Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Making Self-Advocacy Meaningful

As teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing, we understand the importance of fostering self-advocacy skills in all our students, even our preschoolers! Our students all have goals and objectives focused on self-advocacy because this early, supported practice helps them to develop life long confidence in alerting others to their listening and learning needs.  But, before students can alert others to their needs, they need to understand their hearing loss, amplification, and the benefits and limitations of their amplification. It is also important that students know what their self-advocacy objectives are. We work together to decide which aspects of their advocacy goals can be tackled first.

Advocacy is not always easy or comfortable, even for adults! So how can we get our students to willingly work in this critical area? Here are some ideas:

Student Presentations Have students create presentations to share with their teachers or peers about their specific hearing loss. Using provided organizers and outlines, students as young as preschool can take part. PowerPoint, iMovie, and homemade posters and books are some formats that I’ve used with students. Finding a motivating medium to work with keeps everyone engaged while working on the project.  Be sure to weave language objectives into self-advocacy practice by having students use a variety of structures to explain their hearing loss and how their amplification works. For a more detailed description of such presentations see my earlier post here .

Letter Writing Students can send regular letters, newsletters or emails to teachers describing their needs in specific classes. One colleague has her middle school student write monthly letters to her teachers from the CIA (Cara’s Implant Advocacy), putting a spy twist on what could otherwise be a mundane task for a middle school student. 

Communication Notebooks Some students have communication books which they take ownership of, writing what is working well and what needs improvement in their classes. Under the guidance of the TOD, SLP, or other designated adult, this is a valuable record of the student’s perspective in classes and can be used to spark discussions of how to handle difficult listening situations.

Meetings Several of my students meet with me and their teacher(s) on a regular basis. Prior to meeting, the student and I meet as the student fills out an organizer requiring them to write what is working and what needs improvement in their classes. They also write any specific questions they have for their teacher. This structured format allows the student to practice with me before approaching a teacher. Teachers are generally receptive to the feedback and often ask for a copy of the student’s notes!

How do you help students advocate?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Starting the New School Year Strong

It’s back to school time! As Clarke Itinerant Teachers, we’ve already hit the ground running. Despite the lingering heat, summer is officially over and students are returning to school this week as we frantically check items off of our “to do” lists. Here are a few key people to connect with in the next few days to ensure a smooth start to the new year:

Parents: Call the parents of each student; introduce yourself and find out:
·       How summer went for the student
·       How they like to be contacted (email, phone, text, etc.)
·       Concerns for the upcoming year
·       When last audiology appointment was and any changes (if you don’t have a recent report from the audiologist)
·       Name of managing audiologist and if this person also manages FM (sometimes it’s two different people)

Schools: Identify and coordinate the following school-related information:
·       Student’s school address and main phone number
·       Classroom / main teacher; contact this person and introduce yourself, explain your role
·       Your primary contact (could be SPED teacher, SLP, counselor etc.)
·       Report dates and format. Sometimes schools request a word document, or sometimes we have access to an online IEP manager, for which you’ll need access codes and log-in information.
·       Schedule your In-Service. You may need to coordinate with the managing audiologist if they are doing an in-service at the school.
·       Make sure you have the most recent signed IEP. If not, request it.
·       Request copy of the student’s daily schedule. For elementary students the teacher will have it. For junior and high school students, guidance department will likely be the place to get you a schedule.

·       Contact the audiologist (HA/CI and FM audiologists if different) to introduce yourself.
·       Request reports if they are not already in the student’s file. *Parents may be required to sign a release and this takes time, so ask early!
·       Find out what each student uses for amplification including make and model of each device.  
·       Identify concerns the audiologist may have for the upcoming year?
·       Discuss how the managing audiologist wants to handle general troubleshooting and how she wants to be contacted when there is a problem with equipment.

Your students! Set up a file/binder for each student that includes:
·       IEP/relevant testing
·       Audiological information including the most recent report and audiogram
·       School information including calendar, contact people (names, email, phone)
·       Family information (names, email, phone)