Are teachers judging a book by its behavior?

by Jennifer Manley, MS, CED

As educators, we know many typical reasons why children may have behavioral challenges: a lack of skills, a desire for attention or power, an inappropriate curriculum or environment, or physiological factors such as a lack of sleep or improper nutrition. However, when we think about children who are deaf or hard or hearing, some unexpected reasons might be the cause. The table below displays common behavioral frustrations teachers have about their students with hearing loss.  It also shows possible reasons why the student may be displaying that behavior and what the teacher can do about it. It’s important to remember that a quick check of the student’s hearing technology, like hearing aids, implants and/or FM, might reveal that the student is not hearing as well as usual. This could be the cause of each behavior listed here. Understanding spoken language is another challenge that often affects students with hearing loss.  Information or directions presented using higher level language and vocabulary might be the cause of these behaviors.

What Teachers Say Possible Reasons for Behavior Suggested Teacher’s Response
“I know he can hear me. He’s just not paying attention.”
  • Reduce background noise
  • Check the function of  hearing assistive technology (FM/DM)
  • Check listening devices, including hearing assistive devices, to make sure they are working appropriately
  • Provide brain breaks or other times where active listening isn’t required.
“He’s doesn’t follow directions.”
  • He may not have heard the speaker or did not understand the language of what was said.
  • Poor executive function skills
  • Check for comprehension by asking the student to repeat what he is supposed to do.
  • Provide written directions.
  • Have him select a classmate he can ask for help
  • Repeat and rephrase directions.
  • Provide strategies to help with executive functions skills, such as initiation, planning and organizing
  • Reduce background noise
  • Check the function of hearing assistive technology (FM/DM)
  • Check listening devices, including hearing assistive devices, to make sure they are working appropriately
“He clowns around and gives answers that don’t make sense.”
  • He may not have heard the speaker or did not understand the language of what was said.
  • Poor access to sound
  • Check for comprehension by asking the student to repeat the question or statement to which he is responding.
  • Repeat and rephrase what the teacher or other student said.
  • Use print and other visuals to provide information
  • Reduce background noise
  • Check the function of hearing assistive technology (FM/DM)
  • Check listening devices, including hearing assistive devices, to make sure they are working appropriately
“He asks questions that have already been answered.”

“He repeats answers his classmates have already given.”

  • Poor access to sound
  • He may not know how or feel reluctant asking the teacher or classmates to repeat information.
  • Repeat and rephrase what was presented.
  • Teach self-advocacy skills
  • Use print and other visuals to provide information
  • Reduce background noise
  • Check the function of hearing assistive technology (FM/DM)
  • Check listening devices, including hearing assistive devices, to make sure they are working appropriately
“He doesn’t participate during group work.”
  • Teach conversation and self-advocacy skills
  • Have other group members go first.
  • Provide anchor charts with prompts or conversation starters
  • Teach “accountable talk”
  • Check the function of hearing assistive technology (FM/DM)
  • Check listening devices, including hearing assistive devices, to make sure they are working appropriately

By sharing your deaf and hard of hearing behavioral knowledge with general and special educators, you can help them understand and address the frustrating behaviors children with hearing loss commonly display.

Jennifer Manley served as a classroom teacher for students ages 3 to 12 at CID – Central Institute for the Deaf. She is co-author of CID SPICE for Life, an auditory learning curriculum and author of the 2nd edition of CID SPICE.

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