In the spring of 1995, an inaugural state conference for Iowa’s itinerant deaf/hard of hearing (DHH) teachers was held. The conference became known as PITSTOP, or “Professional Itinerant Teachers Speeding to Other Places,” a term coined to describe the nature of the itinerants’ jobs. Southern Prairie AEA’s itinerant teachers hosted the first event. Over the years, the AEA itinerants around the state have taken turns organizing and hosting the event. Planning for the 2011 PITSTOP, hosted by Great Prairie AEA, began in November 2010.  The idea to have the educational audiologists join the teachers in the conference was suggested at a state leadership meeting.  The Great Prairie teachers and audiologists decided to implement the suggestion and planned a conference that would meet the needs of both groups.

On October 6-7, 2011, 75 itinerant teachers and educational audiologists registered for the first “Working Together” conference, which was held in Pella, Iowa.  Several sessions were provided to the entire group, building on the collaboration of teachers and audiologists to identify the needs of and provide services for DHH students; other sessions divided the two groups, providing topics specifically designed to meet the needs of either the audiologists or the teachers.

Conference participants listened to Kathleen Arnoldi and Karen Anderson, co-authors of the book, Building Skills for School Success: Optimizing Achievement for Students with Hearing Loss, as they presented information on using formal and informal evaluation tools which can provide relevant data to use in making eligibility decisions for students who are deaf/hard of hearing.  They also discussed recognizing the functional listening abilities of students, as well as providing information on expectations for technology in optimizing access to communication, development of student independence with amplification, and promoting self-advocacy skills.

The itinerant teachers received training on the practical applications for using the Expanded Core Curriculum for Students Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (ECC-DHH) from colleagues who helped pilot the curriculum.  This curriculum contains goals to improve the quality of DHH educational services by addressing the unique needs these students have for understanding their hearing loss, amplification needs, and their needs for access/accommodations in the educational and post-secondary environment. While the ECC-DHH is not mandated by the state, it is a resource that can be used by teams developing an IFSP or IEP for students with a hearing loss.  A panel of teachers shared their experiences with using the ECC-DHH and answered questions about how it could be implemented by itinerants and audiologists.

Cindy Baird, the Regional Facilitator and Hearing/Vision Supervisor from Northwest AEA in Sioux City, shared her knowledge of apps for the iPad that can be used to improve the language, reading, and listening skills of DHH students. Teachers were able to see the apps in action.

The audiologists listened to a presentation on assistive listening devices by Laurie Allen, an independent consultant in the field of audiology, and Cory Heim, the division manager at Lifeline Audio Video Technologies. The group learned about a national initiative to “Loop America” which promotes the use of induction loop systems to provide better auditory access for individuals with hearing loss in all settings.

Stephanie Childers, an educational audiologist with Mississippi Bend AEA, showed the audiologists how to interface amplification systems used by students with “hip” technology such as the iPad, iPod, cell phones, and MP3 players, so students can be empowered socially and academically, blending with peers who use the same devices. She showed how hooking the devices to hearing aids and cochlear implants can be done to make students more independent and give them better access to educational apps, as well as apps for reference and gaming.

Great Prairie AEA Hearing Department sent out a survey soliciting feedback about the conference and heard from over half of the participants. While many liked the fact that the audiologists were included in the conference, some teachers said they would prefer to have a smaller group as it provides a “more interactive experience.” Many commented that they really appreciated the excellent presentations and stated that they had learned information that they would be able to take back with them to use directly in their daily work with students. Ninety-eight percent responded with a good to excellent rating for the workshop and gave suggestions for future topics of interest. The information gathered will be shared with Heartland AEA who is responsible for planning the 2012 conference.

Mary Witting, Teacher of Hearing Impaired
800-382-8970 ext. 3032

Great Prairie AEA Hearing Department
Seated: Sandy Lee, Althea Weems, Kristi Notestein
Standing: Toni Welch, Joe Hanks, Mary Witting, Lynnette Green, Ken McLeland, Sarah Titman

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