Birth to 3, Elementary School, Language, Therapy Ideas, Uncategorized

Language Therapy for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students

Deaf and hard-of-hearing students need language therapy just as much--if not more than--our other speech and language kiddos. This guest post shares a few tips for ways to customize your language therapy for these students so that they can succeed.

Hi, everyone! My name is Greta Abbott, and I am a school SLP in Georgia. I’m starting my 4th year as an SLP, and I have been blessed to have many diverse caseloads already! Today I want to give you some ideas and tips for increasing language skills of pre-K and elementary-age students who are deaf or hard of hearing (DHH), based on my own experiences.

Just a bit about me, before we get started: I have worked in two schools which have large DHH student populations (high school and elementary). It was initially just coincidence that I was placed in schools with wonderful DHH programs, but I feel like I have really found my passion working with these students. I see the potential they have, and I truly feel like we have a “mutual learning” atmosphere in my speech room—they learn from me, but I also learn a LOT from them!

1) Vocabulary

Alright, so first, I wanted to go over some language goals I see on my DHH students’ IEPs. Most to all of my DHH kiddos have goals targeting vocabulary. My pre-K and kindergarten students are mostly working on nouns and adjectives. When we play or look at a book, I like labeling as many things as I can for them—usually using a noun, but I also like to expand with an adjective. For example, they may sign and/or say “bird,” but I sign and say back, “blue bird” in response. Also, we often talk about bulletin board displays we see in the hallway (it’s a long walk from their room to mine!). We discuss letters, colors, and common objects we see on our way. It’s a great strategy to make the best use of every minute I spend with them!

I work in a total communication school, so we do a lot of combining signs with the spoken words. I like to use as much language as possible with the young kids, especially since it feels like our sessions go by so quickly! I have some really bright young kids who pick up on signs and speech in a heartbeat. It amazes me every day!

For my profoundly deaf students (who may or may not have amplification devices with them on a particular day), I communicate with them mainly through sign (with the help from our amazing ASL interpreters!). I use a lot of visual and tactile materials/strategies for these students to improve both their receptive and expressive language skills.

2) Grammar

My students who are 1st through 5th grade mostly have goals for sentence structure. Since many of them primarily communicate through ASL, they may be missing out on certain morphemes, conjunctions, or articles when they have conversations. Their writing skills suffer as a result of these omitted markers.

To help improve their structure, we start working on “subject + verb” style phrases or sentences when they are younger, and we build from there. Once they get this format down, we add in adjectives and other words that enhance their sentences.

I use a lot of videos or verb photo cards to elicit grammar goals. I ask a lot of “wh” questions to elicit the “subject + verb” responses. We also use dough mats, many of which have spots to “smush” the dough under each word in the phrase or sentence as they say and/or sign them. The tactile input is sometimes the missing puzzle piece they need to express those sentences!

3) My Favorite Materials and Activities

To help my DHH students learn language, I use a lot of repetition in my sessions! To help prevent my sessions from getting monotonous, I like to mix up the materials I use. Here is a list of my Top Ten Favorite Materials and Activities to use, which have helped me elicit the most (and best) language from my DHH students:

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1. YouTube videos—Especially great to target verbs, since videos are more concrete than pictured actions. 3. Play Objects (especially play food and tableware)—Many of my kids request to use these in almost every session! They can be used to target nouns, adjectives, verbs, and more.

7. Little People Farm—Another commonly-requested object which is amazing for learning animal names and their sounds, prepositions, describing, and actions.

2. Charades—Another great tactile strategy for targeting actions. 4. Play-Doh—Either used with mats for vocabulary or grammar, or the students can make models of objects pictured on cards or in books and describe them. 8. Hedbanz—My older students love this game for receptive and expressive describing goals. I always enjoy joining in the game as well, of course!
5. Good Ol’ Crayons and Markers—Have them draw a picture and describe it to you. Some of my DHH kids have amazing artistic skills, which I love to help foster when I can.

9. Picture/Wordless Books—Students can work on labeling, sequencing, and narrative language. They also get to use their imaginations, which can be quite entertaining for everyone in the group!

6. Actual Food! The more authentic the experience, the better. Many opportunities for describing, actions, and labeling objects. Just make sure your students don’t have food allergies! 10. Photo Cards—I have sets of cards with good-quality photos of common objects, which we can use to target vocabulary, including labeling, describing, and categories. Photos of people in action are also effective in targeting verbs.

I hope that you can all pull something useful from this post! Thanks a bunch to Shannon for letting me post here! My goal is to start up my own blog soon to share even more ideas, which are always swirling around in my head. 🙂 Until then, I would love to connect through Instagram @slpbutton37. Happy communicating! 🙂


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