Identifying Student’s Functional Issues in the Classroom

Late October 2018

The evaluation process requires1 that a variety of assessment tools and strategies are used to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the student to determine if there is a disability that is adversely affecting educational performance. We also must develop a statement about the student’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance. Classroom observation provides the opportunity to collect data on how the student with hearing loss functions in the classroom in comparison to typical peers. Using the ‘deaf lens’ during observations, systematically considering performance, and obtaining teacher checklist information all help to paint the picture of functional performance and identify issues.

Classroom Observation

We need to observe student behavior using what we know about how hearing loss impacts speech perception, listening, learning, language, and overall social interaction. Classroom observation is a critical part of evaluation and planning to appropriately meet student access accommodation and educational performance needs.

The following “lenses” are what professionals with expertise in the education of students who are deaf or hard of hearing bring to the assessment/IEP team that is different from other educational professionals.

1IDEA Eligibility Determination – Section 300.304(b)(1)

 

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Can You Guess the Big 5?

I am often asked, if I had to choose, which would be the most important assessments for teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing to routinely use during initial or triennial assessments.

  • Assessments that reflect unique needs of our students
  • Assessments to tease out performance issues in students who are ‘okay’ academically
  • Assessments that will be helpful in planning intervention

Biggest areas of vulnerability are: speech perception, listening comprehension, syntax, morphology, memory, phonological awareness, conversational use of language, pragmatic language, ‘Swiss cheese’ language.

 Collaborate with your IEP team SLP: Tests need to be chosen that will evaluate syntax, morphology along with receptive/expressive language and conversational or social communication skills. Some tests are: CASL, CASLS, TOLD, TACL, CELF-V. Using test combinations to also identify issues with phonemic awareness and pragmatics/social language is important.

 

1. Determine level of communication access in the classroom – a necessity!

For ages 6-18
15 minutes to administer
Digital audio files – Use from CD or copy to your computer or phone
Perform all 8 conditions: Close/Far, Auditory only/ Auditory + Speechreading, Quiet/Noise (in +5 S/N classroom noise)

Continuous recording allows you to finish an 8 condition FLE in 10-15 minutes. Uses 5-word HINT sentences. Comes with computer fillable response form and auto calculating summary. Administration of the FLE can be adapted for SimCom/TC users. EVERY student with hearing loss who has useable residual hearing should have an FLE at least triennially.

 

2. What does s/he comprehend? – typical classroom language

Ages 6-11, Grades 1-6 or Adolescent version: Ages 12-18, Grades 6-12
35-40 minutes to administer

Subtests: Main Idea, Details, Reasoning, Vocabulary, Understanding Messages. The Listening Comprehension Tests focus on:

  • Summarizing and Sequencing
  • Participating in Discussions
  • Following Directions
  • Understanding Language Concepts
  • Problem Solving and Predicting
  • Listening for Meaning 

RESULTS ARE PREDICTIVE OF HOW WELL A STUDENT WILL BE ABLE TO FUNCTION IN THE CLASSROOM.
Can be administered through amplification (no speechreading) and/or via visual communication/ASL.

 

3. What does s/he comprehend? – deeper language

For ages 5 to 21 years
10 to 20 minutes to administer

OPUS identifies how well a person can integrate and apply knowledge in three structural categories of language:

  • Lexical/Semantic: knowledge and use of words and word combinations
  • Syntactic: knowledge and use of grammar
  • Supralinguistic: knowledge and use of language in which meaning is not directly available from the surface lexical and syntactic information.

OPUS IS SENSITIVE TO FUNCTIONAL COMPREHENSION AND SYNTAX ISSUES. Can be administered auditorilly and/or via visual communication/ASL. Results of OPUS and the Listening Comprehension Test provide a clear reflection of daily comprehension ability and needs for planning. Listening comprehension is a higher order auditory development skill. Evaluation must occur to determine each student’s specific abilities and needs along the hierarchy of auditory skill development (such as evaluating with the SPICE).

4. How well does s/he interact with others? – social language use

A. If the student was found to have language within average

For ages 4 to 16 years 
15 to 20 minutes to administer
Test of Narrative Language 2 identifies our student’s issues carrying on conversations, relating experiences. No transcription required.

  • a functional assessment of narrative comprehension and narrative production;
  • a measure of the ability to comprehend and produce three types of stories: a script, a personal narrative, and a fictional narrative;
  • a system for scoring oral narratives that does not require clinicians to transcribe the stories;
  • a normative test with clear, well-organized norms tables and administration procedures, as well as an easy-to-use record form; and
  • a fair and equitable assessment of narrative discourse for all children.

B. If pragmatic language was not evaluated (thoroughly) by the SLP
Obtain information from the classroom teacher about how well the student uses social language.
Takes classroom teachers 5-10 minutes to complete.
PLSI for ages 5 to 13 years
Students with hearing loss often have a 3+ delay in pragmatic language!

PLSI has 3 subscales:

  • Personal Interaction Skills
  • Social Interaction Skills
  • Classroom Interaction Skills
  • Clear cut-off scores
  • Guidelines for interpretation
  • Useful diagnostic instrument

 

Need to dig deeper? Use the Social Language Development Test – Elementary

 

5. How does s/he process language?

Ages 5 to 21 years
<60 minutes to administer>
The TAPS-4 provides information about language processing and comprehension skills across three intersecting areas: phonological processing, auditory memory and listening comprehension.
These areas underpin the development of effective listening and communication skills and are critical to the development of higher order language skills, including literacy skills.

Phonological Processing Index:

  • Word (Pair) Discrimination: Assesses ability to discriminate whether a given word pair is the same or different
  • Phonological Deletion: Assesses ability to manipulate phonemes within words
  • Phonological Blending: Assesses ability to synthesize a word given the individual phonemes
  • Syllabic Blending (Supplemental): Assesses ability to synthesize a nonsense word given the individual syllables

Auditory Memory Index:

  • Number Memory Forward: Assesses ability to recall an auditory sequence of numbers in the given order
  • Word Memory: Assesses ability to recall an auditory sequence of words in the given order
  • Sentence Memory: Assesses ability to recall a spoken sentence
  • Number Memory Reversed (Supplemental): Assesses ability to recall a reverse auditory sequence of numbers

Listening Comprehension Index:

  • Processing Oral Directions (without background noise): Assesses ability to process and recall oral directions when presented in quiet listening conditions
  • Auditory Comprehension: Assesses ability to comprehend oral language at the sentence and narrative level, including literal recall, inference, and higher order language tasks such as idioms and figurative language
  • Auditory Figure-Ground (Processing Oral Directions with 4-speaker babble background noise) (Supplemental): Assesses ability to process and recall oral directions when presented with competing background noise

Assesses 5 narrow abilities across 3 broad skill areas as defined in the CHC theory of cognitive abilities:
Short-Term Memory: Memory Span (MS); Working Memory Capacity (MW)
Auditory Processing: Phonetic Coding (PC); Resistance to Auditory Stimulus Distortion (UR)
Comprehension-Knowledge: Listening Ability (LS)

 

 

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Identifying Student’s Functional Issues in the Classroom

The evaluation process requires1 that a variety of assessment tools and strategies are used to gather relevant functional, developmental, and academic information about the student to determine if there is a disability that is adversely affecting educational performance. We also must develop a statement about the student’s present level of academic achievement and functional performance. Classroom observation provides the opportunity to collect data on how the student with hearing loss functions in the classroom in comparison to typical peers. Using the ‘deaf lens’ during observations, systematically considering performance, and obtaining teacher checklist information all help to paint the picture of functional performance and identify issues.

Classroom Observation

We need to observe student behavior using what we know about how hearing loss impacts speech perception, listening, learning, language, and overall social interaction. Classroom observation is a critical part of evaluation and planning to appropriately meet student access accommodation and educational performance needs.

The following “lenses” are what professionals with expertise in the education of students who are deaf or hard of hearing bring to the assessment/IEP team that is different from other educational professionals.

Communication Lens

  • How much instruction does the student understand?
  • What is the student’s level of classroom interaction?

Participation and Social Language Lens

  • What strategies or compensatory skills does the student utilize?
  • What does the student do when there are learning breakdowns?
  • How does the student understand and use social language in the inclusive classroom setting?
  • Are the student’s use and understanding of social language developing appropriately?

Curriculum Lens

  • What strengths and gaps in access were observed when the teacher delivered the instruction?
  • What strengths and gaps in access were observed during peer discussions and group interactions?
  • How did the student access the general education curriculum when technology was used?
  • Does the student demonstrate progress similar to their cognitive peers in the general education curriculum?

It is critical to not only note behaviors, but also collect specific data. The following are examples:

Frequency – number of times, or how often, a student behavior occurs.

“Tyler turned to watch his peers offering oral responses 2/9 times, or 22% of the time.”

Duration – total amount of time a student is engaged in a specific behavior.

“During a 45-minute class, Sally attended to the interpreter 60% of the time. The longest interval of attending was for 5 minutes.”

Latency – elapsed time between an event and the expected behavioral response.

“Gerald hesitated before following teacher directions in 4 out of 5 instances observed. In comparison to peers, his hesitation ranged from 15 seconds to 2 minutes longer to begin an activity than a sample of 5 surrounding peers.”

Click here to download the Classroom Observation Record of Behavior

 

Focused Consideration of Access Needs

Universally, students with hearing loss have greater difficulty accessing verbal communication in both large and small group instruction within the typical classroom environment. It is not a question of IF a student needs accommodation, it is a question of verifying WHEN, under what conditions, WHICH accommodations are necessary to level the access playing field. Schools are required2 to ensure that communication for students who are deaf or hard of hearing is as effective as communication for others to afford an equal opportunity to reach the same level of achievement as that provided to others. Functional hearing is necessary to identify and cannot be revealed by an audiogram or speech and language evaluation. Results of a Functional Listening Evaluation in combination with data from a classroom observation is an effective way to start a discussion with the school team about the necessity of providing effective accommodations to improve communication access. Refer to the White Paper on Estimating Access for more information.

Click here to download the Accessibility Considerations Worksheet

 

Gathering Information from Classroom Teachers

Teachers spend more time with the student than any other educational professional. It is necessary to obtain their thoughts about the student’s function in comparison to class peers. By providing checklists targeted to identifying issues related to hearing loss, classroom teachers also become more aware of the subtle impacts of hearing loss on performance and may be more open to team discussions of student needs. Examples of teacher checklists are:

  • Screening Instruments For Targeting Educational Risk

Original forms can be downloaded from this webpage. Updated forms that are computer fillable are available in the Teacher Inservice Combo and Documenting Skills for Success.

  • Listening Instrument For Education – Revised (LIFE-R) Teacher Appraisal

The Teacher Appraisal can be downloaded. There are two pages to the appraisal. The first page is the Teacher Appraisal of Listening Difficulty and focuses on student attention and class participation. The second page is the Teacher Checklist: Self-Advocacy and Instructional Access. The DHH professional can choose to request that the teacher fill out only one page, based on the information they desire to collect.

  • Placement and Readiness Checklists (PARC): General Education Inclusion Readiness Checklist

This checklist can be downloaded. It may work best for the DHH professional to sit down with the teacher in an interview format to complete this checklist. Alternately, the DHH professional can complete the checklist after classroom observation and/or from their knowledge from working with the student and then invite the teacher to review and discuss the student’s performance. This PARC checklist is a reliable and valid tool to identify the readiness skills of students who are deaf or hard of hearing in grades kindergarten through 7. A study found that the mean ratings for DHH students were significantly lower than for their hearing peers.

 

Gathering functional information about educational performance is every bit as important as considering academic performance1. The communication access issues of our students require them to work harder, expending more energy, often to receive less information than their typically hearing peers. Functional performance issues require appropriate access accommodations. They may also warrant instruction in self-advocacy skills, social interaction, or other aspects of the Expanded Core Curriculum that need specific and direct teaching.

 

1 IDEA Eligibility Determination – Section 300.304(b)(1)
2 Americans with Disabilities Act: ADA Title II 28 C.F.R. 35.160(a)(1) and Title II 28 C.F.R. 35.130 (b)(1)(iii).

 

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More Tips For Itinerant Teachers

Early October 2018

Itinerant teachers must be ready for anything. Many itinerant teachers have evolved into their role, rather than trained for it.  The transition from classroom teacher to traveling teacher meant altering my expectations and constantly redefining my role in my students’ education. Frustrating as it may seem at times, I find the role of itinerant teacher to be the most fulfilling.

Just as “deaf children are not hearing children who cannot hear”, itinerant teachers are not simply classroom teachers with cars.  Itinerants are also consultants, technology experts, cultural attaches, collaborators, and communicators. Itinerants know that planning and preparation are essential; we also know that all the best planning and preparation can be thwarted by traffic, weather, illness, changing schedules, miscommunication, fire drills, field trips, and heaven forbid—car trouble. Supporting our low incidence students so that their needs can be met in the inclusive classroom takes knowledge, heart, and stamina.

Tips and tricks learned through the years:

Show, don’t tell.  When it comes to discussing the educational impact of hearing loss, it can be more effective to show, rather than tell. A five-minute video or a few seconds of an audio clip demonstrating what a child’s hearing level sounds like can be more effective than anything I have to tell them or any handout I can provide. These demonstrations are very helpful when you are asked the inevitable question, “So what or how much can he/she actually hear?”

Continue Reading the Early October 2018 Update

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More Tips For Itinerant Teachers

Itinerant teachers must be ready for anything. Many itinerant teachers have evolved into their role, rather than trained for it.  The transition from classroom teacher to traveling teacher meant altering my expectations and constantly redefining my role in my students’ education. Frustrating as it may seem at times, I find the role of itinerant teacher to be the most fulfilling.

Just as “deaf children are not hearing children who cannot hear”, itinerant teachers are not simply classroom teachers with cars.  Itinerants are also consultants, technology experts, cultural attaches, collaborators, and communicators. Itinerants know that planning and preparation are essential; we also know that all the best planning and preparation can be thwarted by traffic, weather, illness, changing schedules, miscommunication, fire drills, field trips, and heaven forbid—car trouble. Supporting our low incidence students so that their needs can be met in the inclusive classroom takes knowledge, heart, and stamina.

Tips and tricks learned through the years:

Show, don’t tell.  When it comes to discussing the educational impact of hearing loss, it can be more effective to show, rather than tell. A five-minute video or a few seconds of an audio clip demonstrating what a child’s hearing level sounds like can be more effective than anything I have to tell them or any handout I can provide. These demonstrations are very helpful when you are asked the inevitable question, “So what or how much can he/she actually hear?”

Pace yourself. It is the beginning of a new year, and we teachers are all regaining our stride after the summer break.  Avoid the temptation to save time by distributing a year’s worth of knowledge on hearing loss to school staff in one sitting. In my experience, this information goes unread, buried under piles of other paperwork, or lost. Weekly tips for teachers is a great resource for sending important tidbits that can be digested easily and quickly.

Be succinct. Whatever you have to say or show teachers or administrators, make it short, and make it specific. Be respectful of your schedule and theirs.

Be prepared to check hearing technology. As an itinerant teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing I am used to transporting a multitude of supplies. One thing I try never to be without is my bag of hearing technology paraphernalia. I have a small bag with monitor earphones, a “wand”, extra batteries of all sizes, a hearing aid stethoscope, alcohol wipes, a hearing aid multi-use tool, FM lapel mike clips, and scissors.  It has repeatedly saved time for me and my students.

Keep accurate records.  This is much easier said than done, but it is so important. I am often asked when I last saw a student; What was said at the meeting with __’s teacher?; Have I talked to the interpreter, parent, audiologist about….?, What did you find when you assessed….?; What are is ___’s reading level, strengths? What data are you basing your decision to…? and the list goes on. Data is the driving force for all we do. It is not only essential; it is difficult to refute.

Collaborate in small groups. Itinerant teachers have knowledge about issues affecting learners who are deaf or hard of hearing. General education teachers have knowledge of their grade-level counterparts. Finding time to collaborate can be extremely difficult, but it is worth the effort.  When discussing a particular student or group of students, I find that discussion by two to three educators in a group can produce great results. More than four people at the table, and collaboration can become a tedious, overwhelming experience.

Develop a routine. Paperwork such as lesson plans, reports, and mileage can quickly become a monumental task when not done in small steps and when it is fresh on your mind.  I strive to take good notes as I am visiting a classroom or seeing a student and not wait “until I have time” to do it. Details have a tendency to be forgotten when I wait until the end of a session or the end of the day. As for mileage, choose a day to input mileage at the end of each week. You will thank yourself when the end of the month arrives.

Make use of driving time.  So much of our day can be consumed by driving. I recently began calculating my average daily time on the road. I have found (and have data to prove it) that I can spend an average of 90 minutes per day traveling between campuses. This time can be made useful for all sorts of tasks such as making phone calls (hands free), confirming that students are present at your next campus, mentally preparing for my next assignment, or as a time to reflect.

Make things easy on yourself. Fill up your gas tank on Sunday. Keep a stash of edibles in your car. Input all the phone numbers of the schools you currently visit and could potentially visit in your cell phone contact list. I also have hearing aid and FM system helpdesks, my school’s administration, transportation, and IT support in my phone contact list. With their permission, I also collect as many teacher’s phone numbers as possible. This is a great help when I need to send a message to someone quickly.

Develop a rapport. Learn the names of all the receptionists, principals, educators, janitors, and support staff with whom you come into contact. This comes from introducing yourself and being seen or heard periodically throughout the school year(s). These are the people who can help you help students and in turn can make your life so much easier.

These are tips gleaned from years of past successes and failures. Tools and resources for itinerant teachers are evolving and improving daily, giving us better ways to communicate and help our students reach their full potential. Itinerant teachers dedicate much of their adult lives to improving the futures of students with hearing loss. It is a passion and an incredibly satisfying vocation. Providing support to students who are deaf and hard of hearing as an itinerant teacher is an experience I continue to enjoy.  Wishing YOU a great year ahead!

Resources

Arnoldi, K. (2014). The accessible general education classroom: strategies to support student success. Retrieved from https://webcasts.successforkidswithhearingloss.com/accessible-classroom/

Foster, S. & Cue, K. (2008). Roles and responsibilities of itinerant specialist teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students. American Annals of the Deaf 153(5), p. 435-449.

Kluwin, T.N., Morris, C.S., & Clifford, J. (2004). A Rapid ethnography of teachers of the deaf. American Annals of the Deaf 149(1), 52-72.

Luckner, J. An introduction to educating children who are deaf/hard of hearing: Itinerant teaching. Retrieved from http://infanthearing.org/ehdi-ebook/

Luckner, J. & Ayantoye, C. (2013). Itinerant teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing: practices and preparation. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education 18(3), p. 409-423. Doi:10.1093/deafed/ent015

Dorn, B. (2018). Five strategies for itinerant teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students. Odyssey 19, p. 16-21.

Marschark, M. (2014). Deaf children are not hearing children who can’t hear.  Retrieved from http://www.raisingandeducatingdeafchildren.org/2014/07/01/deaf-children-are-not-hearing-children-who-cant-heartm/


This article was written by itinerant teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing, Brenda Wellen. Brenda has a wealth of experience in working with students with hearing loss and school staff. She began as an aide in a Deaf Education self-contained classroom (5 years). Her first assignment as a teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing was a middle school self-contained classroom for 5 years after which she moved to an elementary self-contained classroom for 8 years, then back to middle school for 3 years as the students were gradually mainstreamed and the job transitioned into itinerant services. She has provided itinerant services for 9 years, working with all ages of children with roles as a parent-infant advisor, itinerant for D/HH students from 3-22, and as a “Supporter” for a adult with hearing loss who is a former student. Brenda is an invited contributor for Bimonthly Update articles.

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Advocacy Notes – Early October 2018

Can a 504 Plan be ENOUGH Support?

Many more students with hearing loss are being denied eligibility for specialized instruction and provided 504 Plans to meet their accommodation needs. The US Department of Education provides extensive answers to 47 FAQs on Section 504. Because hearing loss substantially limits one or more major life activities (hearing) virtually all students with hearing loss are qualified to receive a 504 Plan. Eligibility is considered per the student’s function without use of hearing devices.

If there is a question as to whether the hearing loss poses a “substantial limitation” tests tailored to evaluate the specific areas of educational need must be used. View the Estimating Access White Paper for information on this tailored assessment. Once a student is identified as eligible he or she will always be entitled to receive 504 Plan supports and services as long as the limitation of major life activities continues. Periodic reevaluation is required to verify that the impairment continues to limit the student’s ability to learn or other major life activity (i.e., hear).

“What does this student need to have equal access and to communicate in school as effectively as others?” is the guiding question for school teams to consider in developing a 504 Plan for a student with hearing loss. Section 504 requires recipients to provide to students with disabilities appropriate educational services designed to meet the individual needs of such students to the same extent as the needs of students without disabilities are met. Since 504 Plans are used in public schools to provide the accommodations and supports required by the Americans with Disabilities Act for students with hearing loss, the language specific to auxiliary aids and services within the ADA can help to further understand the extent of these supports.

Appropriate educational services can include:

  • Adjustments or accommodations in the regular classroom so that students can receive and convey information as effectively as peers.
  • Related/auxiliary aids consist of devices, technologies, and methods for providing effective communication, as well as the acquisition or modification of equipment or devices (i.e., computer connection for hearing devices). Auxiliary aids can also include, but are not limited to, interpreters, note takers, and closed or open captioning.
  • Related services refer to developmental, corrective, and other supportive services needed to ‘level the playing field’ for access and effective communication. In terms of students with hearing loss this can mean monitoring of auditory access/devices by the educational audiologist, inservice of classroom teachers and periodic progress monitoring (observation) and/or ongoing parent/teacher consultation by the teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing, teaching a student to effectively use hearing devices (i.e., operation, monitoring, troubleshooting of devices), etcetera.

Once the need for an auxiliary aid or service has been identified, the public school district must provide it as soon as possible. If the school suspects the auxiliary aid or service to be an undue financial burden, the complete resources available to the school district, not just the school, need to be considered for funding. An appropriate education for a student with a disability under the Section 504 regulations could consist of education in regular classrooms, education in regular classes with supplementary services, and/or special education and related services.

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