FL deaf and hard of hearing program receives TEFFLA grant

Community Editor

Forest Lake Area High School senior Emily Hekele has often struggled with having appropriate accommodations in her classes when it comes to her hearing disability. But now, she has been given a tool that will allow her to take hold of her own learning and accommodations when she enters college in the fall.

Hekele will be distributing a video she has created to her college professors that will educate them on what accommodations will help her learn and grow in their class. This was all made possible by The Education Foundation of the Forest Lake Area grant given to the Forest Lake Area Schools in Dec. 2016.

The Deaf and Hard of Hearing program serves approximately 31 deaf and hard of hearing students and is made up of about 10 teachers, interpreters and other staff members. One goal of the program is to provide equal access to deaf or hard of hearing students.

For students with a hearing loss, access is often the largest challenge they face when in a general education setting. These students typically have to work twice as hard as their peers with “normal” hearing just to hear what they are being taught and to process the information. This is because approximately 90 percent of what we learn is through listening. Thus, students with hearing loss often miss out on incidental learning throughout the school day.

With this project, students with hearing loss will gain access to academic content in their classrooms in a unique and memorable way. Students are creating individual videos that provides their teachers, parents, and support staff training about their educational needs related to their hearing loss. In the process, students are enhancing their own awareness of their hearing loss and of adaptations that help them become successful in the classroom and, ultimately, are improving their self-advocacy skills.

In order to accomplish the goal of the grant, TEFFLA purchased video equipment including a camcorder and an Apple MacBook Air computer. Forest Lake Area Schools supported the grant by purchasing the editing software. D’Alois said the student-created video project helps instruct teachers beyond the generic teacher-led training, and it promotes instructional strategies, such as the use of captions, that help all students better access content.

The Deaf/Hard of Hearing program will finish making its grant videos this spring with the intent to share them with the students’ teachers and families at the start of the next school year. The program also hopes to continue making videos with more deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and it hopes to expand this project to include students with multiple disabilities.