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The Lunchbox

I went snowboarding over the weekend. When it was time for
lunch, I went into the lodge and pulled out my bright green Phonak lunchbox
from a past Clarke Mainstream Conference that proudly announces to the world
that I work with, “…students with hearing
loss in mainstream educational settings.

A nearby teenager seemed to be watching me. After a few
minutes, he came over and started chatting with people at our table and I
noticed him eying my lunchbox. It wasn’t long before he started talking to me.
I said something and he replied, “Oh,
what was that? I’m deaf in this ear.”
Now I understood the interest!

Students with hearing loss find us. They find us in schools,
even if they’re not on our caseload, they find us in the community, and they
find us out in public at ski resorts. Nobody wants to feel different and for
students with hearing loss, it’s that connection to someone who understands them
that they so desperately want.

When we work with the students on our caseloads, we’re supporting
their academics, we’re fixing their equipment and we’re collaborating with
their teachers… but there’s so much more. We’re helping students to connect to
other people. We’re assuring them that they’re ok. We’re problem solving tricky
social situations. We’re lending an ear when they need to vent or a shoulder
when they need to cry. We understand their challenges and celebrate their
achievements. I have a seventh grade student whom I consult with once a month
and each time I arrive, she announces, “It’s
my special person!”
with a huge grin.

Schools often want to reduce TOD/HOH (teacher of the deaf and
hard of hearing) services. It’s expensive. It may not look all that different from what an SLP or special education
teacher can do. The difference is in the level of understanding that we have as
TODs. Even though I only see my seventh grader once a month, this time is
invaluable to her. We talk about her classes, her friends, her amplification
and we problem solve situations that are not working for her. I know what
questions to ask because I’ve had experience with so many students in so many
schools. As a result, she’s confident and quirky and an active member of her
school community.

As for my new friend at the ski lodge? We didn’t talk much
about his hearing but the fact that he came over to me after reading my lunch
box speaks volumes. He’d never heard of a TOD but thought it was a “pretty cool job.” I may never get the
chance to work with him, but he inspired me nonetheless. It goes to show that
as TODs, our work is never done!

Hear Me Out

The Hear Me Out blog provides unique resources for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's a forum for itinerant teachers of the deaf to share their experiences as they grow as professionals! It is produced by Clarke's Mainstream Services team as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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