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The Benefits of Spring Orientations

We’ve all been there in the fall. The frantic scramble to
try to orient the various teams of teachers, SLPs, special education staff,
principals, and additional service providers to the needs of our students with hearing
loss is a daunting task. Not only do we need the teams to understand each
student’s specific learning needs, we also need them to make acoustical
modifications, find captioned media, modify lessons and instructional styles,
and create optimal seating arrangements. There must be a designated location to
charge FM systems and we may possibly have to re-route the flow of traffic in
the hallway to avoid commotion during times of instruction. Oh, and we get two
days to do all this if we’re lucky. 

I had grown to dread the fall for this very reason. I felt
pressured and rushed. Teachers were frustrated by having to take time out of
their precious few prep days before the start of school to attend an
orientation and then re-do whatever set up had already occurred in the
classroom to meet the needs of the student with hearing loss. A few years ago,
I decided to make a change and try doing orientations in the spring. What a
difference it has made for my students, the teams I work with, and myself! While this is not always possible due to
limitations within some schools, in many cases spring orientations can be
arranged. Below are some tips so that you, too, can have a more pleasant fall!

·     
Work with
your school contact person to arrange a spring orientation for the upcoming
teachers and support staff.
Even if a specific teacher has not been
identified, many schools will encourage all the 5th grade teachers
to attend, for example, knowing that they will all interact with the student at
some point. Offering Professional Development Credits if you are able) can also
motivate school staff.

·     
Make the
purpose of the orientation clear by distributing a handout or sending an email
with a brief description.
For example, “In this presentation, the topics of
the educational impacts of hearing loss, proper use of assistive technology,
instructional strategies, and modifications will be covered.” Provide as much
detail as you feel pertinent.

·     
Encourage
student participation.
An orientation right in the building is a great opportunity
for your student, no matter how old, to meet the new team. The student can
present a brief PowerPoint, create an iMovie or similar presentation, or simply
come in to introduce him or herself. When students are able to articulate and
share their needs, the adults are more likely to listen to your expanded and
more detailed presentation.

·     
Use
specific examples including video (with parent permission), work samples, or
modified lessons to demonstrate the most effective strategies for this student.

 This will help the new team set
reasonable yet challenging expectations for your student.

·     
Play
simulations of hearing loss to help the team understand the nature of hearing
loss and the benefits and limitations of assistive technology
. Even with
the best technology, our students are working harder than their peers to hear
and the risk of missing information is greater. Putting staff in the position of experiencing a little bit of a hearing
loss helps to make this point. Clarke offers a CD of simulations for sale on
our website: clarkeschools.org/store Additionally,
check out the other products we have that can assist with orientations such as,
Have You Heard, and the new Sound Advice book which can be shared with staff.

·     
Bring
samples of the amplification the student uses if possible so that teachers can
practice listening to a hearing aid alone and through an FM. 
Although they will likely need a
refresher in the fall, holding the equipment without the rush of a classroom
full of students helps build comfort and confidence and increases the
likelihood of daily listening checks.

·     
Alert the
team to specific acoustical needs for the fall so that they can take time to
plan during the summer.
Tennis balls will need to be moved to desks and
chairs in the new room. Area rugs may also have to be moved. If the student
uses a soundfield tower in addition to personal FM, where will it be placed?
Where can amplification be charged safely each night? Where will listening
checks occur and what materials are needed? Teachers and custodian appreciate
time to plan for such changes.

·     
Media
will have to be captioned.
Encourage teachers to find captioned versions of
media that they regularly use each year and to learn how to enable captions on
online resources.

·     
 Alert teams to specific modifications that
help your student, such as providing study guides at the start of a unit rather
than just before the test
. This allows time over the summer for teachers to
re-arrange materials if necessary.

·     
Most of
all, be encouraging.
This is your opportunity to build a relationship with
the new team, so focus on the upcoming opportunity for collaboration, build
excitement and confidence, and make it clear that you are a resource for the
whole team. Your positive attitude will carry through!

Have you ever given an orientation in the spring? Let us
know how it went!

Hear Me Out

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.

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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.

4 Comments
Krysty

I love this idea! It really would take a great deal of that crazy pressure and worry out of the first weeks of school. I know that things always have a way of working themselves out, and my son has had the benefit of working with the same team for the past two years, I always worry that something might not be ready for that first day of school. I am going to pass this on as a suggestion just to help everyone take a deep breath!

Heather Stinson

Krysty,
It's great that your son has such a supportive team. With some advanced planning, the fall transition can be more comfortable for teachers, students, and parents 🙂 Good luck!

Suzanne

This is brilliant! I am going to look into the professional develop hours idea for sure! Thanks for another terrific article!

Heather Stinson

So glad you found it helpful! Spring orientations help everyone- including the TOD/hoh 🙂

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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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