Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Collaborating with Additional Service Providers

Let’s go! Time to see Adam!” my first grader calls out, referring to his Occupational Therapist (OT), fist pumping the air as he hurries down the hall. Our individual session is finished but my time with him continues. My student runs into the OT room, sits at his workspace, and begins to grab for items on the table, responding to Adam’s verbal prompts to wait as I observe from a few feet away.
            Many students that I work with have service providers in addition to my support as their teacher of the deaf/HOH, and the support of a speech and language pathologist. Occupational therapists, physical therapists, behavioral or ABA therapists and vision specialists are just some of the professionals my students see regularly. In order to maximize growth and skills throughout the school day, everyone on the team must understand the impact of hearing loss on learning and language. Especially for young students or new listeners (e.g. a recently implanted student) collaboration between the teacher of the deaf and other professionals is essential. Below are a few areas I highlight when working with other service providers.

For Occupational and Physical Therapists:
       As the teacher of the deaf/HOH, work with your therapists to identify the best place to sit when communicating and working with the student. This is usually across from the student to maximize visual access but your student may have a “better” ear making it more ideal for the therapist to be on the side of the “better” ear.
       Encourage therapists to make eye contact with the student before giving instructions or beginning a task.
       Work with therapists to incorporate language and vocabulary by asking the student to verbally describe the steps in a task using sequential language, and by asking the student to name the materials and their purpose (e.g. “Scissors are a tool we use for cutting.”)
       Provide sequence for multi-step tasks.
       Support verbal instruction with visuals (e.g. pictures, text).
       Work with the student’s speech and language pathologist and teacher of the deaf to learn what language structures your student does and does not understand. Multi-step directions, complex clauses, and new vocabulary can impede a student’s ability to complete a task and negatively impact a therapy session.
       Explicitly teach the names of the materials you will be using in order to ensure comprehension when instructions are given.
       When working in small groups, set clear expectations for turn-taking and social interactions.
       Ask the student to verbally repeat directions before beginning.
       Incorporate language by describing actions (e.g. “Sam jumped high, Jack jumped higher, and I jumped the highest!”)

For Vision Specialists:
While I have a general understanding of my students’ vision loss, I benefit from ongoing collaboration with vision specialists to refine my materials in order to meet those needs. Similarly, vision specialists benefit from an understanding of a student’s auditory abilities and limitations. For example, when using iPads or similar technology, a direct auditory input connection is generally best in terms of access but specialists must understand that the student is probably still not receiving 100% access to the information; clarity is compromised due to the hearing loss.
·      Verbal explanations may need to be simplified or modified to meet a student’s receptive language abilities. This can prevent frustration due to misunderstandings.
·      Many vision specialists that I work with incorporate reading and phonics into their sessions. An understanding of how hearing loss impacts phonemic skills is beneficial, as is how the audiogram reflects what the student is able to perceive in terms of sounds. This type of ongoing consult again allows for productive sessions as vision specialists can tailor phonics and literacy work to meet the needs of the students .

How do you work with additional service providers?

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