Friday, October 6, 2017

Wear the Transmitter... PLEASE

Last week, I walked in to see my third grader. He was lined up with his classmates, heading to the classroom next door for math. He smiled wide when he saw me, made eye contact with his teacher, then came over, ready to work with me.
“Go get your transmitter,” I reminded him.
He looked at me, paused, looked down and shuffled his feet. “Well…”  
Overhearing, his teacher looked around and grabbed it off a nearby table, handing it to me. The battery was dead. I then noticed my student wasn’t wearing his receivers. I asked him where they were. “I don’t know,” He whispered. “Yes you do! It’s where we always keep them,” his teacher interjected. His eyes searched the room as the teacher walked over to an area of the counter top, shuffled though papers and found the container. Clearly, they hadn’t been used in awhile.
            We’ve all had experiences with students refusing to use their amplification, but it’s much more frustrating when the adults neglect to use it. So what’s a TOD to do? Here’s my plan…

            Reinforce and Remind
While I want to be annoyed with this teacher, I also recognize that if she does not see the importance of my student’s hearing technology, maybe I haven’t done my job. In a conversation after my session with my student, I reminded his teacher of the importance of using his HAT system consistently. I also reminded the teacher  of the hearing loss simulation I had played during my in-service and despite the fact that this student’s speech is strong, and he is able to carry on a casual conversation, it is much more challenging when he is required to listen to (and absorb!) new information in a classroom setting. I insisted that we set up a designated charging station right then (while the room was empty) so that both the teacher and my student would know where the equipment was being stored.
            Get Organized
This week, I plan to spend more time in the classroom helping everyone feel comfortable using the equipment. I also plan to have my student create a morning checklist which I will laminate and he can check with a dry erase marker each morning after doing his set-up. The troubleshooting guides and listening checklist forms that I made are there, but my student may take more ownership if he creates the materials. He and I will talk about friendly ways to remind the teacher to wear the transmitter.
            Enlist Help
And going forward, if all else fails, I plan to enlist the support of the school nurse or SLP, both of whom I have good relationships with from past years in this school. They are in the building all day whereas I am in and out. One of them may be able to check in each morning to help my student get set up. Perhaps this teacher feels overwhelmed, and what I see as a two-minute morning job may seem like much more to her.

In the end, it’s really about my student and his access. How do you work with teachers who are reluctant to use the HAT system? Let’s share tips!

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?!?