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I had an article go live on my Home and School Mosaics magazine on Dec. 29. Well, I was still on Christmas break, so I couldn’t post it. Today, it is back to work, so it is my first task of the day to post this article. Getting back to work after the break isn’t easy, but I hope you enjoy my article about babies learning ASL making your first days back to a normal a little better. It seems many parents teach their babies ASL signs as well as Spanish or French numbers, colors, and basic words. I recently saw another story about a celebrity teaching her child ASL starting shortly after birth. It seems to be the thing to do. I got confused, though, when I met or consulted online with hearing parents with Deaf or DeafBlind children who were now afraid to teach their child ASL. The reasons were varied. I wanted to know if the reasons were valid or based on fear, so I did some research. This post is about what I learned and now want to recommend to all parents. Let me know what you think.

Don’t Throw Out the Baby with ASL 

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/dont-throw-out-the-baby-with-asl/

Well, my time on Homeschool Mosaics has arrived again. This month I share part 3, the final part of my series on Cochlear Implants. I may be pushing the controversial card a bit this month, but I hope to encourage all to reflect upon their attitudes of people who are Deaf or DeafBlind who may or may not choose a cochlear implant. The common phrase retorted is often, “God made me deaf. I’m not broken,” can be the signal for an attitude of prejudice or negativity toward those who feel the need to get a Cochlear Implant. My series has been all about thinking about these attitudes that hearing, deaf, Deaf, and deafblind can have and what the consequences can be. Please read, but read with an open mind and heart. Life can be so much easier if we all support each other.

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/god-didnt-make-me-deaf/

Well, my article for my monthly column on Homeschool Mosaics went live on Friday, but I had a product review due for Mosaics Reviews that day, too, that I had to pass along. So, I am sharing my article for Homeschool Mosaics today. This is part 2 of my three part series on Cochlear Implants. This month, I am answering the question that I am asked repeatedly, “Why do I get a CI?” I hope you will check out my answer. I am attempting to show how this decision is very personal and and individual. No one, not even a doctor, can really decide this issue for someone else. Understanding from the Deaf community, DeafBlind community, and yes, even the Hearing community is desperately needed to help these people and families facing this decision to be better informed and more comfortable living with their decision. Please read!

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/cochlear-implants-not-for-me/

This month on Homeschool Mosaics I begin a three-part series on Cochlear Implants. I feel this topic is good information for all people whether you are deaf, Deaf, DeafBlind, Hard of Hearing, or Hearing and Sighted. This controversial subject touches areas of society farther than you realize. If we all better understood what is involved, we could provide the understanding and support that is needed. Check it out! http://homeschoolmosaics.com/cochlear-implants-the-good-the-bad/

discovery-kit

Many students struggle with learning to read. Many also learn to read despite poor teaching as more and more schools leave out phonics and reading fundamentals. Students who do well regardless of teaching seem to pick up on these basics naturally. They may not understand what they are doing completely, but the students sense these elements and use them to recognize words and meanings. Other students with and without learning difficulties may not fully sense these factors, and it hinders their reading development. What is needed is a a program that teaches reading basics well and in a multi-sensory method allowing it to be more beneficial for all types of students. One such program was sent to me a few months ago to review. I have been using it with several students since then with great success. One student is a five year old beginning reader. This student is fairly average in all ways except amazing cuteness. Another is a high schooler with learning disabilities including dyslexia who continues to struggle with reading. One is blind and hard of hearing and is nine. Two others are six and seven and have some mild learning issues. The program is Reading Horizons: Discovery. There is an online version. I won’t be reviewing it due to accessibility issues because I am DeafBlind. The website listed below has a page that lists reviews for their products from independent bloggers like myself. You can check out the other reviews for this program and the online program, too.

The introduction to Reading Horizons Discovery states, “Reading Horizons Discovery is an explicit, systematic, research-based phonics program based on the Reading Horizons method. Multi-sensory techniques are employed via direct instruction and the use of interactive computer software programs. The manuals and computer software are correlated to support each other, but each can be used independently of the other for instructional purposes. All students can benefit from using the explicit, sequential, direct instruction the Reading Horizons method has to offer.” The program is ideally suited for students with learning disabilities including those with dyslexia, but it is also very beneficial to all students because of its multi-sensory techniques and methods that integrates not only phonics, but also basic language arts skills. In addition, vocabulary development and spelling are integral parts of the program.

Providing posters, worksheets, software, online support, Reading Horizons’ method, in a nutshell attempt, involves using hand directions to dictate a letter, sound, or word, use hand directions to receive that letter, sound, or word repeated by the student. The letters, sounds, or words are dictated twice and the students repeat twice. The students will then write the letter, sound, or word once. These aspects helped the student to learn to focus and prepare to listen carefully. Another aspect of the method, is the markings and slide which are taught early on and used throughout the program. The program teaches 42 sounds of the alphabet. The vowel “a” is taught first. The consonant “b” is next. The slide is then introduced to teach, emphasize, and remind students to slide from the consonant to the vowel sound smoothly developing fluid pronunciation from the beginning. In word decoding as the students progress, students learn to mark the vowel first. Then slide through pronunciation of the consonant and vowels before adding the ending sound. The program teaches not only phonics, but also phonological awareness besides just phonemes, all of which is imperative for developing good reading skills for all students including dyslexics. The well-designed program of Reading Horizons ensures that these skills are not only learned, but mastered. The thorough teacher’s manual including complete, scripted lesson plans helps the busy teacher with lots of Reading experience and the less experienced teacher in the classroom or home.

Reading Horizons Discovery program is suitable for many types of students because it is multi-sensory and that phonics and phonological awareness are emphasized. What about other Special Needs besides Learning Disabled or developmentally delayed, for example? In my case, that question would be, “is it Deaf, Blind, and DeafBlind suitable?” Obviously, there are some that the program or any program based on auditory alone or visual alone would not work. With modifications, it could work for those who are hard of hearing, hearing blind, low vision, and DeafBlind who have some residual sight and hearing. As always, if you wish to try this program with these populations, you must focus on modifying the material and the methods emphasizing the primary mode of communication. Use ASL or a visual communication mode to go along with the hand motions of the program to ensure that the student understands the letters and words being taught. For low vision students, use larger print. For braille users after tactile readiness has been developed, you might think that there is no point, but many braille courses for young learners puts little focus on phonics or phonological awareness. Braille is still reading, but recognizing letters and words by feel, so the need for phonics and phonological awareness is still there and should be emphasized more to improve reading skills. Also, homeschoolers, who are an audience of my blog, often find that braille curriculum is too expensive for them and their blind students to use. Therefore, it is often necessary to modify regular programs for braille learners. Using the auditory cues of dictate and repeat either with or without tactile hand motions (DeafBlind, especially need), the student will still be taught to focus and prepare to listen carefully. Marking can be done verbally to note aspects such as finding and identifying the vowel sound first as can “slide” where the vocal or tactile motions are the reminder for the steps to help the students decode the words they feeling with their fingers. For those with less sight and hearing, we were using these signals both verbally and with hand motions that the student could feel with their hands as we spoke the reminders. At first, you would think this must be frivolous additions, but we have been finding these techniques are useful for helping students decode regardless of their learning issue. It was an easy task, too, understanding what the markings and motions were intended for to modify the techniques as needed while working with our students who have varying degrees of hearing and vision loss. For those who use less speech, their comprehension was occasionally gauged more on their signs and fingerspelling, though most had some ability to speak and/or receiving speech therapy time. Even the braille learner used the techniques while reading with fingers. We did the steps after the student read the individual letters first and indicated what the letter was. Then used the steps to indicate what the sounds were followed by using a motion of the hand forward to indicate the slide (the word “slide” was also spoken)  as the slide of the sounds (ex. fa) was then pronounced verbally. As with anything, some of our initial modifications were cumbersome or ineffective, but we recognized that the system can be useful if we are thoughtful of the purposes of the techniques and adjust as needed. The best educational research always goes on in the grassroots of  the individual classroom.

This has been a description of Reading Horizons Discovery in a nutshell. There is no way to cover it well here or cover the many types of students and how the program can be modified to help these special populations. I also know that there is no one program, text-based or software, that is suitable for all students. I can say that Reading Horizons Discovery does work for those I am working with and can for many others. As in my own case, I always have to be creative when using some product, but it is often worth the effort. Reading Horizons Discovery was worth the effort for me and several of my students.

Pricing information for the Discovery at Home reading set is as follows:

Discovery Product      Pricing 

Discovery Online Software     $  199.00

Discovery Instructor Materials     $  299.00

Discovery Software and Instructor Material Bundle     $  439.00

Discovery Little Books Grades 1-3     $  159.00

Discovery Little Books Kindergarten     $    29.99

To learn more about Reading Horizons Discovery program, go to http://www.readinghorizons.com.

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Tortoises and hares and pretzel vendors and contrabassoons and cellos are all playing together in one place? Just what could this mean? It is a delightful story adaptation brought to life with the sounds of an orchestra. This story brought back wonderful memories of the old cartoons like Bugs Bunny with the orchestra sound effects. The developers of Stories in Music™, Bonnie Ward Simon and Stephen Simon, take that idea to its fullest benefits with dramatized narration and full orchestral sound affects to enhance the story and encourage better listening skills and appreciation of music.

Each audio cd begins with the story narrated with the orchestral sound effects. The story is followed by narration telling about the story, its history, type of literary story such as a fable, and the purposes of the story type. The cd also includes the original song played separately to allow children to learn the song for singing and performance. The music is included with words once to help teach the song and another instrumental version is at the end of the cd to allow for student performance. It is a great way to get the students involved with the story and experiencing music. Another important feature of the cd is a narration explaining how the composer used music to help tell the story. Music samples of various instruments are played such as a contrabassoon with its low, droning sound and how its sound was used to create a particular sound effect or represent a character such as the tortoise with its slow movements. The story is played again after this narration encouraging the students to listen carefully for the sound effects explained. This is a delightful way to explore how music affects us and can be used in so many ways such as story narration. It also encourages active listening skills to recognize these instruments and how they are played to add to the story.

Each audio cd set has a booklet with full color pictures of orchestra instruments, information about music and music reading, and information related to the story theme. In Tortoise and the Hare, there is information and pictures explaining the difference between turtles and tortoises, and rabbits and hares. There are crossword puzzles and word jumbles and other fun things to do that reinforce the information taught in the booklet and on the cd. There is also words and music to a fun original song written and included as part of the story.

The accessibility for various special needs students here could be limited, but learning disabled, autistic spectrum disorder, and hearing blind students will certainly benefit. The little booklet is short enough to read to a hearing blind or even be brailled. Hard of Hearing, Deaf, and DeafBlind students may also benefit with a little modification and role play. Tell the story in print and ASL using a speaker large enough for the student to feel some of the subtle vibrations of the music. Role play the sound effect use such as running and walking in the Tortoise and the Hare. Simulate other effects such as crowd noise and other story action. Experience with actual orchestra instruments would be excellent allowing the student to place his hand on the instrument or near the sound hole to feel the vibrations. Allow the students to create their own sound effects with available instruments or handmade ones, too. Drums or pots could be used to beat out a running or walking pattern. These activities can reinforce the connection between story elements and music for these students.

The web site, http://www.maestroclassics.com, has additional learning activities that can be used for many students to reinforce the concepts and skills presented with these wonderful stories. Each cd set is $16.98 or 3 for $45.00 with a code. You can purchase many stories, such as Casey at Bat and The Story of Swan Lake, with more in production. Explore music with your child with these delightful stories. The blessings will last a lifetime.

Stories in Music™ authors provided a cd and booklet set to be tested for this review. The opinion expressed in this review is my own.

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