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Ask Dr. Shore...

About a Student With a
Hearing Impairment

Dear Dr. Shore,
A girl in my fourth-grade class has a hearing impairment. Besides seating her in the front of the room, what can I do to make sure she understands what I am saying?

In figuring out how to help this student, youll first want to find out how severe her hearing impairment is. The more severe the impairment, the more accommodations you will need to make in the classroom. Try to implement the following strategies in a way that calls minimal attention to her hearing impairment.

Seat the student near you. Your decision to place her in the front of the room is a good start. In addition, seat her so that her better ear is closer to you, and avoid placing her near such noise sources in the classroom as the doorway or the heater. If the class is small and there are frequent class discussions, you might want to arrange the class in a semi-circle so she can see all her classmates. Or you might allow her to move around the classroom so she can hear the questions and comments of other students.

Pay attention to your communication style. You can enhance the student's ability to hear what you and others are saying by doing the following:

  • If necessary, get the student's attention with a touch on her shoulder or a gesture.
  • Make sure youre facing the class and your mouth is not obstructed when speaking.
  • Speak clearly but naturally. Speaking unnaturally may suggest to other students that the hearing-impaired child is slow.
  • Repeat questions asked by other students, especially if they are sitting behind the hearing-impaired student.
  • If you have difficulty understanding the student, ask her to repeat herself or write it down rather than making her think you understood.

Provide visual aids to enhance understanding. Consider giving the student a schedule of her day, with room numbers and teachers' names. In addition, you might write on the board key information, such as a brief outline of the lesson, new vocabulary, assignments, test and project dates, and important school announcements. You also can help her stay on track by giving her an outline of the class lesson with new vocabulary, or use an overhead projector to emphasize key points. Those activities may be useful with all your students.

Reduce background noise. Ideally, a classroom with a hearing-impaired student should be located away from such noisy areas of the school as the cafeteria or playground. Classroom noise also can be reduced by installing sound-absorbing ceiling tile, draperies, and wall-to-wall carpeting. Special classroom lighting also is available to enhance the student's vision, which is so important to children with hearing impairments.

Assign the child a classroom buddy. Find a responsible student who will not feel overwhelmed by the task. Let the buddy know that her primary job is to help keep the student on pace with other students by alerting her to directions, page numbers, and classroom and schedule changes.

About Ken Shore

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a psychologist who has worked in various public schools for more than 25 years. He has authored six books and produced a book and video series on bullying for schools and parent organizations called The ABCs of Bullying Prevention. Click to read a complete bio. For information on how to obtain his books and videos, go to his Web site.