March 24, 2013

Getting Teachers & Support Staff To Understand Deaf/HH Students' Needs

"How do we effectively work with teachers and support staff to help them understand and carry out their deaf and hard of hearing students' IEPs?" is one of the questions I and fellow Deaf and Hard of Hearing teachers frequently discuss.
It can be a challenge because of the limited amount of time we get to spend with each teacher. Currently, I work directly with at least sixty different teachers and support staff members associated with the deaf and hard of hearing students I serve. Indirectly, I deal with at least a fifty more different teachers and staff members to ensure deaf and hard of hearing students are getting the support they require at the schools they attend. There are so many people to educate, but so little time. 
I think it really depends on the situation, the kind of student you have, the services and accommodations he or she requires, the relationship you have with the teacher or staff member, the school, the day and time, etc.
There are several ways I have been able to get some teachers and support staff members to understand and actually implement what is written in the IEP.
Usually, I try my best to keep in constant touch with the teachers in person and through emails (also known as consultative services). I always feel terrible when I am not able to keep in touch with teachers as much as I would like to due to schedule conflicts.
I always carry a copy of the student's IEP information or accommodations and services page for reference.
I try to get together as many teachers as possible at one school a few times a year for a quick tutorial on hearing loss, student information, IEPs, and to discuss any questions or concerns they may have.
Sometimes, if a teacher continues to not follow the IEP, I have to be assertive. I don't like doing this. It can be uncomfortable. But sometimes they need a stern reminder of what the students require in order for them to be successful in class and why.
I find that the most effective way is to educate the students about their IEPs and to teach them how to advocate for themselves. By the time they are in high school, I expect students to know and understand what is in their IEP. I encourage them to attend IEP meetings and to voice their concerns and ideas. I expect them to ask questions and to be curious about their IEPs. It is important for them to ask, "What is this? Why do I need this accommodation or service?" I usually write an objective in high school students' IEPs to meet with and discuss their accommodations and services with all of their teachers. Middle school students are expected to meet and talk with at least two teachers. It can be difficult to get the very shy students who rarely like to speak up in class to do this. But, once the student becomes more comfortable with advocating for him or herself, getting teachers to follow and implement their IEPs becomes easier. I find that the teachers pay more attention to what the student has to say than just speaking with me. What the student requires in order to be successful in their classroom becomes more apparent when they are getting the information and feedback directly from their student. Some teachers have told me that after they met with the deaf or hard of hearing student, it became clearer and makes them more aware of their students' needs and how they can accommodate them. 
Educating others effectively is a tough job that no one can do by themselves. It helps a great deal when students work with their teachers and become more involved with themselves and their education.


  1. I didn't understand how important this topic is until recently. I am a sophomore in high school and have a teacher who insists on using me and my hearing loss as a reason to discipline the students in my class because she doesn't know how to 'deal' with a student who is 'different'.

    One day when everyone was having conversations at the beginning of class, she said "everyone needs to quite down because of the one 'special' student in our class who needs it absolutely silent to hear." I just stared at her with an expression of complete shock and disbelief. Then after she saw my reaction she proceeded to say "I know, I would be frustrated too if I was like you." I didn't know whether to start crying right there in the middle of class or just get up and walk out, but instead I turned off my hearing aid and turned off the FM system I use and just ignored her for the rest of class. I never gave this teacher my FM system again.

    There was another time where people in my class were not following directions so she said "I know you all can hear me perfectly fine when I am telling you to quite down, well except for (my name) since she's 'special'." This teacher basically uses me as a scapegoat so that she doesn't have to discipline my class and she can blame things on me. The part that really frustrates me about this teacher is that she has a degree in special education. You would think that a teacher with a degree in special education would know that statements like the ones she has made can really hurt the feelings of a students who is, in her eyes, 'special'.

    These are not the only comments she has made about my hearing loss and all the ones she has made have been in front of about 30 of my peers. When she makes comments like these it makes me feel that my hearing loss makes me a lesser person and I don't know what to do about this. I haven't told my parents because they won't understand how these comments have affected me since neither of them have a hearing loss and they don't understand all the emotional things I have gone through because of my hearing loss. Thankfully I don't have this teacher anymore since it was only a semester long class.

    I know it is probably too late to do anything about this situation, but I was wondering about what I could do in the future if anything like this ever happens again. Any thoughts?

    1. Hello,

      I am sorry you were put in uncomfortable situations several times by this teacher. :(

      I believe it is never too late to speak up about this with the teacher. I also do think you should talk to your parents, even though they may not fully understand what you are going through. In the future, don't turn off your FM system and hearing aid. Don't ignore the teacher or the situation. If you do not feel comfortable speaking up in class, talk to the teacher alone after class or at a time she/he can meet with you. It is important that you remain calm, clearly state the problem and how it makes you feel. Remember to sit or stand upright and maintain eye contact. Be assertive, but not aggressive. If you feel like crying, go ahead. Sometimes you can't help it. I guarantee you that once your teachers can see or understand how upset you are, they will listen. If they don't, talk to a principal or an administrator you trust at your school.

      I wish you the best of luck,



Keep it civil.