Last year, due to grant funding, the Mississippi Bend Area Education Agency (AEA) was able to pilot technology which enhanced language to hearing impaired students. The pilot was such a success the Mississippi Bend AEA decided to expand this technology. Due to a combination of grant funds, AEA department funds, and private and public donations, the Mississippi Bend AEA now provides this technology to all preschool aged identified hearing impaired students (ages 1-6) who have hearing aids or cochlear implants. This project will provide deaf and hard of hearing students with FM technology that will assist them at home and in the classroom – helping to close the achievement gap between them and normal hearing students.
When hearing impaired students are fitted with either hearing aids or cochlear implants, they typically do not have access to additional technology to support their hearing needs. Parents usually cannot afford to purchase this equipment and educational institutions do not allow this technology to leave the buildings. The Mississippi Bend AEA used funds to purchase this equipment which will increase students’ access to devices such as computers, cell phones, iPods/iPads by transmitting sound directly to the hearing aid or cochlear implant.
Kindergartener, Carson Hetzler, is one of those students benefitting from these efforts. Carson was born profoundly deaf and at the age of 10 months, he received bilateral Cochlear Implants. During the 2010-2011 school year, Carson was given an iPad to use while at home. Carson’s parents, Stacey and Brian, say “He spent a lot of downtime at home utilizing the technology and loved sharing it with his sister.” After two months of utilizing the iPad, Carson went from identifying three letters and their sounds to knowing all 26 letters and their phonetic sounds. The iPad, in conjunction with the use of the personal FM system he received this year, Carson’s interest in learning how to read has increased. After just two weeks with literature in the home, Carson is averaging 20 additional words spoken.
Introduction of language is critical in the early preschool years and is the key to all academic success. Without the technology to access language, preschools and parents are constantly playing catch up with their deaf and hard of hearing children. Carsons parents have enjoyed working with the AEA as well as reaping the benefits provided to their son, “Between the early intervention services provided coupled with the unique learning opportunities that have been provided for him, we are seeing him learn at a level which is commiserate with his peers.” Carson is now attending the general education kindergarten classroom with minimal pull out time to work on his auditory development skills.