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

With this fall edition of fyi, we welcome several new faces - human and one, definitely not human! 

As last year - year two for me -  I joined several FIRST YEARS graduates and mentors, who participated in this year's teacher training program at Thuan An Center in South Vietnam.  Here, we include some of our "golden memories" from this extraordinary experience.

participants in Vietnam

What a privilege to be part of the FIRST YEARS network of talented professionals, who so willingly share their expertise with each other and with the people they serve, both near and far!

A Big Welcome to the Class of 2014!
Two years ago FIRST YEARS opened up its program internationally, to students living in Canada. This year we have reached farther afield, welcoming two students from the Jeddah Institute for Speech & Hearing (JISH) in Saudi Arabia, along with our new class from closer to home.
  1. Bakheet. Maha - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  2. Basfer, Sultana - Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
  3. Cloutier, Carolyn - SC
  4. Colatruglio, Bobbi - OH
  5. Cook, Christa - ME
  6. Koch, Nancy - FL
  7. Lopez, Erika - CA
  1. Maisch, Amy - MN
  2. Meyer, Krystyne - NJ
  3. Myers, Michelle - OH
  4. Nikou, Tara - PA
  5. Rutherford, Megan - PA
  6. Rygiel, Colleen - PA
  7. Wehrer, Monica - PA

Joining the FIRST YEARS Faculty
Krista HeavnerWe welcome Krista Heavner (M.S., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT) who has joined Ellen Thomas this semester to co-facilitate Special Topics in Speech and Hearing: A Survey. Krista works for the NC Department of Public Instruction, Division of Exceptional Children, as a Consultant for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  This position involves working directly with NC professionals, by leading workshops on spoken language and auditory skill development and by serving as a mentor and coach.

Krista completed both undergraduate and graduate degrees from UNC-CH.  She has worked in a variety of settings, including public school; clinical positions as an SLP and AVT on the Traumatic Brain Injury team and the Cochlear Implant team, both teams at the University of Michigan; and as an Auditory Education Consultant for Advanced Bionics.  Krista has presented at numerous state and local, national and international conferences related to working with children who are deaf and hard of hearing, and has authored and co-authored articles and studies in related publications and journals. Welcome, Krista!

Changes! Sakai! 
Sakai TrailThis semester welcomes another "new face" to FIRST YEARS. UNC will be ending its contract with Blackboard at the end of this year, opting instead to go with a new "learning management system"/LMS, called Sakai. Sakai is an open source application, rather than a commercial application (like Blackboard), meaning that its source code is freely available to subscribers. Mozilla Firefox is another open source program, and it is absolutely one of the best browsers around; so we expect great things from Sakai!

The changeover has been a months-long project, beginning in 2011. To introduce Sakai to our fall students, we helped create a "course game," called Sakai Trail, inspired by the educational game Oregon Trail.  As players travel along the Sakai Trail, they get to practice navigating Sakai's features - to learn by playing! With a bit of imagination and quick look at our short course for an overview of our course layout  - -  players can imagine Sakai's Trial Boss as Staff Info, its Trail Info as Course Info, and so forth.

For a limited time, we have set up a guest - Non-onyen - login for those of you who want to journey the Sakai Trail. 
non-onyen login

To log in, you enter the user id ( and password (sakai2012) - both in lowercase. Once inside, you see the course tab - Sakai Trail - FIRST YEARS. Click it to begin the fun.

More Changes! Course Opportunity for Our Graduates
And, finally, we see another welcome change: For the first time, three of our former graduates - Lindsay Zombeck (class of 2007), Ilene Sand (class of 2006), and Julie Adams (class of 2009) - will be joining our current cohort in our LSL course.  Listening & Spoken Language Development & Intervention, created after these graduates finished the certificate, expanded the training previously offered, with a focus on auditory-verbal techniques and strategies. Talent abounds in this combined group, with superb co-instructors Beth Walker and Sherri Vervelson,  so we expect lots of learning!

From FIRST YEARS Reference Library
Must Reads!
As you will see, sharing certainly will be the "theme" this issue!  We begin with one example.

Denise Wray, co-facilitator with Lyn Robertson for our final certificate course, Literacy Development in Young Children with Hearing Loss, recently emailed "must reads" lists to the students. As she described how she uses the lists (3/15/12):

I explain to parents that I know how overwhelming it is to go to the library and select quality picture books for their children. I thought they needed direction with over 5,000 children's books published per year, how is one to recognize what is quality or not?

Therefore, I created [handouts that list] authors and a few of their publications that children are most likely to encounter in school. If parents/caregivers select books from this list, they can be "pre - teaching" their children and laying a wonderful knowledge-base prior to school in that the children will be familiar with the plots, content, vocabulary and concepts contained in the picture books.

Denise agreed to share the lists with our wider audience via our newsletter. Thank you, Denise!
Check it out FIRST YEARS. Must reads! (compiled by Denise Wray, Ph.D.)
- Fiction "Must Read" Author List: Preschool and Early Primary Grades
- Non-Fiction "Must Read" Author List: Preschool
- Non-Fiction "Must Read" Author List: Early Primary: K-3

Paying it forward: Tele-therapy Grant
In a previous edition of fyi we highlighted the efforts of Michelle Parfitt (class of 2007) to pioneer tele-therapy in Pennsylvania.  Like Michelle in Pennsylvania, NC is moving forward with tele-practice. More impact FIRST YEARS is making!

The Carolina Hurricanes are a professional ice hockey team based in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Two times each year, the Hurricanes Kids ĎN Community Foundation awards monetary grants to qualified organizations. FIRST YEARS Director, Kathryn Wilson, and Center for the Acquisition of Spoken language through Listening Enrichment (CASTLE) Director, Hannah Eskridge (a FIRST YEARS  mentor) collaborated on a grant proposal in Spring 2012 and were awarded $25,000 to enhance the UNC-REACH Program (Reaching for Early Access for Children with Hearing Loss). UNC-REACH is a tele-therapy program designed to increase access to quality early intervention for North Carolina infants and toddlers who are deaf and hard of hearing and provide parents with the knowledge and skills needed to teach their child to listen and talk. CASTLE therapists will provide direct services to children and families and Kathryn will serve as consultant to the project.

Paying it forward: FIRST YEARS in South Vietnam
"If it is true that certain events change your life, I had full expectation that training professionals in Vietnam would be one of them.   I knew training in a foreign country with a different culture and language than my own would be a challenge, but I didn't know how life-giving it would be for me as a professional."  (Lillian Henderson (mentor), email, 9/7/12)
Lillian's sentiments of her Vietnam experience as "life-giving" were echoed by all of this year's FIRST YEARS professionals participating in the summer-training programs sponsored by the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss. Lillian, with 5 others from FIRST YEARS, joined a team of 18 professionals in "year three" at the Thuan An Center in South Vietnam, July 9 - August 5, 2012. 

The foundation's stats are impressive, as reported by the foundation's Executive Director (and founder) Paige Stringer: "Since summer 2010, we ... have trained over 190 teachers, 220 families, and 120 medical and other professionals. We have fit 246 hearing aids on young children." (from Paige's summary of accomplishments). 

videoPaige's 4-minute video summary elaborates this year's training impact.
Needless to say, training was intense! Becky Clem (mentor) provided a snapshot: "Between Wednesday and Friday, there were 72 therapy sessions held by 24 teachers-in-training. Hillary and I coached 36 therapy sessions each between the hours of 8-11 a.m. Wednesday-Friday (and YES, we were tired.... a good kind of tired)." (Becky's blog, 7/17/12)
Talk Vietnam And new this year, Talk Vietnam, a television program based in Hanoi, brought a camera crew to the school to film a day of therapy sessions, classroom activities, audiology sessions, children listening and talking. In the video below (broadcast August 3), you will see interviews with Ann Baumann (class of 2007), Kim Hamren (mentor), Kathryn and Paige, who does an excellent job of describing the listening and spoken language/LSL approach. 

videoPaige Stringer: Talk Vietnam (45 minutes)

Below we share some faces behind the impressive stats - some "golden memories."

Lillian Henderson (mentor)
From last year's group, we learned that the Ling sounds we use in English may not be appropriate for other cultures. As Ann Baumann brainstormed with others in emails: "I don't think the Ling sounds are the same ... or at least, the /s/ for instance, isn't one they'd use in 'polite company' because it is the sound they make to indicate someone is going to the bathroom!" (3/25/11) The mystery of what Ling sounds to use in Vietnam - the "rose by another name" - was ultimately resolved

Lillian Henderson discovered quite a few other cultural differences. As she described "several surprises" in an email (9/7/12):

One afternoon when the afternoon storms moved in, half of the class abruptly left. I was told that it was not anything I said, but that they had to bring in their wash from the clothesline.  The Vietnamese also have a love of singing.  Anytime an example was given with music, the whole class joined in on singing the song entirely through.  Another time, as I was teaching the importance of expectations and rules for the classroom, I was promptly educated that "Uncle Ho" (Ho Chi Minh) had already written the expectations and they were posted at every school.  Needless to say, I didnít ask them to write other expectations in place of Ho Chi Minh's!

My main responsibility in Vietnam was to teach the Auditory Learning Guide/ALG.  I was given approximately three hours to do this with another two hours the following day to get the Vietnamese professionals to practice.  Teaching a four-year listening hierarchy that usually takes three days in the States to present was a daunting task within itself.   As I went over my talk with my extremely bright interpreter, I realized I had to do some adapting.  First, the Vietnamese language consists of one syllable for each word, so certain goals would not even apply.  Then I had to also think about the six different tones that are in the language which added time to the suprasegmental portion of speech babble.  No one in the group had any background in speech pathology, so teaching speech babble as I normally teach it was not possible.  Not to mention, I usually talk in metaphors and those generally do not translate well, especially if you are talking about American football!  However with the help of my translator, we were able to cover the basics in the first day along with video samples from my own therapy in the States.

The next day the Vietnamese were given toys and a goal from the ALG.  They were asked to practice implementing the goal with a partner and show the class.  After the class, several of them asked if they could have more time practicing.  I told them I could stay the following evening and we could work on the goals then.  Fully anticipating only ten people to come back after a long day of training, I was surprised to see all 38 participants arrive that evening.  We worked through all the goals on the Discourse Level, Sentence Level and Learning to Listen Sound objectives during that time.  I have no words to explain the energy in the room that night! 
Lillian prsenting at the consolate

Becky Clem (mentor)
In her last blog entry - "Packing up....and leaving my heart" - Becky described her final day in Vietnam as "bittersweet:"
My heart is full with love and wonder for what this program has done and continues to do in 3 short years. I've fallen in love with the people of Vietnam and the children and teachers in this program.

I'm amazed at what the parents and teachers do with so few resources. One teacher told us today that their residential school for the deaf doesn't have clean drinking water - yet this teacher doesn't gripe or complain - she is thirsty for knowledge to help her students learn to listen and talk and function in their world.

Another family shared that they want to read to their child - but they don't have any books - and cannot afford books. There isn't a library at their school for the deaf. Teachers and families draw pictures and tell stories with their own words1 - and children are enthralled to hear them.2

In the school program, over 7 weekdays, 24 children attended 120 therapy sessions with only 2 absences. When a parent could not attend the session - an aunt, uncle, sister, or grandparent attended. If that wasn't possible, another teacher substituted as the parent. Many parents drove daily, by motorbike or rode by bus,  2 or more hours to bring their children to audiology consults and/or therapy sessions. (blog, 7/19/12) 

Becky's blog is full of photos and remembrances. Her entry on how the translators and teachers interact - to accomplish so much! - is especially informative.

Check it outBeck Clem (7/21/12): You say what I say and what did they say?

Ann Baumann (class of 2007)

crowned kidsThis summer was a packed two weeks for the Vietnamese teachers. They were learning more about language, speech and listening skill development and strategies to encourage it, assessment, data keeping, one to one intervention and more - and putting it all into practice. One of the goals for the teachers in the classrooms involved developing and implementing detailed plans that integrated all aspects of a child's development in a hands-on, language-rich environment. Using a thematic approach, one of the three classrooms developed lessons around flowers. The children learned a song about flowers and to help bring that song even more meaning, the teaching team decided to make flower crowns. But where to get a large supply of flowers?? One of the Sisters knew of the plumeria trees up the street at the cemetery. Early that morning, before school started, she confessed she harvested the flowers on the sly. The result? Beautiful children made even more beautiful and a room filled with delicious scent! Now that's something to talk about! (email, 9/16/12)
The impact of the program on the Vietnamese teachers? 
Helen Zuganelis (class of 2005)
It is never a surprise I want to return to Vietnam each year to work ... Today in a teacher consult session one of the teachers thanked me for everything I taught her last year.  She said that she changed so much in her teaching and now she is a better teacher! (9/19/12)
Kim Hamren, FIRST YEARS mentor
At the end of the program, Kathryn and I met separately with each team of teachers to reflect on their experiences and to guide them in planning for implementing their newly-acquired skills into their practice. These were teachers who had just completed their 3rd year of the program. One team of teachers expressed their feelings of gratitude that now they can confidently share HOPE with families who have children with hearing loss. They now feel that they can support families in developing listening and spoken language skills in their child and that their child has the potential to become a productive citizen of Vietnam. The teachers explained that having this hope is very powerful and will change the future of the children and their families. We all had tears in our eyes. (9/18/12)
Speaking of hope for the future ... 
Not only will the team return to Vietnam for year four, there are plans in the works for extending the services to other countries. Check out Paige's blog for some interesting reading. 

Check it outPaige Stringer. Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss. Vietnam Blog

If you are interested in participating in next year's project and are a trained professional in pediatric audiology, speech pathology, auditory-verbal education, and/or early intervention, email Paige Stringer, Executive Director, at

1... in other words, they created "Language Experience Books/LEB," which we have highlighted in several fyi editions. The first was Spring, 2010.
2Literacy ideas for handling language diversity? In a forum posting (10/31/11), Kristine Ratcliff (class of 2012) introduced the class to wordless books, in which parents or kids can write their own text. As she wrote: "These work especially well with families who do not speak English: they seem to be less intimidated because they do not feel they have to read the words they can't read anyway!" Reading A-Z ( is an excellent resource for books, both wordless and word-full. <wordless book example: The Mitten (Not exactly one for Vietnam, but there are many others at the site.) -  example lesson plan - The Mitten>. 

Update: Massachusettes Legislation
In the last issue we reported on our students' efforts in getting legislation passed in Indiana and Massachusettes. As a prime-mover, an excited Kim LaBrecque reported in an email (8/1/12):
SUCCESS!!!!! "House Bill 52 [passed] in both the Massachusetts House and Senate on July 31, 2012!" (8/1/12) Governor Deval Patrick signed it into law on August 7 (email, 8/7/12). Congratulations to Kim and Tracy Vale (class of 2012).

Just in! CASLLS
Mary Smith-Johnson (class of 2007) reports (9/10/12) that the state of Minnesota will now be using CASLLS as one of the guides for working with children who have hearing loss. "I am at peace. You guys are the best. I am happy. You have no idea, hugs. Best money spent!!!" (CASLLS is covered extensively in our course on Listening & Spoken Language Development & Intervention, co-taught by Beth Walker and Sherri Vervelson.)

Just in! Erber
Faculty member Don Goldberg reports a conversation with Norman Erber about his "hierarchy:"
I had the joy of meeting with Norm Erber in Australia this past May.  I had been warned that he did not like the term I (and many others) have used -- auditory hierarchy.  He never set up his 4 levels (detection/ discrimination/ identification/ comprehenbsion to be a mere hierarchy. I rephrase it during my talk as LEVELS OF AUDITORY FUNCTIONING.  And he likes that and I like it, too.

The point is -- we don't just function at detection and move upwards. We weave up and down and down and up.  Depending on the linguistic load, we may need to drop to an "easier" level of functioning.  And you can imagine the complexity of working in quiet versus in noise and at distances!  SOOOOOO many variables make this far from straightforward.  But of course great fun too!!! dmg (9/17/12)

We will all have to correct our terminology!

Names in the News
Upcoming workshops/webinars by our faculty and students
  1. Goldberg, D. International State of the Art Meeting on (Re)habilitation of Children and Adults using Cochlear Implants. 10th Anniversary of ONICI, the Independent Information Centre on Cochlear Implants, Antwerp, Belgium. Nov. 20-21, 2012.
  2. Heavner, K. & Vernelson, S. Bloom & Lahey I / CASLLS I: Roadmap to Language Development. Oct. 15-16, 2012. LSLS credit.
  3. Heavner, K. & Vernelson, S. Bloom & Lahey II / CASLLS II: Roadmap to Language Development. Dec. 4-5, 2012. LSLS credit.
  4. Robertson, L. Listening and Spoken Language for Children with Hearing Loss: From Theory to Practice. Eastern AHEC, Meta M. Downes 42nd Annual Speech and Hearing Symposium. Greenville, NC, October 12, 2012, 1:00-4:30 PM.
  5. Robertson, L.  Literacy and Deafness: Listening and Spoken Language. New Jersey Chapter Alexander Graham Bell Association Conference, Bloomfield, NJ,  October 13, 2012, 9:00 a.m.-1:20 PM.
  6. Wilson, K.  & Roush, J.  Interdisciplinary Assessment of Children With Hearing Loss & Multiple Disabilities. ASHA Annual Convention. Saturday, Nov 17, 1:30 PM - 02:30 PM. 
  7. Wilson, K., Sexton, J., Yoder, D. & Chase, P. Caring About Counseling: Shared Experiences & Active Listening. ASHA Annual Convention. Saturday, Nov 17, 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM.
Recent publications by FIRST YEARS faculty
    To subscribe to Talking Tips, send an email to:
  1. Rossi, K. Talking Tips, July, 2012. (Theme: "Playtime")
  2. Rossi, K. Talking Tips, August, 2012. (Theme: "Back to School")
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© 2012, 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: September, 2012