Beyond Child’s Voice: The importance of reading skills in the mainstream setting

by Carrie Jackiewicz, Special Services Coordinator

Last month, I shared advice from the parents who were on our virtual Mainstream Parent Panel in March. One of the pieces of advice that I feel is most important is the student’s ability to read prior to entering their neighborhood schools.

During the Parent Panel, one of the parents shared that her daughter was able to read captions on Zoom, which helped her follow along during virtual lessons. Captions help fill in the blanks when a student with hearing loss misses part of the information due to various factors, such as a low volume level or a fast rate of speech. Captions are also helpful when videos contain cartoon characters because it is not possible to read the character’s lips.

When I share my reports with teachers, I often suggest that teachers ask questions to give students a purpose for listening when a video is not captioned. I also suggest that teachers give students an outline of important information and vocabulary that is part of the video so that the student can receive the information visually rather than auditorily.

In most public schools, there are posters with important information covering the walls. Most elementary classrooms have word walls, the schedule for the day, and posters of previous concepts. These are beneficial for all students, but they are vital for a student with hearing loss. I have seen many of our alumni look to word walls or other posters to help themselves with spelling or remembering past concepts.

The ability to read can also help a student complete work independently. If a student misses or forgets part of the directions, the student could read the directions on the page to figure out what to do. If a teacher writes directions on the board, the student could re-read them when necessary. In my reports, I have started to recommend that teachers write directions on the board, especially for complex multi-step directions.

Do all of our alumni leave Child’s Voice with the ability to read? Most of our alumni leave after kindergarten or later grades, which means they have acquired reading skills. With the advent of early diagnosis and Early Intervention, some children are leaving before kindergarten, which means they have been exposed to reading skills but they may not be reading fluently. Does that mean that the student will not be successful? No, the student will find other ways to help themselves, such as asking the teacher or a classmate for help. This reinforces the importance of teaching our students self-advocacy skills to ask for repetitions, clarification, and more information.