Kat Reading

Kat Reading

Saturday, November 21, 2020

12 years since Activation

 Here we sit on a typical Saturday morning. 

Miss Kat was up late last night finishing her homework for the week. She had an essay due and she had put it off until the last minute, but she finished and turned it in. She is in a college transition program this year and will be attending BYU-I online full-time starting next September. She intends to major in computer animation.

She is spending the evening tonight going out with a boy she is seeing. He is 19 (she is 17 1/2). This is their third official date (but they also hang-out at their bible study group). 

Our lives dramatically changed 12 years ago. The world was turned upside down. We moved across the country. I began a new career. Miss Kat shifted communication modes and learned to listen, talk, read, and is now so very typical. Here are three very average examples:

  1. Miss Kat spends around an hour a day in her room dancing. She makes up choreography to her favorite songs and jams out!
  2. Last week she was having some pain but it had passed and she told me she was feeling better. She said, "My 'groinal' area is doing much better". GROINAL?! It takes a native fluency in a language to understand how we would change one category of word into another with a small change like that :) That is true mastery of English.
  3. Today when talking about retention of her CIs on rollercoasters for her date she said, "I always forget that I am deaf, but when I have to wear (item she didn't want) everything gets messed up with my implants and I have to think about it all day".
That's the changes in the last 12 years. We have gone from absolutely having to attend a Deaf school for access to education to being 100% mainstreamed with no supports. From having to drive all over town to visit the few Deaf friends she had, to attending anime conventions with her besties from the neighborhood and church. She went from understanding ASL only to not even struggling to listen when people are wearing masks!

I would have NEVER believed we would have gotten here. I thought it was impossible. I could have never foreseen the difference this technology could make in a child's life, but here we are. Here is our very typical Saturday morning.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

For Children with Hearing Loss, Not Any Teacher Will Do

I am a certified teacher. I am licensed to teach general education, special education and students with hearing loss. But, of course, I consider myself a Teacher of the Deaf (TOD) exclusively. General education and special education teachers do amazing things! In fact, I don't think I could ever do either one of those jobs! I could never handle some of the varieties of special needs that SPED educates every day, and I know for a fact that I could never teach a classroom of 25 or more students (and don't get me started on the up to hundreds that might pass through a high school classroom in a day...). That being said, I do not believe that just any teacher can educate a child with hearing loss.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) open the door to education for children with disabilities. It codified that ALL students, regardless of disability, had a legal right to a "free and appropriate public education" (FAPE) in the "least restrictive environment" (LRE) and that their needs would be met through an "individualized education program" (IEP). This means that students with hearing loss* have the right to be educated and have their needs met through the umbrella of special education. But it also has had some unintended consequences for students with hearing loss that complicate the issues.

The first issue is that of LRE. The law defines "least restrictive" as "to the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities including children in public or private institutions or care facilities, are educated with children who are non-disabled." The regulations further state that "special classes, separate schooling or other removals of children with disabilities from regular educational environment occurs only if the nature or severity of the disability is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily." 

That means that the default placement for children with hearing loss is in a mainstream classroom. That is fine and dandy if you have a student who has excellent access to sound, typical development in all areas (including receptive and expressive language, vocabulary, auditory memory and executive functioning) and no concerns about self-advocacy or social skills. But let's be honest, that is a very small percentage of students we serve!

There is quite a bit of research indicating that when taught by a skilled TOD, students with hearing loss can learn as much as hearing students in the same classroom. Unfortunately, this is not happening and the outcomes are reflective of that. The data also indicates that deaf and hard of hearing students make between .2 and .6 year’s growth per school year, thus falling further behind each year. This isn't because SPED or general education teachers are malicious or even bad at their jobs. It is simply because they are not TODs.

I spent six years (four in undergrad and two more in graduate school) to even begin to teach. Every practicum and student teaching placement I had was with students with hearing loss. I worked with a variety of ages, in a variety of settings, but they were all deaf or hard of hearing. The average SPED teacher *may* have seen a student with hearing loss and generally have one course that covers discusses many types of disabilities and how development is impacted, but a general education teacher has even less exposure to low incident disabilities like hearing loss.

After my formal education, I spent three additional years being mentored, seeking out continuing education and observing master teachers. This improved my practice dramatically and allowed me to become a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist, Certified Auditory-Verbal Educator. This is considered the "gold standard" for a TOD who works with students who use listening and spoken language. (I hope that there is also such a designation and process for teacher who use ASL or another mode of communication, but I cannot speak to that.) A general education or SPED teacher does not have the knowledge, resources, strategies or experience that I and other TODs have, and that is why they are less likely to be prepared to work with them.

So, what do we do?

Well, in an ideal world, ALL deaf and hard of hearing children birth to age three would have their primary interventionist be a TOD. This would ensure that their speech, language and literacy skills would be developed under the watchful eye of the most qualified professionals. When moving to preschool and school aged services, every child with hearing loss should have access to a skilled TOD. That can look very different based on the appropriate educational setting (whether that be in a self-contained classroom, a mainstream setting with an itinerant or even via distance technology like Miss Kat does) but having someone who understands the development of language, listening and literacy for this specific population can make all the difference.

*There are some reasons that a student with hearing loss could not qualify for special education services because there must be both a qualifying disability (the hearing loss) AND a demonstrated need for specialized instruction. The disability must "impact the students access to the general education curriculum".

Marc Marschark, Thomastine Sarchet, Patricia Sapere, Carol Convertino. Cochlear Implants and Classroom Learning among Deaf College Students. Biomed J Sci & Tech Res 18(5)-2019. BJSTR. MS.ID.003215. 

Knoors, Harry & Marschark, Marc. (2014). Teaching Deaf Learners: Psychological and Developmental Foundations. 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199792023.001.0001. 

 Stinson, M. S., Elliot, L. B., Kelly, R. R., & Liu, Y. (2009). Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students’ Memory of Lectures with Speech-to-Text and Interpreting/Note Taking Services. The Journal of Special Education, 43(1), 52–64. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022466907313453

Fiona E. Kyle, Margaret Harris, Longitudinal Patterns of Emerging Literacy in Beginning Deaf and Hearing Readers, The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, Volume 16, Issue 3, Summer 2011, Pages 289–304, https://doi.org/10.1093/deafed/enq069

Margaret Harris, John R. Beech, Implicit Phonological Awareness and Early Reading Development in Prelingually Deaf Children, The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, Volume 3, Issue 3, Summer 1998, Pages 205–216, https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordjournals.deafed.a014351

Saturday, November 2, 2019


This is a new one for us! As of today, Advanced Bionics will no longer be selling the Naida Q70 processor that Miss Kat uses. I also received notice that one year from today, they will stop servicing it and call it obsolete. The bad news is that we will need to get a new processor, the good news is that insurance will surely pay for it once it will no longer be serviced. Unfortunately, the current CI processor (Naida Q90), in my estimation, does not have enough differences to be worth the heavy price tag that it would inevitably come with. So, we are here crossing our fingers that AB is about to release some new and game-changing for us!! P.S.- Miss Kat is about three weeks away from having been activated for 11 years. Wow...

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Karaoke Night

Guess who was the first volunteer at Karaoke Night at her Young Women's group? Yep, the deaf kid.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

DEAF Peers?

We are preparing for Miss Kat to attend a week-long church camp for teens in Utah this summer.  This program has several classes where she will study the scriptures and hear from religious professionals, researchers, and motivational speakers. She will be with hundreds of other LDS youth, in huge classrooms (it is held at BYU) and will be a great learning and spiritual experience.

There are 24 sessions available but one of them boasts of being "ASL Accommodated". I asked Miss Kat if she would like to attend that session. While she would not use the interpreters, she would have other d/Deaf youth in her group. There would be other kids with CIs there and she could have the chance to bond with them and interact with more teens with hearing loss. She said that she would rather not. She said that the pressure of using an interpreter to communicate with them, struggling for them to lipread her or use a few signs and gestures and her attempting to use her CI to understand their non-typical speech just would take away from her experience. She said it is more stressful to be in those situations and that she just relates better and communicates more easily with people with typical hearing.

That is HER opinion and HER choice. At nearly 16 years old, I will continue to offer her these opportunities, but I will default to her comfort and choice.

(Miss Kat will be using her FM and live captioning for the large "lecture hall" type classes and just her CIs for everyday communication.)

Saturday, October 13, 2018

High School Days

Miss Kat has been doing really well with this huge transition. She really enjoys her classes and is doing well. She is in Algebra and Biology this year but she loves her electives. She is taking art and "family and consumer sciences" known as FACS (it was what I called Home Ec growing up!)

Miss Kat is also driving now! That has been quite an adventure. She is very cautious and responsible. I am very proud of her.

Miss Kat's favorite part of high school is all the clubs she belongs to! She is in yearbook club, a book club, and an anti-bullying club. She also is performing in a community theatre production of "The Fellowship of the Ring" for the next two weeks. She also attended the Homecoming dance last weekend.

What an outstanding, average life she has. When things were dark, and we didn't know what her life would look like, even my highest hopes didn't look like this. She has friends (her annual Halloween blowout is coming up again!) she is comfortable with who she is (a big time nerd) and she is doing well in school. Her only accommodations in school are her FM system, a visit from her TOD a few times a week and a quiet place to take a test. She also receives academic tutoring, once a week, from my LSLS mentor at work because she is completely convinced that I lack the ability to teach her!

Miss Kat is a perfectly imperfect everyday kid who happens to be deaf.