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Dr. Susan Easterbrooks Professor, GSU Dr. Nanci Scheetz Professor, VSU. 10 Things You Should Know about the Language/Communication Needs of Students with Hearing Loss.

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Dr susan easterbrooks professor gsu dr nanci scheetz professor vsu l.jpg

Dr. Susan Easterbrooks

Professor, GSUDr. Nanci Scheetz

Professor, VSU

10 Things You Should Know about the Language/Communication Needs of Students with Hearing Loss


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Helen Keller, who was both deaf and blind, was once asked which was her more challenging handicap. She replied that deafness was a greater challenge because, while blindness separated her from things, deafness separated her from people.

The reason deafness separates someone from other is that it is primarily a challenge of communication.


I a hearing loss is a challenge to one s ability to communicate l.jpg
I. A hearing loss is a challenge to one’s ability to communicate.

  • Without the ability to communicate freely and easily, an individual finds challenges in:

    • Learning basic world knowledge

      • (No Honey, that’s not a jumping dog. It’s a kangaroo!)

    • Learning the social expectations of the world

      • (Say “thank you” to the nice grocery store man.)

    • Learning vocabulary

      • (Put your shoes on. Turn on the light. Hold on.)

    • Learning to read

      • (Circle the one that sounds like “bear.” pearshoebest

    • Taking part in classroom activities


Ii the teacher s job is to make sure that the student has communication access l.jpg
II. The teacher’s job is to make sure that the student has communication access.

  • There are 3 ways a child with a hearing loss can have access to classroom information if he or she has limited communication skills.

    • Provide the information through use of an interpreter who can put the information in the child’s language.

    • Provide the information in a visual manner that makes the concepts obvious.

    • Provide an accessible form of communication himself or herself.


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III. The communication access.Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is very clear about what teachers have to do regarding communication access.

  • IDEA - Section 300.46(a)(2)(iv)

    The IEP (Individual Education Program) Team shall consider the communication needs of the child, and in the case of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, consider the child’s language and communication needs, opportunities for direct communications with peers and professional personnel in the child’slanguage and communication mode, academic level, and full range of needs, including opportunities for direct instruction in the child’s language and communication mode.


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  • This means that the team must know what the child’s communication mode, language, and academic level are.

  • Mode refers to language in visual form or spoken form.

  • Language refers to the language of the school, the language of the home, and/or American Sign Language.

  • Academic level refers to the difference between Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills and Cognitive-Academic Language Proficiency.


Iv language may be imparted via two modes visual and spoken l.jpg
IV. Language may be imparted via two communication mode, language, and academic level are.modes: visual and spoken.

  • We can represent English in spoken form

    • “The Three Bears”

  • We can also represent English in visual form.

Source: www.lifeprint.com www.masterstech-home.com


V we are dealing with two or more language s when working with a child who is deaf l.jpg
V. We are dealing with two or more communication mode, language, and academic level are.languages when working with a child who is deaf.

  • The language of the school

    • In the U.S. and Canada, this is usually English

  • American Sign Language

    • This is a unique language that is very different from English in its grammatical structure

  • The language of the home

    • Any of the spoken or signed languages of the world

    • OR

    • Home signs


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  • Understanding which language the child needs (English or ASL) in which mode (spoken or visual) will help you determine if you need an interpreter in your classroom.

  • This will allow you to “provide the information through use of an interpreter who can put the information in the child’s language.”


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VI. The demands of ASL) in which mode (spoken or visual) will help you determine if you need an interpreter in your classroom.academic level language are much greater than the demands for interpersonal/social language.

  • “Hey man, how’s it going” is a whole lot easier to learn and understand than “Summarize and then critique the first five elements of Hiram’s postulations.”

  • It takes only a couple of years to learn Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills. Many children with hearing loss are severely lacking in Cognitive-Academic Language Proficiency.


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It means that until the student has age- and

placement-appropriate language, the

teacher must provide cognitively

undemanding tasks OR context-embedded

tasks if she or he expects the child to master

the information. A student whose language

Skills are at the BICS level cannot process

cognitively demanding, decontextualized

Information easily. This will allow you to

“Provide an accessible form of

communication yourself.”


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VII. When an interpreter is not appropriate, and when you are unable to communicate in the child’s mode, language, or level yourself, then you must provide the information in a visual manner that makes the concepts obvious.

There are many ways to enhance your communication so that information is comprehensible to the student.


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VIII. Demonstrate as much as possible. are unable to communicate in the child’s mode, language, or level yourself, then you must

  • When giving oral directions, demonstrate what you are asking the student to do. DHH children often miss the key points of oral directions.

    • Provide actual examples of what the end product of an activity would look like.

    • Work through an example with the student.

  • When teaching, use experiments, demonstrations, and simulations, or role play to explain information.

    • Use science experiments where possible.

    • Act out events in history


Ix use visual organizers to help show the relationships among concepts l.jpg

Cell charts are unable to communicate in the child’s mode, language, or level yourself, then you must

Thematic maps

Decision trees

Human interaction outlines

Hierarchical or sorting trees

Telescoping circles

Venn diagrams

Compare contrast maps

Concept maps

Feedback loops

Bubble maps

Brace maps

Flow charts

IX. Use visual organizers to help show the relationships among concepts.

Examples of organizers include but are not limited to:


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X. Take all aspects of communication into consideration in the classroom.

  • Be sure to signal topic changes. Deaf students often lose what you are saying when you change the subject or move on to a tangential subject.

  • Provide a listing of all key concepts.

  • Work with the teacher of the deaf to understand the individual student’s communication challenges and needs.

  • Work with the teacher to implement testing accommodations identified in the student’s IEP.

  • Preteach key vocabulary, and agree upon signs for words that have no signs.


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  • Make sure the student learns reading comprehension strategies to apply to the textbook in your class.

  • Reword, rephrase, or paraphrase what you have said when the student appears lost.

  • Provide a notetaker.

  • Remember that it is hard for the student who has communication challenges to keep up with everything going on in the classroom. Alternate tasks to give the student a break from having to focus so intently.

  • These are just a few. Work with the teacher of the deaf to develop a list of additional considerations tailored specifically to the student in your class.


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References and Resources strategies to apply to the textbook in your class.

  • Bullard, C.(2003). The itinerant teacher’s handbook. Hillsboro, OR: Butte Publications, Inc.

  • Easterbrooks, S., & Baker, S. (2004). Language learning in children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

  • Luetke-Stahlman, B. (1999). Language across the curriculum: When students are deaf and hard of hearing. Hillsboro, OR: Butte Publications, Inc.


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