly. Kara reminded me that even on my worst day, someone is watching, looking to me for inspiration, and yes, my job is pretty “cool.”

*name changed

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Learning A New Language

Foreign language instruction is increasingly part of the curriculum for students of all ages. Once reserved for junior high and high school students, I now see elementary school students receiving foreign language lessons as well. Exposure to foreign languages, customs, and cultures is a valuable experience for all students. With some careful planning, our students with hearing loss can be successful as well.

As teachers of the deaf / hard of hearing, we can help foreign language teachers understand and address the unique challenges a second language can present to our students. Here are some key points and suggestions to share with foreign language teachers, and to keep in mind when providing itinerant support to students:

Many of our students are still learning English grammar and syntax, so learning the rules of a new language can be challenging. Explicit instruction, use of visual supports, and copies of charts (such as those used for conjugating verbs) and vocabulary for the student to review independently can all be helpful.

Many languages have subtle auditory differences in words that can be harder for students with hearing loss to discriminate. Consider the masculine and feminine le and la in French, or the /s/ at the end of words in Spanish that denotes verb tenses. The student should have visual access to all new vocabulary, and ample opportunities to practice using and listening for (depending on auditory access) the differences in sounds. Speechreading can help the student gather additional information, so it is important for the teacher to face the student when speaking.

Help the student organize vocabulary with a system. The following presentation offers examples of this: 
While a bit outdated, the suggestions for color-coding would be beneficial for many students, not just those with hearing loss!

Students with hearing loss need extra opportunities to practice listening to and pronouncing new vocabulary words. At times, students may not want to participate in class due to fear of mispronunciations. Providing extra practice (such as utilizing support from the TOD/HOH or SLP) and use of visual supports can alleviate some of this stress,

Provide subtitles for videos and transcripts of any recordings used in class.

Assessments typically include oral and written components, and adjustments will likely be needed for the oral portions. Students with hearing loss should have the oral component read aloud by the teacher (vs. listening to a recording). This will provide visual information for speechreading, maximize auditory access and allow the student to ask for repetition as needed. For students who struggle auditorily, the oral component may weigh less towards to total grade for that student. Additionally, consider the student’s speech abilities. A student who does not have access to all speech sounds, and therefore does not produce them, should not lose points on an oral assessment for those errors.

Just like typically hearing students, there are many reasons students with hearing loss take foreign language classes. One of my students spends time in France with his family and wants to be able to communicate independently while there. Another student is taking Spanish simply because it is required and she wanted to give it a try rather than waiving the class (as many students with hearing loss are able to do). A third student attends a Jewish day school and is learning Hebrew as part of the religious curriculum, which includes reading religious texts. Yet another student has taken Latin as a way of improving his understanding of English. Each student has a different reason for choosing and participating in their language class. For students with hearing loss, there may need to be some adjustments in what is emphasized or weighted more heavily - whether it be speaking, reading, writing, or cultural exposure. But, it is usually worthwhile to consider the benefits of taking a second language before presuming it is not a possibility.

The first year taking a foreign language often goes well as long as the student’s first language is in tact. Because the teacher assumes that everyone is new to the language, the instruction is generally slow paced and very clear. The teacher slowly articulates, is careful about word boundaries and includes a variety of visuals such as posted vocabulary and conjugations of verb forms. Projects and cultural lessons make the experience hands-on and meaningful. Since everyone is working on syntax, the teacher often writes out whole sentences and is very explicit about grammar and syntax. It is helpful to point out these strategies and encourage teachers to keep using them, even more so as the student progresses through the levels. As instruction becomes more conversation based, teachers tend to drop some of the visual supports that the student with hearing loss will continue to need.

Above all, encourage the student with hearing loss to communicate with the foreign language teacher – both when difficulties arise and when strategies are working well.

How do you help students access foreign language classes?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Time to Take Notes!

Okay, so I get that I tell my teacher why I can’t take notes and then I ask for a notetaker. But what do I say to [peer] when she asks why I’m not taking my own notes?” My eighth-grade student looks at me from across the table, his notecards, history text, and class handouts spread out as we begin to prepare for an upcoming test. Like many students with hearing loss, he is not able to take notes during class lectures despite the fact that his teacher writes key words on the board, paces lectures and class discussions appropriately, maximizes the use of his hearing technology, and provides organized handouts to accompany her lectures. Our one-to-one sessions provide a comfortable, reassuring place for him to practice what he can say. “I can’t listen, lip read, and write all at the same time. When I look down at my paper to write, I miss what [teacher] is saying. And then it’s all confusing and I have to ask her to repeat. That’s why it will be helpful to have your notes. So, you know, I can listen and know what everyone’s talking about,” he rehearses.

In order to help students fully access class lectures and discussions, especially in middle and high school, peer notetakers are a valuable accommodation. Because of the way hearing aids and cochlear implants process sound, students with hearing loss require extra time to listen and make sense of what they hear. Many students also rely on speechreading in addition to their hearing technology, making it nearly impossible to write at the same time. My students have had great success with peer notetakers when there are clear guidelines and when everyone is on the same page. Below are a few tips for setting this up for your students:

  •        Communicate with the teacher(s) and explain the rationale for peer notetaking. Sample notes the student has attempted to take and simulations of hearing loss can be helpful when teachers are resistant. Some teachers initially feel that use of a peer notetaker lets the student with hearing loss, “off the hook,” eliminating any sense of responsibility for that student. It is our job to help teachers understand that peer notetakers allow our students to access instruction more completely rather than simply reducing the workload.

  •        Involve the student.  Role-play with the student and support him or her in meeting with teachers to advocate for peer notetakers. Teachers are often more receptive when students are able to articulate their own needs. Conversations may include the difficulty involved in speechreading while trying to write, the pace of the conversation or lecture, and the likelihood of missing important details of not just content but also information such as safety and instructions in science labs when using chemicals and hazardous materials. 

  •     Support the student in advocating with the peer notetaker. Teachers are often able to identify a peer who would be a good notetaker. This student should be someone who is generally organized, has good attendance, takes clear notes, and is up for the responsibility of supporting the student with hearing loss by sharing notes. Some schools identify a second student as a back up in case the primary notetaker is absent or needs a break. One of my students chose to write a letter to her note taker outlining the specific information she wanted included. Another student chose to have a conversation with her peer with my facilitation. Think about including lecture notes, details of assignments, vocabulary terms, class procedures, rules, and instructions, and peer comments and questions. Many students are just learning how to take notes themselves and may require additional support or supplemental teacher notes.


  •       Decide how the student with hearing loss will get a copy of the notes.  Some students take notes on a computer and email a copy to the student with hearing loss. Others choose to photocopy hand written notes. A popular option is to use our carbonless Note-Writer paper, which provides an instant copy of notes. (Visit to order.) The student with hearing loss will be responsible for getting the notes from the peer notetaker and as the TOD, we can help facilitate this process.

  •        Identify an adult who can monitor the notetaking process. Adults should continue to check in with both students so that any challenges that arise can be addressed with adult facilitation. This way, if there is a problem the students can express their concerns without worrying about hurt feelings or creating tension.

  •        Help the student with hearing loss understand their role in class. Having a peer notetaker does not give our students the green light to check out during class. Many of my students choose to copy key terms from the board as a way of staying involved. Students should still be expected to participate in discussions, ask and answer questions, and clarify as needed.

By checking in regularly with the student, teacher(s), and notetaker, nuances of the process can be addressed and modified as needed in order to create a smooth system that benefits everyone involved.

What other strategies have you used with peer note takers?