Educational Audiologists Make Changes in the Schools Years ago I was introduced to a simple concept that profoundly changed my perspective on working with children who are challenging, with parents who seem to be noncompliant, and with teachers who appear resistant: I needed to stop using negative descriptors and focus on understanding why I wasn’t getting a ... School Matters
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School Matters  |   September 01, 2003
Educational Audiologists Make Changes in the Schools
Author Notes
  • Merrill Alterman, is coordinator for related services for the Baltimore City Public School System in Maryland and administers related educational services citywide. She can be reached at malterman@bcps.k12.md.us.
    Merrill Alterman, is coordinator for related services for the Baltimore City Public School System in Maryland and administers related educational services citywide. She can be reached at malterman@bcps.k12.md.us.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / School-Based Settings / School Matters
School Matters   |   September 01, 2003
Educational Audiologists Make Changes in the Schools
The ASHA Leader, September 2003, Vol. 8, 24. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.08162003.24
The ASHA Leader, September 2003, Vol. 8, 24. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.08162003.24
Years ago I was introduced to a simple concept that profoundly changed my perspective on working with children who are challenging, with parents who seem to be noncompliant, and with teachers who appear resistant: I needed to stop using negative descriptors and focus on understanding why I wasn’t getting a more positive response.
Although we know that most parents do not wish to be unresponsive to their child’s medical or hearing health care, often we label them as “difficult.” As audiologists, we instead need to identify the factors that might be keeping the family from being more responsive. Do the parents fully understand the importance of good hearing? Do the parents have money for bus fare? Will the parent lose wages if he takes time off from work for appointments and meetings? These are issues we face daily in the Baltimore City Public School System, which reflects the city’s problems of poverty, crime, drugs, poor health care, and a dwindling tax base—all of which cause stress for families, children, and schools.
Some teachers adamantly refuse to adjust their teaching styles to accommodate a student with a hearing loss, but they do not mean to intentionally obstruct a student’s learning. As audiologists, we need to identify the real issues. Did the teacher have a negative classroom experience previously with a child who had a disability? Is the teacher concerned the student will make their job more difficult? Do they feel that the student should be in a self-contained, special education class? Is the teacher intimidated by the responsibility for an FM system?
In the Baltimore City Public School System, nine audiologists (7.5 full-time employees) cover each of the 174 schools, as well as Head Start centers and programs for infants and toddlers. This coverage allows clinicians to be active in the schools by attending IEP team meetings; collaborating with school staff, parents, and caregivers; providing aural habilitation treatment; monitoring or determining the need for individual or group amplification; and advocating for children with hearing loss.
By being part of the schools, the principal and staff no longer perceive the audiologists as “outsiders” coming to give teachers more work. As an example, because of an audiologist’s positive presence in the school, a third-grade teacher was looking forward to having a student who uses an FM system in her general education classroom. At the beginning of the year, the audiologist met with the teacher at a time convenient for the teacher and brought a snack to share. During the meeting, the audiologist demonstrated the effects of hearing loss, gave the teacher the opportunity to listen through the FM system, and assured her that she would be there to help. The audiologist responded to any problems that arose and kept the IEP team, administrators, and teachers informed of her activities.
As educational audiologists, we can’t solve the societal problems families and teachers face, but we can change our point of view and eliminate the negative language we use to describe children, parents, and teachers who do not meet our expectations. As audiologists become “insiders” in their school, they are seen as a positive presence in the school and a valued part of the educational planning. For audiologists, the “real work” is in the classroom, the teacher’s lunchroom, and the hallway.
Resources

ASHA Desk Reference. (2002). Guidelines for audiology service provision in and for schools. www.asha.org/members/deskref-journals/deskref/DRVol2.htm

Boys Town National Research Hospital. My Baby’s Hearing. http://www.babyhearing.org/

Candidacy and Habilitation of Children With Cochlear Implants. (2003). Two-hour videotape and manual. Earn 0.2 ASHA CEUs through July 2005. Item # 0112454. $125 member; $155 nonmember.

Family-Centered Early Intervention for Children Who Are Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing: Strategies and Outcomes. (1999). Two-hour audiotape and manual. Earn 0.2 ASHA CEUs through July 2005. Item #0112256. $74 member; $99 nonmember.

Pediatric Audiology: Enhancing Service Delivery to Families. (2002). Reprinted from AJA, JSLHR, and LSHSS. Earn 0.4 ASHA CEUs through January 2005. Item #0112419. $65 member, $80 nonmember.

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September 2003
Volume 8, Issue 16