Jim Durkel Listen to Jim Durkel’s advice on what professionals should do to help parents reinforce sensory efficiency in the area of listening skills.


Hi, I’m Jim Durkel. I’m an outreach teacher with the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach Program. My first professions actually were as a speech-language pathologist and audiologist, and I worked so much with students that were deaf-blind that I came to Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and joined the Outreach Program as a deaf-blind specialist, and while here, went on and got my training as a teacher for the visually impaired.

Jim, what do you believe professionals should do to help parents teach and reinforce sensory efficiency skills in the area of listening at home, in the school, and community?

I think the first thing that professionals can do is help parents get access to regular hearing evaluations. It’s not always obvious who a good audiologist is for a child with visual impairments. And parents don’t always understand what’s the difference between the kind of hearing test that might happen in the family practice as opposed to the kind of hearing evaluation that might happen at an ear, nose, and throat doctor with an audiologist. There are some differences. And so I think professionals can really help parents get access to the regular hearing evaluations and help families really understand the results of those hearing evaluations. So I think that’s a real important role that professionals can play. And that includes the school nurse because often it’s the school nurse that is doing the hearing screenings at the public schools and that has the connections for a good referral system. And/or the vision professional can work with the teachers for the deaf and hard of hearing in the public schools to find out, you know, how to get really good information to families and talk about hearing and hearing loss to families if that’s appropriate. So I think professionals have those connections that the families might not. So I think that’s one thing that professionals can do.

I think another thing that professionals can do is assess the child’s listening skills and address the issue of listening during IEP meetings. And this isn’t a one-shot thing. You don’t talk about hearing and listening just when the kid is five, and then you never address it again. Because how much the child needs to rely on those listening skills and the kind of listening that they need to do changes over time. If professionals really need a resource to help them do that, there are several places to go. The Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic has a really good website called learningthroughlistening.org, and it has a very nice listening skill assessment that’s part of that. And not to push a Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired curriculum product, but there is a kit called “The EVALS,” and it also has some informal checklists to assess listening skills that professionals can use. So, I think, it’s really important that we assess listening skills just as we do any area of the expanded core curriculum and that we do it on a regular basis and that we really address that during IEP meetings. So, I think, that’s a very important thing that professionals can do.

I think professionals have access to a variety of adapted devices and products such as the “Portable Sound Source” from the American Printing House for the Blind. You can find out more information about that at www.aph.org. And the “Portable Sound Source” is a really neat device that creates sounds so you can adjust how loud they are, how fast they come—so you can have one continuous sound, or you can have beeps—and you can control the pitch so you can have high pitch and low pitch. And this is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful device that you can use to play lots and lots of different games that develop that skill of localization that’s so important in orientation and mobility. It’s also a wonderful device that helps make a variety of rec/leisure activities accessible to the child. You can play tag with the “Portable Sound Source” so that the person who is “It” wears the “Sound Source,” and the child with the visual impairments then can listen and know when “It” is coming for them and they can run away. You can get a couple “Portable Sound Sources” and put them on goals, and turn them on so the child knows through listening where the goal is and how to aim with the ball. So, you know, goalball is an incredible sport and a really great rec/leisure activity that our students can be involved in and involves listening to a ball that has a bell in it as it moves across a court. These are the sorts of things that vision professionals know about and can really help parents know and get these materials out so the kids can really be using them. APH also has a very nice product called “Listen and Think,” which is a whole program guide with materials on audio cassette tapes and then worksheets so the child listens to things and can develop really important listening skills. So those kinds of materials are really important.

And I would say, really, I think it’d be good for the professional to add a computer with the family, go look at Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic’s, learningthroughlistening.org website together, and, you know, look at the listening assessment together with the families. Also, make families aware of how they can sign up and be eligible for the audiobook downloads so that they can get those materials into the child’s computer or portable listening device or Victor—whatever device the child is using—that the child can get those audiobooks and start listening to books and be exposed to books, and that’s just a really great service that Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic does. So I think it would be a really good thing for parents and families to look at that together.