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Three Questions for a Clarke Teacher of the Deaf Training to Become a School Psychologist

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Sarah Aronson, MA, MED, Clarke teacher of the deaf, is also pursuing a certificate of advanced graduate study in school psychology.

Mainstream News connected with Sarah Aronson, MA, MED, a Clarke teacher of the deaf, who is also pursuing a certificate of advanced graduate study in school psychology. Sarah co-presented a poster on strategies to advocate for students who are deaf or hard of hearing at the NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) Annual Convention in 2022.

We spoke with Sarah to learn more about the collaboration among teachers of the deaf and school psychologists, as well as the important factors these professionals consider when working with students who are deaf or hard of hearing in mainstream settings. (The responses below are a combination of direct quotes and paraphrased content.)

How do teachers of the deaf work with school psychologists in mainstream settings?

Students’ support teams include a variety of professionals who each play an important role. Students are most successful when there’s communication and collaboration among these professionals.

Both school psychologists and teachers of the deaf (TODs) support students’ ability to learn. In addition to learning, the school psychologist’s scope may include supporting mental, social and behavioral health. The teacher of the deaf ensures all members of the student’s support team have the resources to fully understand the needs of the child with hearing loss and provide the appropriate accommodations.

“Teachers of the deaf are specially trained to understand how hearing loss can impact students in educational settings,” says Sarah. “TODs can’t conduct the psychosocial evaluations the school psychologist can, but they can flag concerns and share insights.”

“For example, a TOD could point out that a child’s working memory may not be impaired — but that their auditory working memory may be impacted due to their hearing loss, requiring more effort and processing time. With this information, school psychologists may determine that further evaluation may be warranted.”

School psychologists are also a resource for TODs. “When there’s collaboration, the relationship between the TOD and school psychologist is reciprocal,” notes Sarah.

Besides hearing loss, are there additional considerations to take into account when supporting students in mainstream settings?

When considering a child’s educational experience, it’s important for TODs and school psychologists to “also look at the child’s social and emotional well-being,” Sarah says, as well as their minority status.

Sarah, who has served on Clarke’s AID (Anti-racism, Inclusion, Diversity) Committee, notes that when working with children who are deaf or hard of hearing from minority groups, support professionals must consider their unique needs and the appropriate support for them. For example, maybe a child doesn’t see any other students like them in the curriculum which leads to disengagement, or maybe they’re an English language learner and need additional support in that area. 

“I try to bring in my knowledge of SEL [social-emotional learning] and the intersection of one’s identities, and how it can affect success in the classroom if we are not honoring and supporting the whole child.” (To learn more about Clarke’s whole-child approach, see pages 11-12 of the 2019-2020 Impact Report.)

SEL is so important because a major predictor of mental well-being for children who are deaf or hard of hearing is their ability to communicate effectively with both their families and their peers in educational settings.

“Connection is key,” Sarah says. “We have to make sure that a child has support for learning academically, that they can hear and communicate with their peers and that they have opportunities to connect with other kids who have hearing loss.” (See our 2022 Mainstream News article on the value of pen pal connections for more information and ideas.)

Has the evolving nature of education during the Covid-19 pandemic impacted these students’ experiences?

SEL and social-emotional health have taken on new importance in the wake of the pandemic as anxiety and related issues have skyrocketed among students. In 2021, three organizations overseeing the state of children’s health — the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association — reported that the pandemic had caused a nationwide mental health emergency among children and adolescents, “with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families and their communities.”

For families and caregivers who are concerned about anxiety or similar issues, Sarah advises looking for changes in typical behavior. “Caregivers know their children and TODs know their students — for example, how outgoing they are, how well they wear their hearing tech,” she says. “When you see a change in that, you know there may be a social-emotional change. Don’t hesitate to reach out to school staff who can tell you how they do at school and help identify if it’s more of a developmental change, if other support — like a school psychologist — might be needed and help implement that support.”

For a helpful list of indications that a child is struggling, check out “Supporting Mental Health of Deaf or Hard of Hearing Students in the School Setting,” a resource from the Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss website.

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