The Necessity of Classroom Observation

Classroom observation is a critical part of assessment and performance monitoring. It provides the opportunity to collect data on how the student with hearing loss is functioning in the classroom in comparison to typical peers. Specifically, we need to observe behavior using what we know about how the hearing loss impacts speech perception, listening, learning, language, participation, behavior and overall social interaction.

 

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The Necessity of Classroom Observation

Classroom observation is a critical part of assessment and performance monitoring. It provides the opportunity to collect data on how the student with hearing loss is functioning in the classroom in comparison to typical peers. Specifically, we need to observe behavior using what we know about how the hearing loss impacts speech perception, listening, learning, language, participation, behavior and overall social interaction.

Why do students with hearing loss specifically need to be observed?

Eligibility for specialized instruction and supports is based on information from academic, developmental and functional sources. IDEA does not specify that students must show academic needs (as in having poor grades) – it specifies showing adverse impact on educational performance, which is broader than just academics.

Who is the professional that needs to observe?

Teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing, educational audiologists, and speech language pathologists with a specialty in DHH all bring the following ‘lenses’ to their observations. In some places this input by the student’s classroom interpreter or transliterator is also sought. These “lenses” of observation are different from others on the assessment/IEP team.

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 utilize social language in the integrated 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 when the peers contributed to the instructional delivery?
  • How did the student access the general education curriculum when technology was utilized?
  • Did the student demonstrate appropriate progress in the general education curriculum?

This focus of student assessment is different from other school staff that do not have DHH expertise.

What needs to be observed?
Download the Observational Record of Behavior as an example of specific behaviors to focus on during observation and how they can be rated while you observe.

The information under each of the “lenses” provide a good start to what the observer needs to have in mind when beginning the classroom observation. One example of a form to use has been provided (see box). The Access to Curriculum Assessment Inventory1 is a highly recommended process to follow to obtain observation information.

It is critical to not only note behaviors, but to 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 Marianne’s 45 -minute civics class on October 12, she attended to the interpreter 44% of the time. The longest interval of attending was 5 minutes.”

LATENCY – elapsed time between an event and the expected behavioral response

  • “In the morning it takes William 7 minutes to follow instruction after the teacher gives a direction. In the afternoon it takes William 4 minutes to follow instruction after the teacher gives a direction.”
How can observation data be reported?

In chapter one of Building Skills for Success in the Fast-Paced Classroom1 steps were provided describing how to conduct a systematic classroom observation through the DHH lens. An extensive report of findings from a real student classroom observation using this systematic process can be downloaded here. The names have been changed to protect identities. Excerpts from the report:

  • Of the 17 questions or items reviewed, Sam was able to answer five correctly (29%). Much of this information was review, not new. Sam was surprised when told the British were from England, not France, they lost the war and that the Continental Army was made up the colonists/Americans and they/we won the war in America, not in France.
  • The pace, level of complexity in relation to new concepts and vocabulary and language loaded curriculum in all areas at his current grade level highlight Sam’s difficulty to access and internalize new information at the same rate as his grade level peers. … Without a concerted effort and plan for intervention, the gap that is seen at the fifth-grade level will only continue to increase.
Identifiable adverse educational effects caused by the hearing loss

Students with hearing loss have access issues, as hearing technology does not ‘restore’ normal hearing ability, especially when listening at a distance, in noise, and to softly spoken or quickly spoken speech. Functional information by means of classroom observation, teacher checklists, and student checklists, will often reveal that students with hearing loss:

1)     Hesitate in starting work after instruction

2)     Participate less in the classroom (less often, less appropriately)

3)     Have challenges comprehending verbal instruction, class discussions, small group work, and partner projects as compared to peers.

4)     May interact less and/or more immaturely with peers

In grades preschool through fourth grade this translates into the need to develop awareness of

(a) when information is being missed (he doesn’t know what he didn’t hear because he didn’t hear it – but he is continually held accountable for knowing this information anyway),

(b) different ways to respond when information is missed (communication repair),

(c) appropriate ways and when to self-advocate, and then

(d) in the tween/teen years, how to apply problem-solving to challenging situations for self-determination.

 

 

  1. 1. Access to Curriculum Assessment Inventory can be found in Building Skills for Success in the Fast-Paced Classroom, page 27-58 or purchased as part of the Teacher Inservice Combo from Supporting Success.
  2. 2. Anderson, K. & Arnoldi, K. (2011). Building Skills for Success in the Fast-Paced Classroom. Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss Publications. Pages 14-19.

 

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Bullying / Teasing Happens!

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.

Gallaudet researchers found that 812 deaf and hard of hearing students in eleven U.S. schools reported instances of bullying at rates 2-3 times higher than reported by hearing students.  It is obvious that bullying is a serious problem.  What is not always so clear is how parents, teachers, and deaf/hard of hearing students can work together to resolve it.

 

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Advocacy Notes: Responding to Bullying

My student is being bullied
but the school isn’t taking it seriously!

Question from the field: My student is being bullied but the school isn’t taking the situation seriously. What can I do?

Students with hearing loss often struggle in social situations due to a variety of situations. They may not have the level of language sophistication as their peers. They may mis-hear or misunderstand, or they may have a lack of access to what is being said by their peers. All of these can lead to bullying and teasing by peers including systemic bullying. It is critical that the school administration and staff understand your concerns.

 

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Advocacy Notes: Responding to Bullying

My student is being bullied
but the school isn’t taking it seriously!

Question from the field: My student is being bullied but the school isn’t taking the situation seriously. What can I do?

Students with hearing loss often struggle in social situations due to a variety of situations. They may not have the level of language sophistication as their peers. They may mis-hear or misunderstand, or they may have a lack of access to what is being said by their peers. All of these can lead to bullying and teasing by peers including systemic bullying. It is critical that the school administration and staff understand your concerns.

As with the greater population of students, our students with hearing loss may be bullied in a variety of ways and circumstances. However, there are built in conditions that can make them feel singled out and isolated even when there is no bullying. If there is bullying on top of this, we must address it and help non-DHH professionals understand the needs of our students.

Real-Life Examples

Playground bullying situation:

My daughter was the first mainstreamed DHH student in our neighborhood school when she was in 2nd grade. Unfortunately, due to the need for CI revision surgery she started the school year in the general education class completely “off the air.” Early on in the school year she found herself being bullied by a group of boys on the playground. My 8-year-old daughter who could not hear anything at the time ended up surrounded by a group of boys taller than her, pushing her, saying things to her that she did not hear. The image of my little girl in that position is still paralyzing.

Mean girl” bullying situation:

These students of mine are fully mainstreamed and have the benefit of not being the only student in their classes with hearing loss. Unfortunately, they told me at the beginning of 8th grade that all of 7th grade they were teased and humiliated by the “popular” students. They shared that when teachers were syncing their classroom equipment, students would make derogatory comments about their hearing loss that their teachers never heard. Additionally, in Physical Education class the “popular” students would take the teacher mic, walk away, and give commands into the mic like, “turn in a circle,” and “jump up and down.” The students felt like they were treated like pets. When asked why they didn’t say anything to an adult, they shared that they were  afraid that if they stood up for themselves, they would not be liked. None of this is actually the case, but that is how our students feel.

Classroom bullying situation:

This student was mainstreamed starting in Kindergarten. Her primary needs focused on self-advocacy. Unfortunately, the year she finally started to advocate for herself she was met with such push back that she ended up in tears at home every night for 2 months. When she advocated for a change of seat due to a peer who caused auditory distraction, her teacher shut her down and told her no. The peer then began to openly bully her and bring the other classmates into it. When she advocated for her accommodations she was told by her teacher that she needed to “do better.”

Deaf plus bullying situation:

This student has a hearing loss as well as physical and medical conditions that limit him. Some of his peers were verbally calling him names related to the fact that he is hard of hearing and also made derogatory comments about his physical condition. Luckily for us, he told his parents and didn’t hold it in. We were able to go to the administration immediately.

Middle school bullying situation:

Back to my daughter…. we had several situations of bullying due to the fact that she was the first oral deaf student and cochlear implant user in our town in the mainstream with no previous path to follow. In 8th grade she had an oral language facilitator assigned to her in order to facilitate communication in the educational setting. This person was and accommodation for her as an oral student the same way a sign language interpreter would facilitate communication for a student who uses ASL. Unfortunately, when the language facilitator left her alone in PE she was physically beat up by 3 boys because she “talked funny.”

What can be done to reduce victimization of students with hearing loss?

The first step is to inform and involve the parents, if they are not already aware. Every school now has clear policies about bullying. Find the bullying policy and be clear about how the student’s situation fits the definition of bullying per the school policy and the prevention and cessation practices already delineated. Once the administration clearly understands that a true bullying situation is occurring, try to increase their understanding of the extra vulnerability of students with hearing loss and the need to go above and beyond the action items spelled out in policy to truly address victimization of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

These activities can include:

  • Peer in-services: Proactively, the best way to create a circle of support around our students is to do peer in-services at the beginning of each year. I like to explain how amazing their peer with hearing loss is as a person dealing with a challenge. Answer all of the peer’s questions to take the mystery out of it, and at the same time give the peers a sense of ownership in understanding that in noisy situations when there is not teacher using an FM/DM system, their friend is going to have a harder time hearing. Make the inservice age appropriate and new every year. The requirement for peer inservice can be added into the IEP as an accommodation.
  • Grade level in-services: Some schools will do grade level presentations either directly related to the student with hearing loss and their unique circumstance or more of a focus on tolerance, empathy, and understanding differences. Kids are amazing!! They will almost always recognize that we all have something that makes us feel different and this helps to promote empathy for our students with hearing loss as well as for all of their peers.
  • Intervention in the moment: If there is bullying in the moment, pull the 2 students together and ask the student with hearing loss what they heard. This gives you the opportunity to work on communication repair and at the same time you are able to teach the typically hearing peer about how they may have been misunderstood or not heard at all. You can respond to the cause of bullying in the moment without ever directly addressing the typical peer.
  • Staff training: Talk with the school administration about the nuances of how hearing loss, listening in noise, and language issues can affect our students in social communication. You may want to ask for an opportunity to speak at a regularly scheduled staff meeting. This way you will be able to address the general education teachers as a group and get them on board with addressing bullying of students and add a focus on hearing loss specifically.
  • DHH Itinerant push-in services: If the teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing is currently only providing pull-put services, adding some push-in services in order to observe in class can lead to opportunities for intervention. Observe during regular instruction, specialist instruction (ie: Art, Music, etc.), and during unstructured times (i.e., PE, recess, lunch, etc.).
  • Goals for communication repair and self-advocacy: As this month’s Update topic emphasizes, about a quarter of typically hearing students are victimized whereas over half of students with hearing loss typically experience some type of bullying. While being bullied is not the fault of the student with hearing loss, you can prepare them to deal with the likelihood of being victimized by adding goals for communication repair strategies and self-advocacy. This way you can work directly with your student on how to handle situations in which they are being bullied.

 

Melinda Gillinger, M. A.
Special Education Consultant
Director of Parent Outreach/Advocacy for Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss
Melinda@success4kidswhl.com

 

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Bullying / Teasing Happens!

 

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.

Gallaudet researchers found that 812 deaf and hard of hearing students in eleven U.S. schools reported instances of bullying at rates 2-3 times higher than reported by hearing students.  It is obvious that bullying is a serious problem.  What is not always so clear is how parents, teachers, and deaf/hard of hearing students can work together to resolve it.

The Problem:

The incidence of bullying in the deaf or hard of hearing student population is a significant, even startling, reality. A 2018 study1 found that adolescents with hearing loss endured significantly higher incidence of bullying versus the general population (50.0% vs. 28.0%), particularly for exclusion (26.3% vs. 4.7%) and coercion (17.5% vs. 3.6%). Children younger than 12 years with hearing loss reported lower rates of bullying (38.7%) than adolescents with HL, but rates did not differ significantly.

“I thought more children and adolescents with hearing loss would report getting picked on, but I did not expect the rates to be twice as high as the general population,” said Dr. Andrea Warner-Czyz, study author.

In 20162, the story of a deaf high school student in Nebraska was reported on television news.  Students had taken his backpack during a lunch period and dumped it in a toilet.  Contained inside were his tablet, school supplies, homework, debit card, and his cochlear implant.  The student, Alexis Hernandez, reported: “Those students think it’s ok to bully a deaf student, but it’s not.  It’s not OK to bully someone who is disabled, deaf, or hard of hearing.  Or anyone for that matter.”

Another study3 found that students who had lower language abilities were more vulnerable to victimization if they lacked understanding of their own emotions and levels of anger, sadness, and fear. As students with hearing loss have a greater risk for difficulty in being able to identify and describe emotional states4, recognizing that these challenges may contribute to victimization has important implications for intervention.

Bullying can be5:

  • verbal: name-calling, insulting, teasing, ridiculing
  • emotional/indirect: ignoring or deliberately excluding, spreading rumors or nasty stories, turning friends against the child, laughing at them or talking about them behind their back, taking, hiding or damaging their personal belongings, drawing unkind pictures of the child, using a feature of the child’s disability to bully them, e.g. deliberately making loud noises near a deaf child who is known to find loud noises unpleasant, creeping up on them from behind to scare them, deliberately making a noise when the teacher is giving instructions.
  • physical: any physical contact which would hurt such as hitting, kicking, pinching, pushing, shoving, tripping up, pulling out hearing aids.
  • manipulation/controlling behavior: using the child’s vulnerability as a way of controlling them or making them do something the bully wants them to do.
  • cyberbullying: using electronic media (internet, mobile phones) to bully someone. This includes bullying through text messages, instant messaging, email, chat forums, online games and social networking websites.

Solutions:

Once we recognize what forms the behavior takes, what possible solutions are available for our students who are vulnerable?

Incorporate routine screening for bullying via direct questions6:

  1. 1. Ask the child about friends. A response of “none” or “few friends” deserves additional prompting (Why do you think that is?).
  2. 2. Inquire if the child avoids going to school and request more information on the assistance the child has accessed.
  3. 3. Ask the child directly if he or she has experienced bullying. If the child answers “yes,” ask follow-up questions and refer the child to school and community resources.

Address developing skills to reduce victimization in the student IEP6:

Issues related to peer victimization can also be included on individualized education plans or 504 plans. For example, educational plans can specify informing teachers and classmates about hearing loss. Plans can also include a safe environment statement designating a “home base” where a student can go when feeling unsafe and/or a “safe person” with whom a student can discuss difficult situations. Additionally, education plans could include strategies to reduce vulnerability and improve response to bullying by targeting social pragmatic skills (e.g., taking turns and asking questions; reading facial expressions and body language) via one-on-one instruction, role playing, or social stories. Organizing a social skills group can help children develop social competencies in a supportive environment. Clinicians can also help patients address assertiveness and/or self-advocacy, with specific training to identify and report bullying, say “no” to stop the situation, and request assistance from a trusted source.

For teachers:  provide ongoing education to keep students aware that the bullying they may be experiencing – or doing to others – is unacceptable.  Give your students a safe and open communication pathway for reporting incidents of bullying.  Recognize that bullying will most often happen when you are not watching – In the lunchroom, the bathrooms, the playground, the hallways.  Just because you did not see it does not mean it did not happen!

Be a listener. Be supportive.   Report incidents to your school administration as promptly as possible.

For parents:  talk to your child about feelings – openly and often.  They need to know that when things go wrong, you will be there to support them.  Stay closely involved with

school administrators and teachers.  Does the staff understand about hearing loss?  Really understand?

About cyberbullying:  This form of bullying may be the most insidious and dangerous of all. While our deaf and hard of hearing students find invaluable and positive connections online, the potential for negative interactions has increased disproportionately.

How can we be proactive about cyberbullying?  By being fully aware of what websites are being used.  If we as adults continue to make excuses about our lack of skill or disdain for social media, we are inadvertently providing limitless opportunities for our children to be vulnerable to cyberbullying.

Recognize, React, and Raise Awareness

October month is dedicated to Bullying Prevention but teachers and parents of deaf and hard of hearing children are fully aware that the need to protect vulnerable students is ongoing. Find a wealth of resources to stop bullying in your family or classroom or school in the following websites.

 

 

Resources for Teachers and Parents

References

  1. 1. Warner-Czyz, A. D., et. al. (2018) Effect of hearing loss on peer victimization in school-age children. Exceptional Children. https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-04-children-loss-bullying.html . Download from: https://successforkidswithhearingloss.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Children-with-hearing-loss-face-more-bullying-2018.pdf
  2. 2. 2016 news: https://www.newschannel5.com/news/national/burke-high-school-investigating-bullying-incident-after-it-goes-viral
  3. 3. Van den Bedem, N.P., et al, (2018). Victimization, bullying, and emotional competence: Longitudinal associations in (Pre)Adolescents with and without developmental language disorder, Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 61, 2028-2044.
  4. 4. Goberis, D., Beams, D., Daples, M., Abrisch, A., Baca, R. & Yoshinaga-Itano, C. (2012). The Missing Link in Language Development of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children: Pragmatic language development. Seminars in Speech and Language, (2012), 33:4, 297-309.
  5. 5. Bullying Advice for Parents of Deaf Children. National Deaf Children Society in the UK. Download from: https://successforkidswithhearingloss.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Bullying-Advice-for-Parents-of-Deaf-Children-NDCS-UK.pdf
  6. 6. Warner-Czyz, A. D. (2018). Peer victimization of children with hearing loss. The Hearing Journal, October. Download from: https://successforkidswithhearingloss.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Peer_Victimization_of_Children_with_Hearing_Loss.4.pdf

 

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