Monday, September 30, 2013

Back to School!!!!!

     Hey everybody!  School started (hence the delay in August blog posting!)  Time to clean up the workspace for homework, dig out that backpack, make new friends, meet new teachers, and learn new things.  I know, everyone thinks I am crazy for loving school.  I am more enthusiastic about this new school year than most.  Maybe a little too enthusiastic...
     This year I am taking three AP classes and an Honors class in addition to Latin III, Pre-Calculus and Orchestra.  (I know, “What was I thinking?!!”)  I am optimistically hopeful that this year will go well.  Of course, even though I love school, it is so very, very hard, because I catch only about 60% of what teachers say and 40% of what students say every day.  With the FM microphone, I can catch infinitely more than I could with hearing aids alone, but it is not always enough.  It’s also not something I use with my friends during social situations, although maybe I should experiment with having them use it during down times.  Hmm…. Maybe I should try it in the cafeteria some time.  Now that I have thought of it, I think I will!
     In order to catch and understand everything that most everyone else hears naturally, I use a variety of techniques that I have learned over the years, which include not only the FM microphone, but classroom positions, schedules, notes, etc.  My techniques are listed in Table 1, along with pros and cons.  Everything is included in my IEP, and we talk to new teachers at the beginning of each school year about these techniques, some of which can be used to help others even if they don't have a hearing loss.  I’ve started to email these techniques, along with an audiogram showing my hearing loss that exists even with the hearing aids, the “Instructional Accommodations or Modifications” page of my IEP, and a short summary explaining my audiogram and accommodations to my future teachers in advance of the school year so they can think about how to provide the best access to the material and communications for me.  Last year a teacher rearranged the classroom for group discussions so I could read everyone’s lips.
     With all of these techniques and accommodations, I am able to understand more.  However, there are still some additional things that I could use to access communication, but for a variety of reasons I choose not to use them at this time, and they are listed in Table 2.  On the other hand these methods could work for you.  Keep in mind, that these techniques may or may not work depending on the circumstances and your preferences.  I hope that you or someone else you know can use some of these techniques to help not only in school, but with life in general.  I would love to hear what other accommodations you have found work for you, so I might try them and I can add them to the list for others to share. 

Table 1:  Techniques I use:

Other factors
FM Microphone
Small, direct feed to my hearing aids by wearer, either teacher or other students
Need to remember to charge, has to be turned on and off appropriately, overrides hearing aid microphones, sometimes static-y
My current microphone is not a true FM system anymore, but a streaming Bluetooth microphone
Preferential Seating
Enables me to lip-read, keeps me away from excess background noise
Can get tricky with group discussions
Need to consider if teacher is right handed or left handed when selecting seat
Note-taking help
Since you can’t lip read and write at the same time, teacher’s check my notes or provide a copy of notes to make sure I catch everything
I have to remember to check in with the teacher, which can be time-consuming
I could ask for a “Note-taker” but so far I'm managing on my own with teachers' help
Close Captioning for films
I have access to what the movie is communicating, helps other students too!
It can be tricky with old equipment or old videos, especially VHS tapes
With movies that are too old to have CC, my teachers have looked for a film synopsis or transcript to give me.  Be sure classroom has a newer TV
Minimize Group Projects or Number in a Group
Very difficult for me to communicate with more than one person at a time, so this makes it easier for me to participate
Sometimes it just isn’t possible due to lab equipment availability
I need to advocate for myself with group partners more
Extended time for Testing

Provides extra time to match grammatical endings
No cons come to mind about this one
I have a high-frequency hearing loss and don’t hear the “s” “ed” and other sounds that define speech, even with my hearing aids
Extended time for Homework
(*I only use this once or twice a year)
Listening to people speak all day is exhausting, so sometimes I’m wiped out at the end of the day.  It gives me a chance to recover
If I don’t turn in my homework on time, it only delays the inevitable and creates a backlog of work
I work very hard to keep up with my peers

Table 2:  Techniques I do not use at this time:
Reason I’m not using
ASL Interpreters
Have real time visual communication
I’m not fluent in ASL
CART Interpretation
Have visual communication, with slight time delay
Technology is newer, and I’m managing on my own right now with the microphone alone
Cued Speech Interpreters
Helps with the grammatical endings I don’t hear
Not common in NM, would be difficult to find Interpreter and I’m not fluent in Cued Speech