Easing the Transition to Virtual Learning for Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

Easing the Transition to Virtual Learning for Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

By Cheryle Shaffer, Mainstream Coordinator at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech in Philadelphia

As teachers at mainstream schools scramble to establish virtual learning plans for long-term school closures, they’re also challenged to adapt classroom accommodations to virtual learning environments for students with special needs, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing. Uninterrupted support is critical for students who are deaf or hard of hearing who use listening and spoken language to communicate.

In a typical mainstream classroom setting, students who are deaf or hard of hearing often work with a broad support team—from itinerant teachers of the deaf to speech-language pathologists and educational audiologists. Thoughtful instruction and collaboration are more critical now than ever to keep students learning and goals on track.

“At Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech (Clarke) we worked diligently to adapt programs and services to be provided remotely,” explains Cheryle Shaffer, Mainstream Coordinator of Clarke Philadelphia. “With specialized support students who are deaf or hard of hearing can progress in a ‘virtual classroom’ right alongside their hearing peers.”

HERE ARE SOME TIPS FOR BOTH MAINSTREAM TEACHERS AND CAREGIVERS THAT CAN HELP MAKE THE TRANSITION TO VIRTUAL LEARNING SMOOTHER:

Be flexible

Every child who is deaf or hard of hearing is different and, like everyone, comes with their own sets of strengths and challenges. It will take some time to understand how a student will adapt to virtual learning and if they may need extra support. Continue to check in with the student and their caregiver to ensure they are comfortable and have clear auditory access.

Use appropriate technology

Students who are deaf or hard of hearing and use listening and spoken language to communicate should always wear their hearing aids or cochlear implants. Educators should wear and encourage students to use remote microphone technology (RMT) to support sound during online learning.

Consider your physical environment

Reduce as much background noise as possible. Turn off unnecessary electronics, keep fans turned low and shut windows. Use appropriate lighting and try not to sit in front of a window while filming.

Provide appropriate visual aids

Employ captions in all presentations and videos. It’s helpful for students who are deaf or hard of hearing to visually see all directions and assignments. Creating a PowerPoint is a helpful visual aid. If your presentation requires you to walk away from the screen to use a white board or another object, maintain eye contact with students when speaking.

Check student comprehension

Establish what students should be listening for – and ready to respond to – in each lesson. This adds structure to an activity and encourages active listening. Allow students to periodically take listening breaks when needed.

Students may not always hear information correctly. It’s important to hold frequent comprehension checks, repeat information more than once and require more than a yes/no answer.

Control the pace of the conversation

Have a system in place for turn-taking to control the pace and ensure only one person speaks at a time. Zoom and other virtual platforms provide features that help control the pace—such as the hand raise button and the chat box.

Pre- and post-teaching helps reinforce learning and provides collaboration opportunities. If possible, consider providing hands-on learning kits to accompany lessons.

Most importantly, have fun!

Educators may not be able to greet children and families at the door each morning, but they can still guide students and families through a positive academic journey. Take the time to find the bright spots in the day and have fun.

As we continue to go full speed ahead into a new reality that can be challenging to navigate, it’s important to slow down and appreciate the little moments.

The tips for mainstream teachers and caregivers are provided by listening and spoken language professionals at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech (Clarke). Learn more about Clarke teleservices: clarkeschools.org.

Cheryle Shaffer was an editor when her daughter Morgan was born with a profound hearing loss. After staying at home with Morgan to provide support, Cheryle returned to college to obtain a second Master’s Degree, this time in deaf education at Bloomsburg University. She is now the Mainstream Coordinator for Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech in Philadelphia.