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Greetings from FIRST YEARS!
by Kathryn Wilson, M.A., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT (
FIRST YEARS Program Director

Recalling all the postings from our students and faculty about being buried in snow, I had to chuckle at a photo I recently received by email. In it, you see gloves posed in the snow next to a sign that reads: "If you are tired of the cold and snow raise your hand!"

In this winter edition of fyi, the first for 2011, we welcome the new year by focusing on two topics of interest: first on auditory intervention, featuring The Auditory Learning Guide from our reference library; and next on literacy. The feature on literacy is a return visit to a previous newsletter topic, prompted by a recent posting by a student that underscores the potential academic cost of hearing loss. The posting has spawned much discussion not only among the students in our literacy course, but also in behind-the-scenes emails among instructors. A big question arises: With all the claims from the various communication options relating to literacy success, what actual research supports those claims?

As usual, we include some "best ideas" from our students and, along the way, you will find a special thank you to Dave Sindrey for his gift to FIRST YEARS students.

Now Accepting Applications
After weeks of testing UNC's new online application system, we are now ready to accept applicants for the Fall 2011 cohort. We invite you to "spread the word." Letters describing FIRST YEARS have already been sent to the State Directors of Exceptional Children, but if you have contact information for regional or local directors or program specialists who would benefit from knowing about this opportunity, please send us their contact information so we can contact them directly.

Prospective students can find more information on our website

Recent LSLS Certification
Three FIRST YEARS students sat for the LSLS exam this past October [2010] - and three passed! We congratulate Lindsay Zombek (M.S., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, class of 2007), Cathy Janelle (M.S., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, class of 2010), and Ellen Ferguson (M.S., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVEd, upcoming class of 2011), who just received the Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS) credential. As Cathy Janelle (10/30/10) commented to Kathryn in an email: "I studied mostly the FY information, particularly the audiology & speech acoustics. It was a great feeling to have the acoustics questions be the easy ones! Thanks to all the excellent FY instructors and to you!" We are very proud that FIRST YEARS played a key role in preparing them to meet this goal.

Special Thanks to Dave Sindrey
One of the best online resources for listening and language activities for children is the Advanced Bionics Listening Room ( The brainchild of Dave Sindrey (M.Cl.Sc. LSLS Cert. AVT), The Listening Room offers free games, puzzles, and other activities - all developed and illustrated by Sindrey - as well as Circle Time songs, composed by FIRST YEARS student Chris Barton (class of 2011).

This past fall in our survey course, a question came up about his Listening Games for Littles, which co-instructor Ellen Thomas passed on to him. His response, which included a free offer to our students, describes two of his newest projects:

From Sindrey's email (11/25/10):

In April of this year [2010] I discontinued all of my printed materials (Listening Games for Littles II, Cochlear Implant Auditory Training Guide with CDs, Compass Cards 1, Compass Cards 2, Troll in a Bowl, Elf on a Shelf for Articulation English/Spanish, Elf on a Shelf for Articulation English/French, and Elf on a Shelf for Minimal Pairs). I divided the content into articulation and into listening/language and launched two new websites:

1. offers members weekly games for articulation and a library of printable materials for all of the speech sounds. Each speech sound kit will work with the game of the week. A member can also assign a parent of a child on their caseload their own mini account. The member enters a parent's name and email and specifies the speech sound that the child is working on. The parent is automatically sent an email with password. When the parent enters their account they see the therapist's name (or the name of the clinic/school board) at the top of their page. They are assigned a speech sound packet (for their particular speech sound) and a new game is posted each Monday. Members can see within their account how many times each parent has logged on. Next year we are adding French and Spanish to the site.

2. offers the archives of The Listening Room activities of the week. There are 104 preschool activities and 104 school age activities. In addition, a poster and a Talkabout activity from The Listening Room are added to a member's library each month. We also create a new preschool and schoolage activity and add it to the member's account each month as well - these are only available through Listeningtree. We are creating a Spanish version as well. As of now there are 80 adapted activities from the English site, available for members on the Spanish side. 10 new activities are added each month. Bronze account users can assign 3 mini parent accounts. Silver can assign 30 and Gold can assign 50. Gold members also have access to activities in both languages.

While Sindrey has finished adding new materials to The Listening Room, there remains a "two year loop of activities for both preschool and school-age listeners" at the site, all free, along with new songs and activities from Chris Barton.

Best of all for our students, Sindrey offered each of them a free Listeningtree Bronze account to try for a year! FIRST YEARS thanks him for his generosity and wishes him success in his new ventures.*

* Upcoming in February, 2011, Dave will launch two additional sites to sell individual exercises - Listeningtree in English and Listeningtree en Español.
From FIRST YEARS Reference Library ...
Focus on Learning to Listen; Listening to Learn, Part 1 - Auditory Training vs. Auditory Learning
With the new hearing technologies, we now know it is possible to create a listening world for children with hearing loss. In other words, children can now grow up listening. And that certainly opens possibilities for developing spoken language as the primary mode of communication.
The most efficient way to develop spoken language is through the auditory-neural network. (Flexer, 2000; Dornan, et al., 2010).
This past semester our upcoming graduates began their course in Listening & Spoken Language Development & Intervention by considering some key questions: Will the child with hearing loss be best served by daily "auditory training" sessions? Is it possible for the child with hearing loss to acquire spoken language the same as hearing children through the auditory channel and without these usual "daily listening lessons?" Should "special activities" be designed to emphasize active listening? In short, do we promote auditory training or auditory learning? Or both?

With the help of co-instructors Beth Walker and Sherri Vernelson, our students began exploring some answers.

The course focuses on auditory, language and speech development and, throughout the semester, examines some key research, resources, tools, and intervention strategies used in listening and spoken language approaches. Among these are three intervention "roadmaps," each tied to the developmental sequence: the Bloom and Lahey Model for Normal Language Development, the Cottage Acquisition Scales for Listening, Language, & Speech (CASLLS), and The Auditory Learning Guide, or ALG.

We highlight The Auditory Learning Guide as this edition's document from our Reference Library:

Check it outFIRST YEARS: Auditory Learning Guide: ALG

Developed by FIRST YEARS instructor Beth Walker (M.Ed., CED, LSLS Cert AVT), the ALG's key features include:

"All-in-one" chart format, visually displaying concurrent development
Color-coding to indicate year in training
5-level design, each level having multiple steps:
1. Sound Awareness: sound detection
2. Phoneme Level: perception/imitation of syllable babble - babble play
3. Discourse Level: auditory comprehension of language
4. Sentence Level: strengthening of auditory memory
5. Word Level: auditory perception of individual words
In a series of exercises, supported by accompanying videos, our students learn how to apply the ALG levels to develop auditory learning lessons which mirror concurrent development as it happens in hearing children. As the students learn, there's a "right way" and "wrong way" to plan for auditory intervention!

To complement Dave Sindrey's listening activities, we end by referencing our compilation of Listening Activity Websites, inspired by another instructor Holly Teagle, who co-teaches our Audiology Interpretation and Hearing Technologies course.

Check it outFIRST YEARS: Listening Activity Websites

FIRST YEARS thanks all the professionals who are willing to share their expertise in helping us to develop materials not only for use in our courses, but to share with a broader professional audience, via our website.

Course Opportunity: We need your feedback!
FIRST YEARS is always changing adding new course content with each offering, even adding new courses to reflect changes in technology and intervention strategies.

One such new course, developed and first offered in Fall, 2009, is our course on Listening & Spoken Language Development & Intervention. We would like to know from our former graduates only if there is interest in offering an additional section for this course, just for them.

If you are interested, please email Kathryn Wilson. We are not promising, but would like your input in our planning.

Focus on Literacy: Followup
An interesting discussion recently came up in the forum for our course, Literacy Development in Children with Hearing Loss, facilitated by Lyn Robertson. The students were asked: "What do you know from your experience and the other sources for this unit about the literacy development of children with hearing loss with whom differing modes of communication are used?"

Debbie Ludwig (class of 2011) surprised her classmates with her posting (1/20/11), which pointedly illustrated the potential academic cost of hearing loss: "I am currently on Facebook with some of my former students from the residential school. These students use ASL and for me to read their posts, I need to sit and sign them! They do not use English grammatical structure! When I taught middle school (6,7,8) my smartest students were reading at the 3rd grade level and I don't think they progressed any higher in HS. :-( "

Her classmate Chris Barton responded (1/21/11): "... it never occurred to me that reverse translation would be necessary for ASL. I always knew that syntax was based on the French language and that is why many Deaf individuals have difficulty with the English language, but to read your post, it totally makes sense that you would have to put it back into ASL first. Interesting!"

Debbie supplied a sample posting (1/13/11) from her Facebook friend:

Happy 2nd Year Anniversary to me and my fiancee. im about little tear because this pretty much long together with this guy ever i had. i feel amazing life with him. i cant say thank you very much that i have this guy with my heart... he's always bring to my smile again!!! 
Chris continued (1/21/11): "I think this is fascinating, because when we say that a reading level is around third grade, I am thinking that syntax and some language conventions will still be in place, just at an elemental level. So, vocab and spelling will be limited, but I had no idea how jumbled everything is! Thank you for enlightening me."

Research supports Debbie's observation about academic performance. For example, Gallaudet Research Institute reports that Stanford Achievement Test norms show mean achievement for deaf students between 4th and 5th grade level by age 17. Vanderbilt University's Alliance Project found as many as 31% of deaf students not graduating from high school. [FIRST YEARS. (2011). Literacy Development in Young Children with Hearing Loss. Unit 1. Hearing and Literacy: Why They are Important and How Hearing Makes Literacy Easier. (Author: Lyn Robertson)]

The Facebook posting certainly reveals low levels of mastery of the written counterpart of spoken language. Thank you, Debbie, for sharing with us all.

The best ideas
come from our students.

In the Winter/January, 2010, fyi newsletter we highlighted some iPhone "apps" useful for working with children with hearing loss. Kristen Parsons (class of 2012) recently shared another collection of apps in a forum posting for the literacy unit in our survey course. As Kristen posted: "In the age of technology, I find that children are learning to read in ways that I could not even imagine. Some favorites I use with my own children and students are reading applications for the iPad or iPod. I find that my students love learning through this medium and that they are more tech savvy than their teacher! ... The reading resources are on pages 8 and 9. I love them all!!! There are stories for all age levels. With the little ones, I enjoy using The Three Little Pigs, Curious George's B-Day, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. For my older students, the apps for etextbooks and kindle are great."

The apps compilation, based on an original list prepared by Samuel Sennott, Eric Sailers, & David Niemeijer, has cropped up in several places on the Web. Below, we include the link at the site for the Down Syndrome Guild of Greater Kansas City.

Check it outSailers, E. (2009). iPhone and iPod Apps for Special Education

Additional "best ideas" for engaging students in reading can be found in the Spring, 2010, edition of fyi in its Focus on Literacy feature.

Names in the News
Recent publications by FIRST YEARS faculty, students, and mentors

  1. Cole, E. & Flexer, C. (2010). Children with Hearing Loss Developing Listening and Talking, Birth to Six, 2nd ed. San Diego: Plural.
  2. Porter, H.L. & Tharpe, A.M. (September 2010). Hearing loss and Down syndrome. In R. Urbano, & R. Hodapp, (Eds.) International Review of Research in Mental Retardation, 39, 195-220.
  3. Porter, H. & Bess, F. (2010). Unilateral Hearing Loss. In R. Seewald & A.M. Tharpe (Eds.), Comprehensive Handbook of Pediatric Audiology (pp. 175-191). San Diego: Plural.
  4. Seewald, R. & Tharpe, A.M. (2010). Comprehensive Handbook of Pediatric Audiology. San Diego: Plural.
Upcoming workshops by our faculty
  1. Heavner, K. & Vernelson, S. Bloom & Lahey I/ CASLLS I: Road Map to Language Development. February 10-11, 2011. LSLS credit.
  2. Eskridge, H., Ragin, R. & Vernelson, S. When Change Is Needed. March 3, 2011. LSLS credit.
  3. Henderson, L. & Teagle, H. Cochlear Implants & Audition. March 14, 2011. LSLS credit.
  4. Heavner, K. & Vernelson, S. Bloom & Lahey II / CASLLS II: Roadmap to Language Development. April 7-8, 2011. LSLS credit.
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Now it's your turn!
Job changes? Interesting training opportunities? Additional certifications? New tips & tricks? Please send us your news at FIRST YEARS Webmaster.

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© 2011, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill FIRST YEARS Certificate in Auditory Learning for Young Children with Hearing Loss. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in any medium for non-commercial purposes.
Publication date: January, 2011