Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer Break

 Like the students, Hear Me Out is going on break for the summer. I'll return in August with back to school planning tips! 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer FM Servicing

As itinerants, there are many things we’re thinking about as the school year comes to a close. I have multiple IEP meetings, in-services for some of my students, transition meetings and June progress reports. My planner is a rainbow of color-coded appointments and due dates! In addition, it is a priority to make sure all of my students’ FM systems make it back to the audiologists for summer servicing. I’m fortunate to work for Clarke where our audiologists manage many of the students that I work with. and In those cases, I know the summer servicing will happen. For students managed by other audiologists, I reach out to them, as well as my school contact, to ensure that this important aspect of FM management takes place.

     Summer servicing of FM systems (sometimes called Remote Microphone Hearing Assistance Technology or Remote Mic. HAT) is an important component of amplification management. Over the course of the school year, cords can deteriorate and fray, batteries weaken, pieces chip and bend, and connections between audioshoes and boots can loosen from wear. Even if equipment is working fine now, proactively servicing the FM system can prevent the student from having to go without it at the start of a new school year if something should break then. Summer is the perfect time for an overhaul since students typically do not use their FM systems during the summer. When students do require FM for summer school or related activities, it is still critical that all equipment is inspected by a managing audiologist before the start of the new school year.

Ensure Delivery to the Audiologist
Work with your team to decide how the FM system will get to the audiologist for summer servicing. Some students have an educational audiologist on their team and that person is responsible for picking up equipment at the end of the year. Sometimes this job falls to the special education liaison, and sometimes I pick up and deliver the equipment myself when my students are managed by Clarke audiologists. Most importantly, I do not assume someone else will handle the delivery –I want to know for sure who will be held responsible for each of my students! Some schools require me to sign a responsibility form when picking up and delivering FM system for summer servicing, so be sure to check with your contact at each school so that you understand the expectations. Additionally, some audiological contracts include summer servicing; for others, this is an additional cost. Be sure to communicate with your team and your student’s managing audiologist so no surprise bills arrive at the school.

Comprehensive summer servicing should include:

·      Replacement of rechargeable batteries
·      Replacement of any frayed cords
·      Repair or replacement of any pieces with loose or worn connections
·      Cleaning of all of the components
·      Full testing of the FM system to ensure all components work properly together
·      *An appointment for your student for FM verification (transparency) and a functional listening test with and without their equipment should occur before the start of the new school year

     An appointment for FM verification is an aspect of equipment management that I find is too often overlooked by school systems and their contracted audiologists. Just as it is important for an audiologist to verify and program the FM and fit it to each child when it is ordered, it is an essential step in annual service. While some audiologists verify the equipment according to the American Academy of Audiology pediatric guidelines as part of their protocol, many skip this step. They imply take the pieces from the box and put them on the student, which I unfortunately see too often in the field. When this happens, the student may not be getting optimal auditory input through the FM system and their specific hearing aid and/or cochlear implant settings. This means that the FM signal may be too soft preventing optimal access, or too loud, which decreases their access to peers.  In either case, when the FM is not transparent, the student may reject the equipment as it either does not seem beneficial or negatively impacts their ability to hear and learn from other students in the classroom. I remember seeing a student for the first time a few years ago at the start of the school year. Her teachers reported that she used her FM consistently and never reported any trouble with it. While meeting with the student, I asked her how she felt about her FM. She commented that it was fine but didn’t really know what it did for her or why she had to use it. When I listened through her hearing aid, the signal from the FM was so soft I could barely hear it! No wonder she didn’t see the benefit! After speaking with her audiologist and getting her parent involved, the FM system was verified, the volume of the FM was increased appropriately, and the student then had access through her FM.

If you are unsure if your student’s FM system has been verified, speak with the managing audiologist and ensure that this is part of the student’s management plan. As verification often requires the student to go to the audiologist for an appointment (unless the audiologist has portable verification equipment), work with families to set that appointment now before it gets forgotten in the hustle of the fall and the start of a new school year. Part of the planning will be knowing for sure who will be designated to pick up the FM in the fall and return it to the school. Sometimes families bring the FM after the verification appointment, sometimes it’s me (the teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing), and sometimes it’s a designated school staff member.  It is also a good idea to start planning for next year in terms of trainings. If possible, schedule the in-service for the fall where relevant staff can be trained in how to use the FM in order to maximize access for the student with hearing loss. With some advanced planning, students, families and schools will not have to worry about the functioning of amplification next fall. J