I am embarking on my Technology Leadership Certificate and my goal will be for this blog to make a comeback. I am a firm believer of shared responsibility which starts with educators understanding that it is not our job to be gatekeepers of information. I'm a huge techie who likes to dabble in a little bit of everything to see what works best for people. I love to share new tools and incorporate them in professional development as well as show educators how to enhance students' access. There are no cookie cutter people. We all learn differently and have different interests and needs. Not only will I revamp my blog (as long as I get the green light), I'm also taking time to focus on enhancing my LiveBinder with resources for Deaf educators, administration, and families. I hope to incorporate Virtual Office Hours (after giving a quick Twitter/TodaysMeet tutorial during our next DHH Roundtable sessions). On most school days, I will be tweeting a new #DeafEdTip on Twitter. I am also planning a Technology Fair that will highlight the latest and greatest DHH technology available to students and their families. I will be sharing information on events and resources in the Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education's Learning Connection Community, on Facebook, on Twitter, and during DHH Roundtable meetings. Keep an eye out...my blog is making a comeback!
Many of my students and their parents have asked me to get information on how to protect their heads and their equipment (hearing aids, cochlear implants, BAHAs) over the years and with the weather warming up, I thought it would be a perfect time to share.
Having a hearing loss or using equipment should never prevent you from participating in sports. Of course, some modifications may need to be made.
Check out this inspirational story: Mooresville Swimmers Inspire Whole Team
So, let's start off with swimming. Some assistive listening devices are water resistant, but be sure to check. I've had some students' hearing aids quit on them after getting a little sweaty on the basketball court! There are more and more devices coming out that are waterproof. If you're lucky enough to have one, you really have the advantage. For those who don't have a waterproof device, it is best to remove the device and get creative with whatever accommodations you'll need while in the water. I've also had some students use the Nammu Swimming Hat to secure their cochlear implant after placing it in a LokSak. Watch the video below for a quick demonstration.
Just a warning, your batteries may not last as long because there's not as much air inside the bag. You may need to pack extra or make sure you bring your rechargeable ones!
Are you playing a contact sport? Then, you'll probably need a helmet. Wrestling, baseball, softball, hockey, and football are the most common school sports requiring a helmet (let me know if I've missed one). If you're not playing a contact sport, you don't have to worry too much about your hearing aid or cochlear implant popping off, but if you hit hard enough, that thing could go flying out from under your helmet and get stepped on by a 300 lb, cleat-wearing giant! Uh-oh, not good. It's best to make sure you keep your device where's it's supposed to be! A good fitting helmet is a start. Some students have found that the Xenith X1 helmets work best. They contour to the person's head and use adaptive shock absorbers instead of dense foam. I've heard the X2 is even better, but I don't know of anyone who has used that particular helmet, yet. Want the best football helmet ever? Adam Strecker received a custom helmet from Dave Lamm at AAA Sales for about $350.
Biking or skateboarding? The Giro Indicator Universal Fit Helmet seems to be the most popular and comfortable. It has "In Form" technology that allows you to dial in a custom fit in seconds. They also have straps that can go right over your processor to help keep it in place although, I would recommend using a balaclava, skull cap, beanie, or something similar in addition to the helmet (just to be on the safe side). Other "dial in" bike helmets that are good include Lous Garneau Helmets and Bell Bicycle Helmets.
Getting sweaty? If you play soccer, run, lift weights, participate in aerobics, yoga, spinning, or any other sweaty non-contact sport, check out Ear Gear! These simple sleeves help keep moisture out of your device while ensuring they stay put!
Everybody is different - Some of the following products may work for you:
Advanced Bionics makes a Snuggie
Find Critter Clips and other fun stuff at adcohearing.com
Line your helmet with a Silky Helmet Liner
Skullcaps, liners, and beanies
Check out the "Hat Trick" below:
If you're not sweating too much, but you want to make sure your device stays in place, some people find that all they need is a simple sweatband. Others have used wig or hat tape. I've also seen this used on ears when those hearing aids just seem to be a bit too heavy for tiny ears. You can pick up wig tape at most beauty stores. Be careful, though, this stuff is super sticky!!
Running or biking at dusk or dawn? Make sure you are aware of your surroundings! It can be very difficult to tell if a vehicle is coming up on you. Many runners wear reflective vests or have blinking lights on their bicycles. I know one Deaf runner who wrote "I can't hear you" on her running shirt with reflective paint. Of course, you may not want to make such a bold statement, but many runners can't hear and it may not be because of a hearing loss, but because they have their iPods cranked up so loud. In any event, drivers would at least know not to waste their time honking at you repeatedly. They'll just have to figure something else out!
What have you used? Please share any products you recommend here!
I stumbled across this poem and it's just too beautiful not to share...
Listen to Me
I may not hear you,
But I can listen,
Listen to your hands,
Your face and your eyes.
All I ask of you
Is that you do the same.
Listen to the words
That I want to tell.
Look past hearing aids
And see the real me.
Look at what I can be
Not what I cannot.
Heather Whitestone showed you
That I can be beautiful.
Marlee Matlin showed you
That I can be in movies.
Thomas Edison showed you
That I can make history.
Ludwig van Beethoven showed you
That I can make music.
Sir John Warcup Cornforth showed you
That I can win the Nobel Prize.
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky showed you
That I can send rockets to the moon.
Helen Keller showed you
That I can overcome anything.
Now, let me show you
That I can be a friend.
I have things to tell you.
Listen to me.
— By Tawnysha Lynch
I made a wonderful discovery this past week and I'm hoping the word will spread. My students have been told they can't do something countless times and I'm always trying to figure out ways to make their dreams become reality. When it comes to work, I typically tell my students they can do whatever they want, but that it's probably not in their best interest to work the drive-thru at the local burger joint. I'm all for them being able to work at the burger joint, just not at the drive-thru. If they can't hear customers' orders through the drive-thru headset (who can understand anything conveyed though that little speaker anyway?) the customers will be upset which will likely make Mr. Crabs (I thought that was a fitting name for a burger joint manager) upset as well. If everyone is upset and complaining, my student will be miserable. It's a lose, lose, lose situation. Besides, I wouldn't want to stand at that cold window during these terribly cold Indiana winters anyway!
I can usually help my Deaf and Hard of Hearing students participate in anything their little hearts desire...that is until the topic switched to the military. You see, from a very young age, I've had a profoundly Deaf student who wanted nothing more than to be in the Army and serve his country. For years, I saw him go to JROTC events and even pick up memorabilia from recruiters' offices. Every year when we discussed transition, he would question why he couldn't be in the military. Well, the government is hard to take on and they have these requirements to join which includes a physical. This particular kiddo would pass any physical with flying colors. I think he's the only kid I know who has had a 6-pack since third grade. He is very athletic and probably doesn't have an ounce of fat on his body! Did I say he'd pass any physical? Not the military physical! The military requires enlistees to have normal hearing. Of course, think of the number who quickly lose their hearing within a few months of joining...but they're already in!
It's a safety issue, they say. I agree. I really don't want to see on the news that my student was killed fighting for his country, but I bet the military doesn't realize that most of my Deaf and Hard of Hearing students could spot a sniper way sooner than someone with "normal" hearing! Their other senses are typically heightened and they would be an asset in combat...well, they'd be an asset in that respect, but not being able to hear orders could put them or their crew in serious danger.
So, that's it? Deaf individuals can't serve their country? They can't be decorated officers?
A vocational rehabilitation counselor just explained a loophole! If a Deaf individual wants to be in the military, he or she needs to go the college route. Go to a college with a strong ROTC program and by graduation, the student will be an officer. The individual won't experience boot camp (sorry) and won't be deployed out on the front lines of combat (again, I'm sorry, but this doesn't seem so bad to me). Typical military careers would include forensics, intelligence, investigation, etc. Wait, you mean none of the yelling and all of the respect? Yes, Sir!
My mind was completely blown! I've talked to many recruiters over the years and none of them could provide me with this answer. Please share this if you know of Deaf and Hard of Hearing who want to serve their country! It's just one more way we can educate others and even the playing field!
Let me just reach down and adjust my soapbox because I'm going to be on it for a while and I want to make sure I'm comfy!
If you had a student in your class who was in a wheelchair, would you make sure he had a desk that would accommodate him? I bet not a single person would say no. So, why is it that so many people say no to captioning? Because it's inconvenient? Well, I'm not so sure a lawsuit is all that convenient, so I'd just make sure all of my visual media was accessible to Deaf and Hard of Hearing students, but that's just me!
Did you know that Netflix just got hammered (and sued) for not providing captions for their videos available through online streaming? If Netflix is getting busted and they're in the entertainment business, what makes you think that schools aren't next? Well, really, it's already here, but for some reason there are some teachers who think that providing captioning is optional! Is it in the student's IEP, well then, it's the law!
If your 1960's filmstrip that you show year after year doesn't have captions....umm...I think it's time to update your video library! I can find a visually accessible copy of just about any educational topic out there. Is it the exact same video that you're currently showing? Not always, but many times, yes, it's the same video, just a different version. I can even find online streaming with captions and free lesson plans to go along with it! How about that?
So, all of your big videos are captioned and you just use YouTube for short little clips? Don't get me started on YouTube's beta captioning. It's a joke! Have you seen any of the hundreds of YouTube videos making fun of beta captioning? This is one of my favorites: Taylor Swift Caption Fail. The problem is since my students can't hear, they don't know which captioned words are correct and which aren't. Play it safe and just stay away from beta captioning! That being said, some people will caption their YouTube videos the right way before publishing them. To those people, I say, BRAVO! If you plan on using a YouTube clip, please preview the captions ahead of time. You'd be surprised how many inappropriate words pop up instead of the word actually being said!
Oh, and it drives me nuts when teachers tell my students they can just watch the video at home. Do you think they can miraculously hear better at home and no longer need captions? If they need captioning at school, guess what? They're going to use captions at home (and vice versa for that matter)!
It also doesn't make it better to tell a Deaf or Hard of Hearing student that she won't be tested on the non-captioned video. Then why are you showing it in the first place? So, you're telling me that none of the students need to watch it? Is your video just being used as a <gasp> time filler? What are your intentions? Are you using it to teach or to supplement? If you're using it to teach, I'm sure you could find another way to teach the material (after all, you are the teacher) or at very least, you could find the material in captioned format. If you're using it to supplement, I bet you could still find something else. You want to use the non-captioned video to show what the Grand Canyon looks like? Well then, mute it for everyone and describe to the entire class what they're looking at. Remember, you're the teacher! Teach! Get creative. Here's a shocker - students are actually more engaged when they can discover some of this stuff on their own. Make a project where students have to go to the computer lab and research various topics on the internet. Have them teach each other. I bet they'll get more out of it than just laying in a puddle of their own drool while your VHS tape (poorly recorded off of some educational channel in the 80's) muffles along in the background! Just saying!
So, all of the other "hearing" students in the class get some sort of enrichment by watching this video while my student with hearing loss has to sit there bored out of her skull, trying not to fall asleep? Are you kidding me? As it is, my students get less language opportunities than the average hearing child, so now you're denying them access to language even more! Don't come running to me when you wonder why they don't have perfect grammatically correct sentences on that last paper they had to write!
Whew! This is just as bad as when you tell my student, "Nevermind," "It wasn't important," or "I'll tell you later." Sure, you may be bothered by having to repeat yourself, but think about how bothered my Deaf/Hard of Hearing student is when he doesn't get all of the information! Then he gets a bad grade, doesn't understand what he missed, performs poorly on the test....the list goes on and on and it's a vicious cycle!
So, how does captioning benefit everyone? Well, I'll tell ya!
Did you know that if you have captions on your television when your children are toddlers, they will innately help children start to read sooner than those who have never been exposed to captions? We always have the captions on at our house (mostly because of my own hearing loss although I don't watch much tv), but my oldest son has been reading and sounding out words since he was 2 1/2-3. I'm convinced captions had something to do with it. My youngest is only 18 months, so we'll see if it has an impact on him. I do feel like his language is a little more developed (call me biased), but the boy knows more than one language, too. Essentially, printed words are a "different" language than spoken language. We expose kids to spoken language when they're first born. Why can't we expose them to print language, too?
Captions help all children with word identification, meaning, acquisition, and retention. Pre-readers start to figure out the patterns we use to read. They know words go across the screen from left-to-right which will aid in reading readiness. Captions also help children create a connection between the written and the spoken word.
Got a kid who hates to read and watches too much tv? Turn the captions on! They'll be reading without even knowing it! Reading is a skill that requires practice, and practice in reading captions is practice with authentic text, both fiction and nonfiction. Reading captions motivates viewers to read more and read more often. Doesn't everyone want that for their children?
We all want smart kids we can brag about, right? Research has proven that people who watch media with captions have higher comprehension rates than people who watch the same media without captions. Wouldn't this be, like, the #1 reason why every teacher in America should have captions on everything they show in class?
Captions help children who have difficulty processing speech and auditory components (regardless of whether difficulties are due to hearing loss or cognitive delay) by providing the children with any missing auditory information visually. The portion of our brains that help us fill in the missing gaps when listening to a verbal message is not fully developed until around 15 years of age. As adults, if we don't hear every single word in a message, we can usually piece it together. Kids aren't able to do that! And, ask yourself, what does it hurt to have little words on the screen? The words are too big? Buy a bigger tv! Ha! (Somehow I think with that last comment, I'll hear that the men in the family will suddenly think that they need a bigger tv!)
Captioning shouldn't stop at age 15, though. Students often need additional help learning content-relevant vocabulary in areas such as Biology, History, Literature, etc. and captions allow students to see the term in print and the visual language that corresponds with the new term. Maybe hearing students are trying to learn in a noisy environment, well, if they have captions, they have the ability to access their materials in any environment!
Captions create a rich learning environment - students can hear, see, and experience the meaning of words. The majority of high frequency words can be found in captions, so these words barely need to be taught! Captioning is critical for children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing and significantly beneficial to those acquiring English as their first or second language. Students who have reading problems, literacy problems, and those learning to read will profit from captions being used on a regular basis.
Do you need more information to convince you of why closed-captioning should be mandated in all classrooms? My Deaf and Hard of Hearing students aren't going away, so start making adjustments to your media library now so that you don't have to do it at the last minute when one of them shows up in your classroom. Make a pledge to only purchase or stream captioned media from now on.
I'll take one foot off of my soapbox, but know that I'll be ready to hop right back on at a moment's notice! Until then, if you need more info on captioning, check out my Closed-Captioning...Explained! page.
The majority of the people I work with know that I need to be involved in a Deaf or Hard of Hearing student's education, but they really don't have the faintest idea of what I truly do. Administration...my boss can't even really tell you. As an itinerant teacher, I wear many hats. I'm not even sure I can capture everything I do, but I'll try my best!
Let's see...first and foremost, I'm a resource to schools, teachers, interpreters, building personnel, administration, students, and parents. I ensure that the working arrangement for my student is efficient and effective. I serve as a member of the case conference committee and I'm the Teacher of Record for students who have DHH as their primary disability. I support and develop academic language for Deaf/Hard of Hearing students in order for them to fully participate and function in their Least Restrictive Environments (yep, that's a big Article 7 word). In my opinion, the best part of what I do is advocating for my DHH students and their families by making sure that they have appropriate support services, equipment, modifications, accommodations, and communication needs are being met. I advise classroom teachers and support the goals of the IEP (there's another one of those Article 7 words).
What are some of the goals that may be in the IEP? Well, goals should be developed with the individual student in mind, but typically, goals revolve around the following categories:
1. Care, use, and management of assistive listening devices
2. Teaching auditory skills
3. English language and/or sign language development
4. Cognitive development
5. Academic skill building and learning strategies
6. Social and/or emotional development
7. Self-advocacy, organizational, and study skills
8. Career and personal planning
9. Instruction on how to function in the community, at school, or in the workplace with hearing loss.
I'm sure I've forgotten something. If it comes to mind, I'll be sure to add it later!
Now, back to my role...
Some students consider me their "school mom" since I've usually been with them for so long. I have the privilege of watching students grow up. They may come on my caseload as young as preschool and I'll be with them until they graduate! They know the advice they get from me is similar to what they would receive at home. They also know that if they get in trouble for something, I'll likely have a little chat with them. Speaking of chats, I tend to become somewhat of a counselor to many of my students. I help them solve or come up with strategies when they're dealing with peer, relational, or family struggles.
A big important piece of what I do is help select the teachers who will be working with my students in the following school year. Most of the schools I work with are wonderful about listening to my suggestions. I select teachers who work best for the individual student's learning style, hearing loss, and accommodation needs. Some teachers are so phenomenally accommodating to my students that I put every student in that grade in their classes! I've built great relationships with these teachers and since I know the teaching style and expectations, I can help the student in a one-on-one setting if needed.
Just last week I took one of my students to a fundraiser where she was going to be speaking. So, I guess you can add taxi driver to my list of responsibilities! My student was one of the first to receive hearing aids from Katie's Hear to Help Foundation. She got them when she was 11 and now 6 years later, they asked her to speak about the difference the hearing aids have made in her life. I helped facilitate the original application for assistance with Katie's Hear to Help Foundation and I even took my student to the audiological appointments until she received her shiny, new hearing aids.
If students are unable to access language, I will drop what I'm doing (or at least rearrange my schedule) to get to that student as quickly as possible. I have become a substitute American Sign Language or Visual Field interpreter at a moment's notice when the usual interpreter was unavailable. If equipment goes down, I'll be there to fix it, rig it until it's working, or swap it out with a working device. I've been stuck in a situation where a student's cochlear implant failed and since I was a familiar speaker, I orally interpreted everything so she could read my lips. It wasn't ideal, but she was able to somewhat access language.
Speaking of oral interpretation. I do that, too! I always ask my teachers what they are "grading" the students on - their ability to understand the language used in the passage or question or their ability to understand the concept. Sometimes there are words here and there that will completely skew the student's understanding. Those words need to be broken down in order for the student to understand the content.
Speech! Yeah, I wear the SLP hat, too. Since I know the goals the student is working on, I'll carry those goals over to my session (but I try to make it a little more fun - sorry SLPs)!
Lately, I've found that I'm becoming a very good captioner! I should probably look into getting paid for it. Teachers are constantly showing YouTube clips that either aren't captioned or they think the Beta version of YouTube's captioning will be appropriate. HA! So, in order to give my students access to what the other students have access to, I end up captioning YouTube videos. It's not my favorite way to spend my evenings, but if it means my students can participate like everyone else, it's a sacrifice I make!
Lastly (but not really, see below), I spoil my students. I celebrate their birthdays with their favorite treat, a card, and a birthday pencil (as long as my teacher supply store doesn't run out of them again) and if I see them on a consultative basis, they get to pick something out of my prize box. Hey, I figure if they're getting pulled out of class because they have a hearing loss, they may as well come back with something cool that none of those "hearing" kids get to have!
Sadly, I've learned that half of what I do isn't the norm. I also know that I've failed to go into detail about some of my other "hats," but you can read the following and if you really want me to expound upon these "hats," send me a message!
Whew! Somehow it still feels like I'm forgetting something! I told you I probably couldn't capture everything! :o) This is why most people have no clue of what I do, they just know it gets taken care of!
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me if there was an "educational need" for a particular Deaf/Hard of Hearing child...
Simply put, YES! There's an educational need. It may not present itself today or tomorrow, but there's an educational need for every Deaf/Hard of Hearing student. Sometimes the educational impact won't even be discovered for years on down the road.
So many times, children who were identified early and have had early intervention look really good! Of course, most of this takes place before school starts, so when the child enters school, she is right on track. A team meets and says that her skills are age-appropriate and so she doesn't have an "educational need" at this time. Do you know how hard it is to then convince people that there is an educational need later when she really needs it? She could at least be monitored in these first formative years. Heck, she's not really reading or writing at this point, so how do we know the impact? Even if the student isn't just starting school, but there doesn't seem to be an educational need, what does it hurt to have the Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing consult with her and her teachers for a few years?
Then there's the student who has had an IEP with a lot of intervention and is on the honor roll every grading period in high school. Well, he must not have an "educational need" then, right? WRONG! Does he need any accommodations in the classroom? Does he need an interpreter? Does he need notes, an FM system, preferential seating? Maybe he doesn't need anyone to help him with grade-level content, but it would sure be nice if he was taught some advocacy skills. And, if he's not a good advocate, how do his teachers know that he even has a hearing loss? Will he tell them? Will his parents? So, you take him off of his IEP where he's monitored by a Teacher for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing and put him on a 504 Plan that is monitored by an assistant principal or a guidance counselor who knows nothing about hearing loss. That sounds like a good idea to me [insert sarcastic tone here].
If he does well at high school, I bet he'll want to go on to college. Let's say he goes to a big state college. Freshman courses can have 200-300 students all piled in a big lecture hall. What if he's trekking across campus and he slides in at the last moment and his professor isn't a native English speaker and there he is in the back of a huge lecture hall struggling to hear? Is there an educational need? So, you say, that he could just let the university know that he has hearing loss, right? Guess what? Colleges and universities don't like to see students "all of a sudden" need accommodations that they didn't need in high school. Yep, it's a fact! Ask me how I know! So, your student had an IEP, but now he has a 504 Plan, that should suffice, right? Guess what? Although, both documents should be given equal consideration in the post-secondary world, it's not always the case. Since 504 Plans show that there's little educational need, not all colleges really respect the 504 Plan as they respect the IEP.
What about the student who has multiple disability categories? Their primary disability was determined to be something other than Deaf/Hard of Hearing, so there was the decision to just drop DHH altogether. Well, the student's family moves and are in another school district. Services are being met, but there's something the new school can't figure out...Why does Sally seem to have selective hearing? Why doesn't she pay attention? Why is she always doing something other than the task we've told her to complete? Hmm...well, it may have something to do with the fact that she has a hearing loss, but you wouldn't know that because you got rid of that eligibility area a long time ago and now you can't figure out how to best meet her "educational needs" because something just isn't right.
I can't tell you how often I've seen a student who has a minimal hearing loss or a unilateral hearing loss (hearing loss in one ear) be diagnosed as having a learning disability only to discover that he has hearing loss. Since hearing loss isn't always obvious and cannot be seen, his hearing loss was never caught, therefore, there was no IEP and no Teacher for the Deaf/Hard of Hearing working with him.
So, I ask you, is there an educational need?
Need more info? Check out some of these helpful links:
A Question of Automatic Eligibility: Does my DHH Child Need an IEP?
Eligibility Survival Kit
Does My Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child Need an IEP or a 504 Plan?
Office for Civil Rights: Deaf Students Education Services
If you have any other helpful links, please share!
Welcome to my blog!
I'm glad you stopped by. I'm a (young) veteran itinerant Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. I am involved in many organizations and keep myself up-to-date on the latest trends in my field. I hope that this blog will be helpful for students, families, teachers, schools, and anyone else who is interested in learning more about the topic. I may not know everything, since weird situations pop up on a daily basis, but I will do my best to find an answer for you or direct you to someone who can help!
Every time I go to a professional conference, professionals and parents constantly stop me to ask my opinion on various topics. I plan on sharing some of these topics here as well as answer any of the questions you may have.
I offer DHH Consulting Services, hearing screenings, and training in the state of Indiana. If you know of a school district in Indiana in need of Deaf and Hard of Hearing services, feel free to direct them to my website www.dhhconsultingservices.com.
Sarah Kiefer is a Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She is passionate about serving D/HH students, advocating for their needs, informing the world at large about hearing loss, and helping families!