Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Benefits of Spring Orientations

We’ve all been there in the fall. The frantic scramble to try to orient the various teams of teachers, SLPs, special education staff, principals, and additional service providers to the needs of our students with hearing loss is a daunting task. Not only do we need the teams to understand each student’s specific learning needs, we also need them to make acoustical modifications, find captioned media, modify lessons and instructional styles, and create optimal seating arrangements. There must be a designated location to charge FM systems and we may possibly have to re-route the flow of traffic in the hallway to avoid commotion during times of instruction. Oh, and we get two days to do all this if we’re lucky. 

I had grown to dread the fall for this very reason. I felt pressured and rushed. Teachers were frustrated by having to take time out of their precious few prep days before the start of school to attend an orientation and then re-do whatever set up had already occurred in the classroom to meet the needs of the student with hearing loss. A few years ago, I decided to make a change and try doing orientations in the spring. What a difference it has made for my students, the teams I work with, and myself!  While this is not always possible due to limitations within some schools, in many cases spring orientations can be arranged. Below are some tips so that you, too, can have a more pleasant fall!

·      Work with your school contact person to arrange a spring orientation for the upcoming teachers and support staff. Even if a specific teacher has not been identified, many schools will encourage all the 5th grade teachers to attend, for example, knowing that they will all interact with the student at some point. Offering Professional Development Credits if you are able) can also motivate school staff.

·      Make the purpose of the orientation clear by distributing a handout or sending an email with a brief description. For example, “In this presentation, the topics of the educational impacts of hearing loss, proper use of assistive technology, instructional strategies, and modifications will be covered.” Provide as much detail as you feel pertinent.

·      Encourage student participation. An orientation right in the building is a great opportunity for your student, no matter how old, to meet the new team. The student can present a brief PowerPoint, create an iMovie or similar presentation, or simply come in to introduce him or herself. When students are able to articulate and share their needs, the adults are more likely to listen to your expanded and more detailed presentation.

·      Use specific examples including video (with parent permission), work samples, or modified lessons to demonstrate the most effective strategies for this student.  This will help the new team set reasonable yet challenging expectations for your student.

·      Play simulations of hearing loss to help the team understand the nature of hearing loss and the benefits and limitations of assistive technology. Even with the best technology, our students are working harder than their peers to hear and the risk of missing information is greater.  Putting staff in the position of experiencing a little bit of a hearing loss helps to make this point. Clarke offers a CD of simulations for sale on our website: Additionally, check out the other products we have that can assist with orientations such as, Have You Heard, and the new Sound Advice book which can be shared with staff.

·      Bring samples of the amplification the student uses if possible so that teachers can practice listening to a hearing aid alone and through an FM.  Although they will likely need a refresher in the fall, holding the equipment without the rush of a classroom full of students helps build comfort and confidence and increases the likelihood of daily listening checks.

·      Alert the team to specific acoustical needs for the fall so that they can take time to plan during the summer. Tennis balls will need to be moved to desks and chairs in the new room. Area rugs may also have to be moved. If the student uses a soundfield tower in addition to personal FM, where will it be placed? Where can amplification be charged safely each night? Where will listening checks occur and what materials are needed? Teachers and custodian appreciate time to plan for such changes.

·      Media will have to be captioned. Encourage teachers to find captioned versions of media that they regularly use each year and to learn how to enable captions on online resources.

·       Alert teams to specific modifications that help your student, such as providing study guides at the start of a unit rather than just before the test. This allows time over the summer for teachers to re-arrange materials if necessary.

·      Most of all, be encouraging. This is your opportunity to build a relationship with the new team, so focus on the upcoming opportunity for collaboration, build excitement and confidence, and make it clear that you are a resource for the whole team. Your positive attitude will carry through!

Have you ever given an orientation in the spring? Let us know how it went!


  1. I love this idea! It really would take a great deal of that crazy pressure and worry out of the first weeks of school. I know that things always have a way of working themselves out, and my son has had the benefit of working with the same team for the past two years, I always worry that something might not be ready for that first day of school. I am going to pass this on as a suggestion just to help everyone take a deep breath!

  2. Krysty,
    It's great that your son has such a supportive team. With some advanced planning, the fall transition can be more comfortable for teachers, students, and parents :) Good luck!

  3. This is brilliant! I am going to look into the professional develop hours idea for sure! Thanks for another terrific article!

    1. So glad you found it helpful! Spring orientations help everyone- including the TOD/hoh :)