Communication for ConnectionMar 02, 2021 11:38AM ● By Katy Whittingham
Michelle Brown and Gabrielle Geiger are the two Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, USDB, Listening and Spoken Language preschool teachers in Davis County. Brown, born and raised in Davis County, has been teaching at the location for five years, one year after a classroom in the county was added by parent request for those who found it less convenient to get to either the Salt Lake or Ogden campuses. Geiger is in her first year teaching for USDB in Davis County and has found the experience rewarding and theprogress of her three year olds “tremendous.”
Both classrooms serve 3-5 year-old students with some level of hearing loss and whose guardians have chosen the learning path of Listening and Spoken Language, LSL. Their goal is to graduate their students to district kindergarten with their typically learning peers, although some who may not be ready at that time, may attend the USDB campus in Ogden until they are. Brown said, “Many students come from Hill Air Force Base or other areas of Northern Davis or Weber County.” They currently hold class with their students on a Monday-Thursday schedule from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., with Friday designated for parent coaching, and the classes are broken up by age. The typical class size can be as high as 15-16, but this year, likely because of Covid-19, there are eight students in each Class.
Geiger explained that for a child to follow a LSL path, some amplification is needed. Amplification can include devices such as cochlear implants and bone anchored hearing aids, referred to as BAHAS. Brown added that for an amplification device to work properly for a student it needs to be individualized for their hearing loss and well fit to the frequency needed.
Both Brown and Geiger discussed the importance of the public understanding that students do not need to be completely blind or deaf to receive services. Even a slight loss can affect learning, and if a student has unilateral hearing loss for example which is hearing loss in only one ear, they might not realize the location of sound or turn when someone is speaking to them. At a young age especially, speech is so dependent on hearing. As Geiger said, “You can’t say what you don’t hear”.
Another important term to define is “wearing time.” Wearing time is the time the student wears their device. Both teachers recommend that children wear their devices during their waking hours. At the preschool age, the children are only spending five hours a day or less at school during the week. It’s important for them to try to close the gap between their listening age (when they received amplification) and their chronological age, and this means wearing their devices at home. As Brown explained, “The parent is the best teacher,” and they are “always involved in each child’s Individualized Education Plans, IEPS, as the most important members of the team.”
Brown said the end goal is for students to “have access and opportunity for communication and connections, a fundamental part of being a human being.” Davis School Districts are involved in the students’ IEPS even before they graduate to their district classrooms, so this makes it easier to become acquainted with the needs the student might have.
Brown also expressed that by no means are the resources cut off for the student once they move on to their school district classrooms. “USDB supports, along with the district, the accommodations and resources students need through their entire educational experience.”
For more information follow USDB on social media and visit their website usdb.org.