Services for the Deaf and Hard of HearingCarol Sonier
Program Manager, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program
(559) 733-6314 TTY
Hearing-impaired children in Tulare County are provided service through a variety of options.
Once identified, infants through toddlers of 36 months with a hearing loss are served in the Bright Start Parent/Infant Program. Newly-referred families are scheduled to meet with an intervention team to learn about the educational options to develop the child's communication skills and to support the family in achieving that goal. This team of the Board-Certified Audiologist, Deaf/Hard of Hearing Teacher, Speech/Language Specialist specially prepared for cochlear implants, and Program Manager share information and resources with the family. Together they map out a plan for obtaining amplification and initiating appropriate therapy in the home environment. Early, optimal amplification allows a child to make the desired adequate progress in language development, one year's growth in one year of time. In recognizing the unique life experiences of their child, each family works as equal partners and becomes empowered to advocate for their child.
Tulare County Office of Education has inaugurated Sound Beginnings Preschool Program, where children with a hearing loss who are exiting Bright Start, around the age of three, are offered the opportunity for intensive training in developing communicative and cognitive skills for a successful transition to Kindergarten. With the small staff/student ratio provided by a credentialed Deaf/Hard of Hearing Teacher and highly trained support staff, two parallel three-hour classes are being operated: a morning oral class which optimizes the acquisition of listening and spoken language and an afternoon class that specializes in Total Communication (TC) utilizing American Sign Language along with speech and other physical support.
The creative curriculum shared by both classes will engage the children through exciting themes to develop target language and literacy skills. Not only are the California Pre-School Learning Foundations incorporated, but a specialized social skills program is dedicated to developing appropriate social interaction. Some normal-hearing preschoolers are included in the oral class to provide peer language models; all children benefit from attending this language-rich center focused on promoting cognitive development. These children will be thinkers. Parents will be thoroughly involved through daily backpack contact and much-needed practice at home. Extensive parent support through the Pre-School will guide families along this exciting road to effective communication.
After the heavy pre-loading of services to our younger hearing-impaired children, these students return to their district schools to enroll in general education classrooms with their hearing peers in a Regionalized Program. As determined by their Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs), services such as a certified educational interpreter for a signing student or customized amplification system (FM system) may be included in the program. Itinerant Teachers of the Deaf support hearing-impaired students by monitoring their systems, collaborating with the classroom teacher and also the district Speech/Language Specialist, and providing direct service to students as dictated by their IEP goals. Improvement of listening skills for oral students, which is the basis for language acquisition, is another target undertaken by this staff.
The itinerant teachers facilitate teacher orientation for signing and hard-of-hearing students plus cochlear implant recipients to maximize their educational gains. Additional courses have been provided to district personnel by the D/HH program to train speech and language specialists in working with oral students with a hearing loss, concentrating on developing listening skills through audition and expanding language. Signing classes are made available to parents and siblings of deaf children who have not yet mastered signing so that home communication is enhanced. The itinerant teachers also provide other instructional resources to families and teachers.
Tulare County Office of Education provides Audiological Support by staffing a full-time Board-Certified Audiologist who conducts audiological examinations and customizes amplification systems. He is an expert in today's listening technologies and researches advances to supply the state-of-the art equipment to students demanding maximum benefit from their hearing aids and cochlear implants. For many students their FM systems allow them to successfully process speech within the classroom so to ably capture the content being delivered to all students. Audiological support and rapid equipment repair or replacement delivery system allow these students to fully participate all school activities.
Recently the Tulare County Office of Education has become a certified center for diagnostic testing for infants failing the newborn screenings. This undertaking will hasten identification, accelerating infant amplification and starting appropriate therapy with the families. Early intervention is extremely important in developing the communication skills of children with a hearing loss.
The focus of the educational program for the deaf and hard of hearing students in Tulare County is to provide appropriate support within each educational setting so that students can effectively communicate in the classroom and fully access the content being provided to their normal-hearing peers. As these students succeed in the least restrictive school environment, they become effective advocates for their own academic needs.
Audiology Referral Form
(for use by school personnel)
County Superintendent of Schools
Tulare County Office of Education
2637 West Burrel
P.O. Box 5091
Visalia, CA 93278-5091
phone: (559) 733-6300
fax: (559) 627-5219
TTY (hearing impaired): (559) 733-6314
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