Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Hear Me Out has moved!

 by: Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech 

We're pleased to announce that the Hear Me Out blog will now be available at Clarke’s new websiteYou will find all past and forthcoming posts there. If you have this page bookmarked, please update with our new location:

Thank you in advance for visiting our new site and reading Hear Me Out. We will add more content and functionality throughout the summer! 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Knowing When Extended School Year Support Is Necessary

    It’s the time of year when things are starting to wrap up. As we enter spring IEP and transition meetings, I’m noticing a new trend—an unusual number of requests from parents for Extended School Year (ESY) academic summer support services. 

While I understand that parents are concerned about their children falling behind, not every student qualifies for ESY supports. The purpose of ESY is to prevent regression. Each state and district have paperwork that must be completed to determine eligibility for ESY, and usually require documented academic or developmental skill regression throughout the school year or following a gap in services (e.g., after returning from winter break). Some students may also qualify for ESY for medical reasons, such as a preschooler I work with who just received her second cochlear implant and will need continued auditory rehabilitation throughout the summer to help integrate the new processor. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of fear, and not just fear of getting sick. We’ve all had a disjointed school year. We’ve all bounced between hybrid and remote and in-person and back again. We’ve all had a piecemeal curriculum squeezed into these challenging instructional models. This does not mean all students are “behind.” We’re all right where we are. Every student is different, and every case deserves individual thought and planning, however, it is unfair to put unreasonable pressure on families, schools and students to attempt to make up an entire school year through a few weeks of ESY. For many of my students, the school team has been able to work with families to help them better understand ESY and why that might not be a good fit in terms of the peer group and academic focus. Students need the same break that the adults need right now. A summer of socializing, reading, camp and typical play is going to be the most valuable way to spend time for many of us. 

Determining ESY eligibility is no different than determining eligibility for any other supports. There’s no universal recommendation as each student is in a unique situation and must be evaluated as such. For students who have received ESY in the past, I’ll likely recommend those supports again this year. For students who have not needed ESY in the past, the team will need to discuss the request and determine how to proceed and if the student qualifies. There’s so much fear and pressure right now. Collectively maybe we can help encourage relaxation and regrouping for the summer as much as possible, rather than additional stress and anxiety, so that we can all return fresh in the fall. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Mobile-Friendly Spring Mainstream News Now Available!

by: Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech 

The spring issue of Mainstream News, sponsored by Oticon, is now available online and mobile-friendly! 

Read about our favorite tech tools, the importance of having hearing technology serviced in the summer, how to plan a summer of enriching fun, why quality play matters so much for children of all ages – and more. 

All stories are available as discrete links, so please feel free to share! 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Looking Ahead To Fall

Despite the many ups and downs of this school year, we are moving right along! Spring IEP and planning meetings are being scheduled and teams have begun talking about the fall. While there are still many unknowns, using what we have learned from this school year we can thoughtfully plan for the many possible scenarios in the fall. 

While most of us anticipate returning to school full time in the fall, it is not certain. Additionally, now that remote learning has become familiar, many schools have decided to eliminate snow days and instead use “Blizzard Bags,” in which teachers would provide remote learning materials in the case of bad weather. For this reason, I am keeping the remote learning plans and accommodations in all of my students’ IEPs. 

We have had time to explore different masks and figure out what works best for each student. Under “Accommodations” or “Additional Information” (depending on the format of the IEP / 504), I am writing in the specific model of mask preferred by each student. I am also adding in the need for HAT system cleaning wipes and any other accommodations specific to masks and distancing that have been helpful for each student. 

I always try to choose teachers who will make an effort to meet the unique needs of our students with hearing loss in the classroom. This piece is even more important right now. Teachers who speak clearly, explain concisely, already use ample visual supports and are comfortable with technology will have an easier time accommodating our students no matter what the instructional mode (in-person, virtual, or hybrid)—setting everyone up for success in the fall. 

Some school routines have been adjusted due to COVID protocols, such as one-way hallways, the number of people allowed in bathrooms at a time and how emergency drills are handled. I’ve specified 1:1 review of procedures and protocols in the fall for each of my students in their educational plans so that they know what to expect and understand any changes in the rules or routines. 

As teachers of the deaf, we are always trying to plan ahead for our students. Now is the time to start ensuring that the fall transition goes as smoothly as possible so we can all start off strong and get a fresh start!  

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Our Students are Children First

    There’s no denying it: the feeling of teacher burnout is real. Winter months are hard in New England in a regular school year, and the added stress of the constantly changing school models—remote to hybrid and back again—safety concerns and uncertainty are just adding to that pressure. I haven’t been writing as much here either because what more is there to say? Our students and families are stressed and anxious and tired. And so are we.

    Once again, I needed a fresh start. There’s plenty of talk about regression, education, IEP hours, goals and objectives. Who is talking about preserving childhood? This is an equally important factor right now. 
I’ve focused on play with all my younger students. Pure and simple play. I spent a morning with my preschooler washing rocks in the sink. This is an activity that would have happened in any preschool classroom pre-pandemic. We poured and measured and scooped the water. We adjusted the temperatures. We had a variety of sponges and containers and soap. We made a complete and utter mess. She was soaked, the counter was dripping, and there were puddles on the floor. My student was beaming, and I felt relaxed and “normal,” which is a rare feeling this school year.

    I got baby dolls and painted on cochlear implants for my younger students. We may be in a pandemic, but representation still matters. Students took their dolls home and some classroom teachers got puffy paint to add technology to their classroom dolls. 

    I had been thinking about the importance of childhood when one of my high school students shared with me a poem she wrote, titled “Childhood,” which was recently published in an online literary  journal (and you should definitely read it here). As one of my graduate professors once said, “The children will thrive in spite of what we do.” I’m trying to keep this sentiment in mind as I move forward with the rest of the school year: Our students are children first.  Let’s honor their need for playfulness and hoy, even in these stressful times. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Check out the Winter Issue of Mainstream News!

by: Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech

The Winter issue of Mainstream News, sponsored by Oticon, is now available online! 

Read about learning regression and how to prevent it, learn best practices for a successful college search (particularly in a pandemic), understand the crucial partnership between a teacher of the deaf and student, discover why activity breaks matter — and more. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

“So, which mask is the best?”

    As itinerants, I’m sure we’ve all been asked this question by school teams. I also continue to see this question posted in forums and in Facebook groups. I’ve decided to answer it for you here. Get ready- it’s not a simple answer. 

At the start of the pandemic, there were all types of recommendations for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and their teachers and support teams. Clear masks! No, face shields and masks! No, full hoods! No, wait- the auditory signal isn’t great- surgical masks! Quick speech recognition studies were conducted (I participated in a few); patterns for homemade masks of every style appeared all over the internet. Websites popped up selling every style of mask imaginable. Professionals created charts and graphs. Schools emailed and called me, desperately looking for guidance in what to purchase. 

So, you’re wondering, what exactly is the best mask?! Well, it depends on the student. At the start of this year, I had several students attending school in some in-person capacity whether full- or part-time. I told my students outright that I don’t have all the answers. We’ve all been thrust into this experiment together (however willing or unwilling we are as participants) so we might as well do the best research that we can. It IS ok to change your mind. Rather than one mask, I tried a wide array of options and suggested others do the same. I’ve found that each student has a clear preference and as educational teams, those preferences have been accommodated. 

One high schooler who is a very auditory learner prefers that her teachers wear the surgical style masks for improved auditory access. Another high school student uses more visual information and reported that his preference was a style of mask with an oversized clear window to really optimize speech reading. All clear window masks are not the same and students may need to try a variety, as this student did, in order to find one that works. My little three-year-old may not have much language but she sure does know how to communicate her mask preferences! After only one session spent with her attempting to pull my mask away and gesturing frantically so that she could see my face, I now wear a clear shield with a fabric bottom for our sessions so that she can see my entire face. Our students are the experts. We teach them to advocate and this is no different. Access matters and our job as itinerants is to help our students find what’s safe and what works best for them and implement that into their school day. 

Masks will likely be part of our lives for quite a while. It’s worth it to take the time to experiment now so that our students can confidently advocate for their preferences and have the best access we are able to provide. 

A Note from Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech 
Clarke approaches PPE carefully in both practice and purchase. We continue to evaluate and test PPE including face coverings. Clarke does not endorse or recommend any particular PPE for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Clarke follows health and safety guidelines set by the CDC, Departments of Health as well as regional Departments of Education.