Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Overnight Trips

     The end of the school year is quickly approaching and with it, a variety of special excursions off school grounds. For several of my students, this will include their first overnight school trip! Eighth-grade campouts, overnight museum stays and city adventures are all on the horizon. With thoughtful preparation, my students are bound to have a great time!

To ensure school trips are successful for my students with hearing loss, there are specific areas I ask school teams to consider:

Sleeping Arrangements: Since students with hearing loss remove their amplification while sleeping and will be “off the air,” they may feel most comfortable with familiar peers or friends. Even when students are told that sleeping arrangements are random, I’ve never had a problem with teachers making an exception for my student.  

Storage Containers: Students should plan to bring containers to store hearing aids and cochlear implants within reach of their sleeping area at night. Also, consider having the student bring a small flashlight to keep near the container to help with communication with peers in the dark or in case of an emergency during the night.

Electricity: If FM systems are brought, they will need to be charged overnight. Also, many students use electric Dri-Aid devices for hearing aids, or use rechargeable batteries. If there will not be electricity, as was the case for a student on a recent camping trip, they will need to know ahead of time so that disposable batteries can be used. FM systems can be charged using a car charger which will have to be packed as well.

Schedule and Expectations: Students should be prepared for the overnight experience the same way that we would help them prepare for any other field trip. Printed out agendas, rules, expectations and so on will help the student with hearing loss feel more confident and independent. When instructions are only given verbally to the large group, the student is more apt to miss or misunderstand key pieces of information.

Night Activities: Campfires, flashlight hikes and nighttime explorations are so much fun! The problem is that understanding others becomes incredibly difficult for students who use speechreading in addition to listening. Help your student develop a plan ahead of time for managing communication during these activities.

Packing: In addition to the general packing list, students with hearing loss should also pack extra batteries and basic troubleshooting supplies. As the TOD/HOH, it is important to meet with the adult(s) who will be responsible for managing the equipment to review basic troubleshooting steps so this person will know how to help the student if a problem occurs. This person should also have a number to call if a problem cannot be resolved after basic troubleshooting.

Weather: Students with hearing loss should pack rain coats or umbrellas to protect their amplification in case of poor weather. This will allow them to continue participating in outdoor activities.

Wake-up Protocol: Discuss with your student how they would like to be woken up in the morning. If students are expect to wake themselves up, our students with hearing loss should have this same expectation. Some students may have alarms that vibrate instead of using an audible alert, but in cases where they do not, or, when there is no electricity available, include the student in the planning so that they feel comfortable. This may be an opportunity for the student to purchase such an alarm and practice at home prior to the trip. Additionally, if there is an emergency during the night, be sure the student knows how they will be alerted. All adults should be aware of plans that are put in place.

Overnight trips are a great opportunity for all students and will some advanced planning, our students with hearing loss can have a memorable experience as well!

For more ideas, see the article, “10 Tips For Successful Spring Field Trips”, page 3 of our Spring 2015 issue of Mainstream News!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


I walked into the eighth-grade health class for an observation after April break. Before class officially began, a student with typical hearing commented on my tan and asked where I had been. My student came up during our conversation and handed me his transmitter, showing me that the microphone clip had broken. I told him I had another, digging thorough my troubleshooting bag to find the baggie with replacement clips. “Ms. Stinson to the rescue!” the typically hearing student said, striking a superhero pose with a smile. My student laughed along with him.

Throughout class, I filled out my observation notes, identifying the number of times and how my student advocated, clarified, contributed, and commented on what others had shared. Students were patient with him, repeating or rephrasing when he asked, and his teacher willingly provided further explanation when he expressed confusion. This was really a model class, but not atypical for this student at this point in the school year.

Grades were handed back on an oral presentation students had done. My student broke out in a huge smile after reading his rubric and hurried over to show me – a perfect 100! A nearby student wanted me to see her rubric too, as she had also done well.

Walking out that day, I started thinking about those interactions with the typically hearing students in the class. They all know me and understand my role. I’ve been a quiet presence, observing their classes throughout the year, interacting with my student when he approaches me during class, and chatting with his peers as well. My interactions with him and his amplification have normalized hearing loss to the point where everyone helps this student access what he needs without judgment.

Middle school is a difficult time for all students but for students with hearing loss, the normal feelings of self-consciousness can be compounded. Having a teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing following them around observing in classes, meeting in public spaces such as the library, and collaborating with teachers has the potential to make them feel that much more different. In this situation, the teachers have set the tone in the classroom by welcoming me and openly collaborating with me. Their attitudes and interactions have helped me to integrate into the class of eighth graders which has impacted how hearing peers view my role as well as how they view my student. As the year comes to a close, I’ve been thinking about how confident all of my middle school students are right now, and how comfortable they are approaching me in front of their peers. I’ve worked hard to build and maintain these relationships and it has paid off. An outsider would never know that this is the same student who told me when I started working with him that he felt ashamed and embarrassed by his hearing loss.