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Professionals' Tips

LSL Professionals Share Their Top Tips and Strategies for a Successful School Year

What is your #1 tip for listening and spoken language professionals working with children with hearing loss, so that they can assist children in starting the new school year on a successful trajectory?

Candace Haney, MCD, CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVEd, Auditory-Verbal Center, Inc., Macon, Georgia

Broaden your understanding, and application, of the importance of teaching vocabulary to children with hearing loss. We all know that to achieve age-appropriate language and grade-appropriate literacy, vocabulary knowledge is crucial. But learning vocabulary is not practicing flash cards of dictionary definitions or getting 100% on a Wordly Wise test. Knowing a word means understanding the meaning well enough, with and without context clues, to spontaneously, and correctly, use it when speaking, and eventually in writing. The focus of teaching vocabulary to children with hearing loss is frequently to promote their rate of vocabulary acquisition so they can catch up with their peers. While that is definitely our goal, a narrowed focus often leads to 3 common mistakes: 

  • We rush through inputting new words, despite our creative teaching techniques (auditory bombardment, modeling, expanding, etc.), quickly check for comprehension through some type of testing situation (closed set choices, questions with right/wrong answers, etc.), and elicit direct imitation of the new words in a structured setting. We too often neglect to set up a situation for children to spontaneously use their new vocabulary words with true communicative intent.
  • We rely on seizing teachable moments as unknown words come up, following grade level, curriculum-based vocabulary lists, and giving cute worksheets from a book of semantic-based activities. We tend to forget that children with hearing loss miss opportunities for incidental learning, which means we are missing opportunities for teaching them vocabulary that will encourage immediate and active processing. We should put ourselves in their shoes and mentally “walk” through one setting, routine, activity, etc., listing the objects, actions, locations, descriptive concepts, etc., that we encounter. How much more meaningful and motivating would that vocabulary lesson be?
  • We concentrate too much on ensuring the child succeeds, that we inadvertently over-teach, give them the answer instead of leading them to it, and break their confidence by taking away their chance to make a guess in a safe environment. We should always remember how powerful simple strategies such as O-W-L (observe-wait-listen) can be.

Darcy L. Stowe, M.S., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, Hearts for Hearing, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The greatest service we as Listening and Spoken Language Specialists (LSLS®) can provide to school-age children with hearing loss is to empower them with independence through teaching self-advocacy strategies for the school setting. As LSLS partner alongside parents, we must take time to develop self-advocacy skills in the school-age child. One way to do this is through working through scenarios in therapy sessions. We can talk through possible challenges and then role-play how to successfully act as an advocate for oneself in those instances. Challenges that young students with hearing loss face on a regular basis include: technology (hearing aids, cochlear implants or remote microphone technology) not working properly, where to sit in the classroom for optimal listening, being unfamiliar with the vocabulary (whether that be names, buildings in the school or new academic terminology).
Knowledge is truly power for a child with hearing loss entering the school setting. Another great tip is to take the child to the school before the school year starts to let him/her scope out the space. This will give him/her familiarity with the classroom and other important spaces in the building. We are all more confident and comfortable when we know what to expect in new situations. We need to make sure to allow adequate time and planning to prepare for a successful school year for the student with hearing loss.

Michelle Tang, M.A./Ed.M., San Francisco Unified School District, Bay Area, California

A tip I use myself is to see the students as kids first and children with hearing loss second. Oftentimes, the kids themselves don't view hearing loss as a major aspect of their personalities. Rather, they might view themselves as a person who enjoys sports or dance or arts and crafts. They know they're strong in one academic subject, but they may need help in another. If the students see extracurricular activities as being important to their overall development, we can be respectful of and work with that. If students are aware of their academic strengths and challenges, we can provide support in these areas as well. Listening and spoken language professionals concentrate mostly on hearing and language, but we don't just focus on these elements—it's important to see kids as being kids and work from there.


Sherri Vernelson, M.Ed., LSLS Cert. AVEd, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Exceptional Children Division, Louisburg, North Carolina

Be organized. Have individual student information organized in a way that is easily accessible. Have a copy of the Individualized Education Program (IEP), including the student's goals, accommodations, modifications and service delivery on hand. Data recording sheets to document progress in spoken language, vocabulary, auditory and academic skills are crucial. Recording progress during or after each session you have with the student is much easier than having to go back later and remember what happened. Plus, it helps you plan for future sessions in a more efficient way and keeps you on track to help the student meet his/her goals in a timely manner. 


Danielle Paquin, M.E.D., LSLS Cert. AVEd, Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children, San Antonio, Texas

Developing advocacy skills is a critical component to ensure successful integration into the classroom setting as well as in daily life outside of the academic world. With regard to the classroom setting, students from preschool through high school can all be taught advocacy skills, as the skills are found on a continuum. A child who is 3 years old can be taught beginning advocacy skills such as properly putting on their hearing aids/cochlear implants, ensuring they are turned on, and stating when the device is not working correctly. A third grade student can be taught skills such as how to present an FM system to a classroom guest speaker, or knowledge of who to talk to in order to connect their devices to a theatre sound system when they take a field trip to a local theatre. I have a large resource file of many skillsets critical to successful self-advocacy within and across all grade levels. Each year I find it important to identify where my students are not only academically, but also identifying how comfortable they are advocating for themselves and their needs both in and out of the classroom setting. Parents cannot be forgotten in this equation. Training parents to support their children in attaining advocacy skills is essential to the child’s success.

How can professionals best prepare themselves for a new school year and lay the groundwork for a successful year in working with children and families?

Candace Haney, MCD, CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVEd, Auditory-Verbal Center, Inc., Macon, Georgia 

Aim to get each child connected. Today’s society thrives on being connected, from phone calls and texts between family and friends, to job-related webinars and videoconferencing, to web alerts with up-to-the-minute international agency news. Let’s apply this generational trend to our jobs.

Considering each family of a child with hearing loss that you work with, how connected are you to the caregivers, the teacher(s), the related service providers and the audiological team (audiologist, ENT, MD, etc.)? How connected is each child to the people and routines in their home, at their school, at their appointments (medical, audiological, therapeutic, etc.), and in their community (extra-curricular activities, church, etc.)?
If the ultimate goal for children with hearing loss, who are learning to listen and speak, is conversational competency with peers, family and adults in all natural environments, then there are many paths that must connect.
It requires us to stay connected with the people in the child’s environments. Establishing the best way to communicate with the family, school personnel and outside professionals is a critical first step. Consistent communication fosters collaboration:

  •  The family helps us learn the child’s routines and interests, to keep them motivated to learn.
  • The child’s teachers and school-based service providers help us stay current on classroom topics and learn the child’s daily schedules and routines, which allows us to set specific individualized goals and strategically plan related lessons.
  • Outside professionals, such as the child’s audiologist, help us maintain current and accurate information which could directly impact the child’s performance, such as a most current audiogram or any changes in their hearing device(s).

With these connections, we can ensure we all have the same expectations for the child, monitor the child’s progress in each environment, and maintain records of the child’s usage of, and benefit from, their hearing device(s).

In order to obtain the goal of conversational competence, the child must make connections between their own environments. This adds natural support and accountability in carrying over skills learned in a structured setting. To promote generalization, a child should be motivated to learn through the use of activities that are age-appropriate, meaningful and based on the child’s interests. True excitement gives the child a real reason to communicate in their home, school and community environments, as they eagerly and willingly share about their experiences. 

Darcy L. Stowe, M.S., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, Hearts for Hearing, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Remember to set the bar high and keep it there! Set your sights on what you expect of the child both academically and socially at the end of the school year and then set benchmarks accordingly. I think it’s common for professionals to lower expectations for the student with hearing loss upon learning of his/her disability. That’s a crucial mistake and a disservice to the child’s academic career.

We must maintain high standards and continue to set the bar high annually for students with hearing loss. The academic standards in today’s public and private schools are ever-increasing, and we must maintain that high standard/expectation for children with hearing loss as well in order to maximize their success in the mainstream setting for the entire of their academic career.

I personally know many young people with hearing loss who are now contributing members of society. One common bond they share is that the bar was set high for them throughout their academic career (from earliest days of elementary school and then through college). For some of them, that happened through their parents’ persistent advocacy with the school district on behalf of their child with hearing loss. We, as professionals, must remember that time is precious and our expectation of excellence from the child with hearing loss will pave the way for their academic and the professional career—even from an early age.

Michelle Tang, M.A./Ed.M., San Francisco Unified School District, Bay Area, California

Everyone has their own strategies for working with students. Try a strategy that works for you and also be aware that it's important to be flexible. If you feel that something worked before, but it doesn't work now, try something else. Talk to other teachers and collaborate. As listening and spoken language professionals, we don't work in a bubble; we build on a foundation that classroom teachers and parents have laid out. It's always a good idea to communicate with other adults about students that we all work with to make sure that we have a clearer picture of the student.

Sherri Vernelson, M.Ed., LSLS Cert. AVEd, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Exceptional Children Division, Louisburg, North Carolina

Study. Read. Connect. Study your student's information. Know and understand each student's goals for the year and plan out how you are going to get them from point A to point B in the appropriate amount of time. Read books and articles about listening and spoken language that you may not have read in a while to refresh your knowledge base. Additionally, update yourself with new information and research in listening and spoken language development, technology, and adult learning. The wisdom gained from pioneers as well as current practitioners and researchers is necessary to be relevant in this field. Connect with other professionals to gain new ideas and perspectives. Being a LSLS, depending on where you live and work, can be lonely at times. We need professional connections to keep us energized and productive. Technology and social media provide many opportunities to become connected with other professionals easily.

Danielle Paquin, M.E.D., LSLS Cert. AVEd, Sunshine Cottage School for Deaf Children, San Antonio, Texas

One of the most important things I try to remember as I start working with new families each school year is that, as an educator, I signed up for the job of teaching children with hearing loss how to listen and speak. I have chosen this as my career and, as an adult who is deaf, it is also a passion of mine to help create environments and build relationships with families to ensure successful listening and spoken language development. On the other hand, I cannot think of a single family which said while waiting during those long, yet exciting nine months of pregnancy, that they wanted a child with hearing loss. Instead they’ve been presented with this unique challenge and have to navigate an often confusing road to ensure their children’s success. Families and their children don’t sign up for this challenging journey so it is our jobs as professionals to be the guide, the coach, a mentor, a listening and language specialist, a teacher, you name it.

As a classroom educator with LSLS credentials, I believe it is important to be prepared. Ensure you know and understand the students you will be working with. Read your students’ cumulative files, write down pertinent information and identify areas/skills that you want to address with the students/families. Identify goals and share them with the families in terms they can relate to. Allow them to be a part of the process in developing the goals for their child. Create charts that clearly lay out the goals for each child, provide it to the parents and if the student is old enough, allow them to be a part of the process of developing and understanding their academic, speech/language and self-advocacy goals. Creating open lines of communication with families, acknowledging their struggles, and applauding their successes will ensure a good working relationship throughout the school year.