Watching Children Learn to Listen and Speak When I began working at The River School in the fall of 1999, the model inclusion program was still a dream. The 40,000 square foot building in Washington, DC was being renovated, materials were being ordered, and the general school curriculum was being written. After five years and many amazing ... Features
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Features  |   March 01, 2005
Watching Children Learn to Listen and Speak
Author Notes
  • Shelley Howard-Robinson, has been a speech-language pathologist at The River School since its opening in 1999. Contact her by e-mail at srobinson@riverschool.net.
    Shelley Howard-Robinson, has been a speech-language pathologist at The River School since its opening in 1999. Contact her by e-mail at srobinson@riverschool.net.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / School-Based Settings / Features
Features   |   March 01, 2005
Watching Children Learn to Listen and Speak
The ASHA Leader, March 2005, Vol. 10, 6. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR2.10032005.6
The ASHA Leader, March 2005, Vol. 10, 6. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR2.10032005.6
When I began working at The River School in the fall of 1999, the model inclusion program was still a dream. The 40,000 square foot building in Washington, DC was being renovated, materials were being ordered, and the general school curriculum was being written. After five years and many amazing children later, my participation in this innovative program has challenged and rewarded me in a myriad of ways.
The River School is an independent, not-for-profit day school, which pairs the best practices of early childhood education with oral deaf education. The population of the school comprises 90% children with normal hearing and 10% children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
At The River School, speech-language pathologists work alongside master’s level educators in a collaborative setting. Caseloads for SLPs are low (2–3 children), and the time spent with these children is an entire school day rather than a one-hour or 30-minute treatment session. Working with educators to develop theme-based curricula gives the SLP the opportunity to embed goals in a variety of child-centered and teacher-led activities. By following the interest of the child, the teaching team sets up prop-rich dramatic play environments such as train stations, grocery stores, space, and construction sites. Working collaboratively, both the SLP and the educator learn valuable skills from one another.
One of the most exciting things about working at The River School has been watching children learn to listen and speak as they interact with their peers with normal hearing. My skills as an SLP have been tested as I have learned to use these interactions to target auditory, speech, language, and pragmatic goals for the children on my caseload. While I have struggled with ways to generalize goals from an individual treatment session, I find that working in an inclusion model and the significant amount of time I am able to spend with each child have made the generalization of basic concepts easier.
On a typical day I target a variety of goals during bathroom time, morning meeting, dramatic play, or over a conflict involving whose turn it is to use the modeling clay. Thinking quickly on my feet and learning to constantly assess and reassess the needs of each child are skills that I test each day.
A Holistic View
Another benefit of working in an inclusion environment has been the opportunity to view the whole child and his or her abilities rather than focusing solely on hearing loss and speech and language needs. Team teachers at The River School write quarterly in-depth reports that look at a child’s social skills, communication, mathematical skills, world knowledge, scientific thinking, artistic development, and physical abilities.
In getting to know the child in such an in-depth manner I have learned to take the child’s strengths and weaknesses and use those to develop fitting and challenging goals. For example, children who are hesitant to communicate with peers may be motivated when they are involved in an activity with peers in which they excel such as music or art. Children at The River School also have the opportunity to participate in a number of special classes such as art, music, dance, and drama. As an SLP I have delighted in watching children with a hearing loss fully participate in these activities with peers with normal hearing as they learn to navigate the world of spoken communication.
Having the opportunity to work with a range of ages and abilities has given me the opportunity to practice and develop new skills. Helping parents cope with the discovery of an infant’s newly diagnosed hearing loss to guiding a six-year-old to learn to decode words invite new challenges each day. The school also affords its teachers and SLPs the opportunity to develop their own interests from participating in research or providing individual treatment, to helping with grant writing or giving presentations. The field of cochlear implant technology is relatively new and is constantly changing. Working at a school that dedicates a great deal of focus to this area allows its staff the opportunity to remain abreast of new developments in the field.
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March 2005
Volume 10, Issue 3