Friday, December 8, 2017

How to Connect with Teens: From Their Point of View!

I was recently asked by an itinerant teacher of the deaf in California for strategies to help her connect with the teenage students on her caseload (fellow teachers of the deaf—you know this scenario well!) I shared my strategies, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to know what my own students would say. 

My students in grades 8-11 were more than happy to share what’s worked for them, and what has been challenging with the various TODs they’ve had. Some of these students I see every week, and some just once a month. While younger students are generally excited to see their TOD, eager to leave the room to go work and confident in their abilities; as they get older, students (even those without hearing loss!) often become more reserved and reluctant to openly display their differences. So, a special thank you to my fabulous teens for contributing to this post!

Here’s what they had to say:

“We have hearing loss so we’ve had to deal with a lot. We’re more mature because of that.”
Set reasonably high expectations for all students, including teens. When our students know that we believe in them, they’re more willing to work through academic and social challenges rather than resisting or insisting that everything is “fine.”

“Don’t be over enthusiastic. Like, when you come in the room, you’re not like, ‘HEY! What are you doing?’ in a little kid voice. You talk to me like I’m an adult.”  
Our students can sometimes be perceived as less developed than their peers with typical hearing, or needing more support than they really do. Remembering to treat them as we would treat any other teenager leads to mutual respect rather than babying older students who will become resentful.

“When you come in the room to observe, you just sit in the back. Usually I’m talking to my friends and then I’ll look back and be like, ‘Oh! Ms. Stinson’s here’ and I can talk to you or wave or whatever but you don’t interrupt me.”
Most teenagers do not want to stand out and having a TOD around can be embarrassing or uncomfortable, no matter how cool we think we are! I generally speak when spoken to! I’ll sit in the back as my student commented, rather than making it obvious who I am there to see. This way I am able to respect my student’s space and boundaries. I generally find that they do interact with me once they’re comfortable, and they understand that I’m not going to draw extra attention. 

We used to only meet in [special education teacher’s] room and then I’d go to class. Now I don’t care though; you can come to my class!”  
For some students—especially if the TOD relationship is new—making arrangements to meet in a private space (versus me going to the class to pull the student out) is more comfortable since again, no extra attention is drawn to the student.

You don’t just care about my cochlear implants. You always ask about the other stuff I do, and like, weekends and friends and stuff.”
Even though time can feel crunched—especially with students who I only see monthly—every minute counts and I always want to get as much information as I can about classes and amplification. However, trusting relationships need to be more than just “Tell me why you don't want to wear your receivers anymore.” I’m genuinely interested in my students and their lives, and when they know that, they’re more willing to discuss topics related to hearing loss and challenges as well. It’s worth it to take that time to build meaningful connections and trust so that my teens see me as more than just the FM police.

While I enjoy all of my students, my teenagers are almost always my favorites. How do you connect with your teens?

Thursday, November 16, 2017

UPDATED: Scholarships for College Bound Students

College is expensive! Working with several students who have transitioned from high school to college has made that clear. Luckily there are many scholarships specifically for students with hearing loss.

Below are links to scholarships that I’ve gathered over the years. I share these with my high school seniors (and often help them fill out the applications) and I encourage you to share them with your students as well. Many have deadlines in the next few months so let’s pass them along!

This scholarship is specifically for Clarke School alumni. Any student who attended any Clarke program for any length of time is eligible!

This is an opportunity for students who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind or have difficulty speaking in various states, including California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington.

For students with a significant bilateral hearing loss (generally requiring at least a 50 dB unaided hearing loss in both ears). 

For students with a minimum 40dB bilateral hearing loss.

This scholarship is open to Cochlear Nucleus® implant recipients.

For persons who are deaf or hard of hearing, or the families of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

For students with any disability who plan to major in a technology-related field.

And More!
AG Bell also has this list of scholarships for students with hearing loss:

Do you have links to scholarships for students with hearing loss? Let’s share them here!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

A New Student

We’re well into the year at this point. I finally have a schedule. I have a routine. Everything fits! And just like that, a request to evaluate a new student who will need TOD/HOH (Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing) support. So long, established schedule!

So, what does a comprehensive initial evaluation look like? How do we determine services for a student we don’t really know? Here are the techniques and tools that I use.

I start by gathering background information. I look at:
·      recent audiological testing
·      the current IEP or 504
·      any academic, speech and language, psychological and/or pragmatic testing
·      reading and written language testing

These are all valuable tools in getting a picture of the student’s academic and audiological profile. Sometimes not all of this information is available and in those cases, I use whatever I’m able to gather. Not only do I evaluate scores, I also look for patterns of errors, especially verbal and non-verbal discrepancies in the psych testing (see my earlier post on testing here for more detail).

The next step is to talk with the family and find out their areas of concern. These tend to be based on academic, social or advocacy issues—and sometimes a combination of all three.

Then I reach out to school staff who are familiar with the student, as they can also provide valuable anecdotal data on how the student performs in school. I especially like to talk with the classroom teacher and SLP. If it’s still quite early in the school year, a teacher from the previous school year may also be able to provide valuable insight, as they may know the student better than a teacher who has only worked with this student for a few weeks.

Overall, my main goal is to determine why there is a request for services now when there hasn’t been a need observed in the past. Perhaps the student’s grades are falling; maybe they are withdrawing socially or refusing to use amplification; maybe the student is new to the district. To get a clearer picture, I like to have all adults who work with the student complete the SIFTER  and the teacher portion of the LIFE-R, which I can then analyze. For students in preschool through grade four, the advocacy checklist can put age appropriate expectations into perspective for teachers.

When I observe the student in the classroom, I am watching to see how they use their amplification. Does the student self-advocate and if so, when? And how? Does the student interact with peers? How does the student respond when directions are given? Does the teacher use visual supports? How are group discussions facilitated and how does the student with hearing loss participate? When possible, I like to see work samples as well.

Finally, I like to meet with the student to get their perspective. Completing the LIFE-R student version together can help me get information about access, and also understand my student’s feelings about their hearing loss and amplification. I also ask general questions about school and related activities.

Once I have a complete picture, I am able to compile all my data into a report with service recommendations. Service delivery grids such as this one can be useful in justifying recommendations. Providing a comprehensive picture of the student and their individual needs based on observations, as well as the data acquired from the various tools listed, is far more convincing when making a recommendation than a simple observation without this additional information.

What other tools do you use when evaluating new students?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Wear the Transmitter... PLEASE

Last week, I walked in to see my third grader. He was lined up with his classmates, heading to the classroom next door for math. He smiled wide when he saw me, made eye contact with his teacher, then came over, ready to work with me.
“Go get your transmitter,” I reminded him.
He looked at me, paused, looked down and shuffled his feet. “Well…”  
Overhearing, his teacher looked around and grabbed it off a nearby table, handing it to me. The battery was dead. I then noticed my student wasn’t wearing his receivers. I asked him where they were. “I don’t know,” He whispered. “Yes you do! It’s where we always keep them,” his teacher interjected. His eyes searched the room as the teacher walked over to an area of the counter top, shuffled though papers and found the container. Clearly, they hadn’t been used in awhile.
            We’ve all had experiences with students refusing to use their amplification, but it’s much more frustrating when the adults neglect to use it. So what’s a TOD to do? Here’s my plan…

            Reinforce and Remind
While I want to be annoyed with this teacher, I also recognize that if she does not see the importance of my student’s hearing technology, maybe I haven’t done my job. In a conversation after my session with my student, I reminded his teacher of the importance of using his HAT system consistently. I also reminded the teacher  of the hearing loss simulation I had played during my in-service and despite the fact that this student’s speech is strong, and he is able to carry on a casual conversation, it is much more challenging when he is required to listen to (and absorb!) new information in a classroom setting. I insisted that we set up a designated charging station right then (while the room was empty) so that both the teacher and my student would know where the equipment was being stored.
            Get Organized
This week, I plan to spend more time in the classroom helping everyone feel comfortable using the equipment. I also plan to have my student create a morning checklist which I will laminate and he can check with a dry erase marker each morning after doing his set-up. The troubleshooting guides and listening checklist forms that I made are there, but my student may take more ownership if he creates the materials. He and I will talk about friendly ways to remind the teacher to wear the transmitter.
            Enlist Help
And going forward, if all else fails, I plan to enlist the support of the school nurse or SLP, both of whom I have good relationships with from past years in this school. They are in the building all day whereas I am in and out. One of them may be able to check in each morning to help my student get set up. Perhaps this teacher feels overwhelmed, and what I see as a two-minute morning job may seem like much more to her.

In the end, it’s really about my student and his access. How do you work with teachers who are reluctant to use the HAT system? Let’s share tips!