Distance Education Goes Cross-Country
to Help Children with Hearing Loss

The Center for Childhood Deafness, located at Boys Town National Research Hospital, in Omaha, Nebraska, is an internationally recognized center of excellence for early intervention and rehabilitative services for children who are deaf and hard of hearing, their families and their educators.

“The academic resources from Boys Town Hospital have been invaluable,” said Terry Spurlock, Curriculum Supervisor at Broward County Public Schools in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, who looked to Boys Town National Research Hospital more than three years ago to help improve the overall programs and services available to deaf and hard of hearing children in her school district. “We have been introduced to approaches that we have not used before.”

The Broward County Public School District serves more than 300 students, ages 3-22, who are deaf and hard of hearing. They are just one of a growing number of school districts across the country that participate in the Auditory Consultant Resource Network, one of two unique programs to Boys Town Hospital that addresses the need to expand educational support services to children who are deaf and hard of hearing.

The Auditory Consultant Resource Network reaches beyond the child’s immediate family and medical team and branches out into the community, training educational administrators and educators how to help children develop auditory, speech, language and communication skills.

“We know the more resources available to children, the better the outcome,” said Catherine Carotta, Ed.D., Associate Director of the Center for Childhood Deafness. “Our job is to prepare every person in the child’s life with the tools to help the child reach his or her full potential. We are able to do this through our onsite and distance training programs at the Center for Childhood Deafness.”

The Network consultants provide services ranging from individual professional coaching to comprehensive onsite school district consultation. Through the use of state-of-the-art Polycom conferencing equipment and web streaming, the Network is able to connect classroom teachers, speech pathologists, audiologists and administrators with experts in leadership and management of children who are deaf-hard of hearing. “We have had multiple distance and onsite trainings to help our teachers create individualized assessments to determine the speech, language and auditory needs of each student,” said Terry. “The feedback from our teachers has been phenomenal.”

The second program, the Educational Interpreter Performance Assessment (EIPA), is the only program of its kind in the world. The program focuses on supporting the unique skills required for sign interpretation in the classroom setting. The program provides quality assurance performance assessments, pre-hire screenings, and a written knowledge test for interpreters nationwide. They also educate interpreters through distance learning workshops, and a web site specifically created for sign language interpreters at classroominterpreting.org.

Educators across the country look to Boys Town Hospital to provide the training they need to help children who are deaf and hard of hearing. On Saturday, November 12, 2011, sites from across the country will log into the EIPA distance training workshop on classroom interpreting.

“We are starting to see an increase in educational sites and school districts that are looking to us for advisement on current assessment and educational practices that will guide them in their program development," said Carotta. “We will continue to provide and expand on our services to reach children everywhere who could benefit from our programs.”