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

The "arctic blast" that forecasters were predicting swept in today, bringing 20-degree weather to welcome 2012, so winter is officially here in North Carolina! What better time to "warm" the occasion and start the new year than to take a moment to express my gratitude to you – our students, our faculty, our readers. Being part of such an amazing community of dedicated and talented individuals continually inspires me to work harder, learn more, and be all that I can be to support children who are deaf or hard of hearing and their families. Thank you!

In this winter edition of fyi, we offer some special congratulations, introduce a new faculty member, and continue our series on "paying it forward," describing a teletherapy program piloted by a FIRST YEARS graduate. As usual, we include some "best ideas" from our students and we end with another document from our reference library.

Enjoy the newsletter and Happy 2012 to all!

Now Accepting Applications
After weeks of testing UNC's new online application system, we are now ready to accept applicants for the Fall 2012 cohort. We invite you to "spread the word." Letters describing FIRST YEARS have already been sent to the State Directors of Exceptional Children and EDHI coordinators, 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 –

Beth Walker, 2011 Recipient of the Daniel Ling Award for Outstanding Service!
Beth Walker (M.Ed., C.E.D., LSLS Cert AVT ), co-facilitator of our course on Listening & Spoken Language Development & Intervention, was honored on November 4, 2011, with the 2011 Daniel Ling Award for Outstanding Service. Presented at the 18th annual convention co-sponsored by the NC Chapter of AG Bell and the Carolina Children's Communicative Disorders Program, the award recognizes professionals who have exhibited exceptional commitment and dedication to the education of children with hearing loss and their families in North Carolina.

Prior to moving to Alabama, where she now resides, Beth was the Director of the Pre-school Program for the Auditory Learning Center in Raleigh, NC, where she supervised and mentored teachers of the deaf across the state. Over the 30+ years of professional practice in North Carolina and Alabama, she used a variety of approaches including Auditory-Verbal, Oral, Cued Speech, and Total Communication in public school and private settings.

Asked how her views regarding the value of auditory learning have evolved, Beth recalled (not fondly!) an IEP she wrote as a first year teacher. That student had some residual hearing, and her mother had even expressed a wish for her child to learn to use it. But to Beth's mind, because the child's hearing was the weaker sense, she could "obviously" learn much faster through vision. Beth was confident, writing "Since [the child] has a hearing loss and cannot learn to read using a phonetic approach, a visual approach to reading will be utilized." And she did just that. But ... "After a year and a half plowing through with my grand ideas, the results I achieved with my deaf students with normal intelligence were far below their cognitive peers." (Walker/FY, 2011)

Beth returned to school and took a hard look at realities, aiming to "make decisions based on the facts rather than on my emotional commitment to a particular educational approach. I was exposed to children who were severe-profoundly deaf but were functioning like hard of hearing children. I saw many children functioning at the level of their cognitive potential. I came to understand that I could learn a few things from the parents of my students! I began to understand that almost all deaf children have some residual hearing and that they could learn to use that hearing and actually like using it." (Walker/FY, 2011)

Such was the journey to the listening and spoken language approach she now teaches. Along the way, Beth developed the Auditory Learning Guide, now used nationally and internationally, chaired the Professional Education Committee of Auditory-VerbaI International (AVI), Inc., served as a Board Member of AVI, and was in the very first group to sit the LSLS Cert. AVT exam in 1994. Now in private practice, she continues to serve children with hearing loss and their families as well as train other professionals in the U.S. and abroad.

Beth is the mother of 4 boys – 2 of them with hearing loss. She practices living the AV way everyday.
Beth and friends from FIRST YEARS

Walker, B. quoted in: FIRST YEARS/FY. (2011). Listening & Spoken Language Development & Intervention. "Unit 1. Foundations: Speech, Language and Auditory Development." Then and Now - Personal perspectives. (Authors: Karen Rossi & Kathryn Wilson)
Congratulations Jeanette Hoover (class of 2011)!
Jeanette Hoover, who enrolled with the class of 2012, added her own twist to "Better late than never, " finishing "Better early!" in 2011 instead. Jeanette took a year educational sabbatical leave for professional development: "My request for leave of absence was for one full academic year in which I was required to complete (18) graduate-level credit hours. I obtained 12 of the 18 credits through FIRST YEARS" (11/23/11). The leave allowed her to double up, taking the literacy course and audiology course, both taught in the spring, at the same time. In addition to FIRST YEARS courses, Ellen Thomas, co-instructor for our survey course, invited Jeanette to the University of Michigan Cochlear Implant Program, for a two-week, post-graduate level independent study. This included direct participation in the University of Michigan clinic with cochlear implant audiologists and speech-language pathologists/ Auditory-Verbal therapists. Jeanette had the opportunity to work with all three cochlear implant manufacturers and their products, participating in programming, evaluation, and treatment sessions at the clinic.

Jeanette plans use her credit hours to sit for LSLS certification, "while the info is nice and fresh in my head" (11/23/11), as soon as she completes the LSL supervised-hours requirement. Congratulations, Jeanette!

Jeanette Hoover, M.S. CCC-SLP (
Chester County Intermediate Unit #24
455 Boot Road
Downingtown PA 19335
And congratulations to Holly Teagle!
Holly Teagle, our co-facilitator for the course on Audiology Interpretation and Hearing Technologies, was promoted to Associate Professor, UNC Department of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, December, 2011. Congratulations, Holly!

Joining the FIRST YEARS Faculty
Denise WrayThis semester Denise Wray (Ph.D., CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT ) has joined Lyn Robertson as co-facilitator for our final certificate course, Literacy Development in Young Children with Hearing Loss. She has co-authored over 30 journal articles and numerous book chapters, and co-edited two editions of a book with audiologists Dr. Carol Flexer and Ron Leavitt entitled, How the Student with Hearing Loss Can Succeed in College.

Dr. Wray is currently director of the early intervention Auditory-Verbal Clinic at the University of Akron's Audiology and Speech Center. She is completing a four-year grant issued to The University of Akron in June 2007 that trains SLP graduate students from The University of Akron and Kent State University to develop a specialty in teaching children with hearing loss to maximize the use of their technology. She was awarded Honors from the Ohio Speech-Language-Hearing Association in 2006. Welcome, Dr. Wray!

Paying it forward: Teletherapy
FIRST YEARS students and faculty form a unique learning community, who continue to share their experiences and pass on their collective expertise, even after graduation. Their frequent emails report both challenges and successes.

In our summer, 2011, issue we began a new feature in our newsletter – "Paying it forward" – to highlight what our students are doing as agents of change, not only in their own local settings, but on state, national, and international levels as well.

Recently, Michelle Parfitt (class of 2007), emailed to tell us she was helping to pilot a teletherapy program. The topic had just come up in discussion in a course, so we asked her to send us her "first impressions" to pass on to the students (11/3/11):

As far as quick info, we are trying teletherapy with a few of our long-distance families. So far in our pilot we have learned several things:
    1. A HIPPA-compliant secure connection is important.
    2. High speed internet is necessary. Hard-wired internet has worked the best.
    3. Lighting in each setting may need to be adjusted.
    4. Teletherapy is a great way to do AV because the parent is the only one there. You, as the therapist, are naturally in the coaching role.
    5. The children are not very impressed with the set-up; they are very natural with it.
    6. It's us adults that are sitting there saying, "This is so cool!"
    7. Having a parent that is flexible and prepared for the probable glitches is very helpful.
We asked, "Tell us more!" We include her response (11/15/11), describing how the program came about and the plans for the future:
Here at DePaul in Pittsburgh, PA, we frequently have families that come from more rural areas of the state and are unable to find local therapists/teachers who have knowledge in the area of listening and spoken language development. Some of the families travel 3 hours to receive our services. So naturally, the thought of teletherapy was very appealing to us and the families we serve. We had been talking about it and researching it for more than a year.

We decided to begin a teletherapy pilot in spring of 2011 using a telehealth platform called VISYTER, which stands for Versatile and Integrated System for Telerehabilitation. This was designed at the University of Pittsburgh specifically for teletherapy. VISYTER is encrypted, secure, HIPPA-compliant and easy-to-use. It requires a broadband internet connection, a video camera, and a speaker/microphone at each site. We are fortunate to have some connections with the University of Pittsburgh and through this connection, we have been given free use of VISYTER during our pilot. In exchange for use of the platform we are collecting data that Pitt’s Department of Health Information Management and School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences will use to measure the effectiveness of the teletherapy platform and the teletherapy service delivery model.

L-R on the screen: Michelle Bole, her daughter, Kara, and Michelle Parfitt

We chose a family that we knew well as our first pilot case. We knew that there would be some start-up troubleshooting and getting used to the system, so we wanted to be sure our family would be willing to tolerate some interruptions and "technical difficulties." We decided to combine live sessions and teletherapy sessions, asking families to come in and see us in person periodically.

I have been emailing the family prior to each session in order for them to have the materials ready for the session. We are also in the process of developing a lending library of books and materials that families could pick up during the live visits and use during the upcoming teletherapy sessions and home practice times.

So far we have been doing weekly teletherapy with our pilot family for approximately 2 months. The teletherapy model has worked very well for parent coaching. Since the therapist is not in the room, the parent naturally takes over more of the session. It has also been a great way to involve other family members who would not normally attend the on-site therapy sessions. The family dog has even been involved a few times! We are scheduled to begin sessions with a second family in December and a third family in January of 2012.

We asked if the pilot family mother, Michelle Bole, might add her impressions via email (12/9/11):
My daughter Kara is doing teletherapy with Michelle Parfitt. Kara attended DePaul School for 4 years and mainstreamed in 2010. She has done well, but I have had some concerns. I had been in contact with Michelle and she had mentioned about their starting the teletherapy sessions. I was thrilled to be a part of this process. This has given me another option to help my daughter at home and not have to travel. It is nice to be able to talk face to face, and to have Michelle listen to Kara's speech and language. Michelle is able to give us things to work on to help her with her weakness. I believe this will help her in areas that need strengthening. This is also nice because it gives DePaul a way to track kids that have mainstreamed and follow their progress.
Thank you, Michelle, for "paying it forward."
Michelle Parfitt, MA, CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVEd (
Speech and Auditory-Verbal Therapy Coordinator
DePaul School for Speech and Hearing (
6202 Alder Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15206
From FIRST YEARS Reference Library ...
In our course on Listening & Spoken Language Development & Intervention, co-instructor Sherri Vernelson (M.Ed., LSLS Cert. AVEd.) encourages students to consider what it takes to create a "communicative environment." She writes: "In my early years of teaching, I was told that we should talk A LOT to our children with hearing loss. Talk, talk, talk. So I talked and talked, and I instructed the parents to talk and talk. Then I noticed that the children were not talking back as expected! My mentor helped me realize that it was not just the quantity of what we were saying that mattered. It was the quality - the meaningful experiences attached to the quantity - that mattered as well. I learned a valuable lesson: We can actually teach a child not to listen by talking incessantly." (FY, 2011)

Children need appropriate wait time, i.e. silence, to tune into (and not tune out) what is said and to process it.

Commenting on the need to balance quantity with quality, Tracy Vale (class of 2012) wrote (10/2/11): "I think parents have such a hard time with this. On one level, they seem to just talk, talk, talk AT the child to fill in the silence. On another level, I think they are nervous when they feel they are being watched or scrutinized. Finally, I wonder if they just fear the silence. Do they fear their child is failing if he doesn't fill-in the pauses like another child might and so they take-on the entire conversation?????"

Sherri jumped in with a response (11/3/11): "... 'I wonder if they just fear the silence'.......heck, I fear the silence! Those quiet times are so hard but soooooo important."

Pam Talbot (M.Ed., CCC-SLP, C.E.D., LSL Cert. AVT), one of the many professionals who contribute to FIRST YEARS, has provided the next document which emphasizes how over-talking leads to a "distorted view of conversation."

Check it outTalbot, P. (2002). Too Much Is Not a Good Thing

FIRST YEARS/FY. (2011). Listening & Spoken Language Development & Intervention. "Unit 3. Normal Language Development: Foundations." Quantity vs. Quality - or Both? (Authors: Karen Rossi & Sherri Vernelson).
The best ideas …
… come from our students.

Our students continue to discover more and more "apps" - sound meters, iPhone and iPod Apps for Special Education - and now a Talking Tom Cat! Maria Sidiropoulou-Leontis (class of 2013) reports (11/15/11): "I don't know if my classmates and/or teachers are familiar with Talking Tom Cat, but I must admit I was green with envy when my colleague Suzzane showed me this today. It's a kitty who looks at you from the ipad screen and repeats everything you say. When you stop talking it puts its paw in its ear and I could have sworn this was made for my students! Needless to say I know what my Christmas present is going to be ..."

That kitty follows a strategy that promotes learning through listening! Namely, pointing to his ear as if to say "I hear that!' or "Listen!"

See Talking Tom at:

Karen Venhuisen (class of 2013) pointed out that there are also a talking dinosaur, bird, and giraffe. "Once you download Talking Tom you should get advertisements for the others. (11/18/11)" Then Karen mentioned in a later email (12/12/11): "I was also told by my augmentative communication specialist that insurances are not reimbursing treatments if they are conducted using items that were not designed for ACC in mind, e.g iPad. Just an FYI." So, check out the insurance particulars where you work.

FIRST YEARS and LSLS Certification: Coming up in the next issue ...
In our FYGRADS listserv, our graduates have been discussing how to submit the certificate credit hours for the LSLS certification. Dr. Lyn Robertson, faculty member and president-elect of the AG Bell Academy, and our director Kathryn Wilson are looking into ways to simplify the process for our students, including pre-approval for our courses. We will be passing on our discoveries in the upcoming spring issue.

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

  1. Talking Tips - To subscribe to Talking Tips, send an email to:
    1. Rossi, K. Talking Tips, January, 2012. (Theme: "Listening")
  2. Roush, P. (2011). Children with Auditory neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD). In: Seewald, R. & Tharpe, A.M. (Eds), Comprehensive Handbook of Pediatric Audiology. San Diego: Plural Publishing, pp. 731-750. <interview with Dr. Tharpe>
  3. Buchman, C., Teagle, H., Roush, P., Park, L., Hatch, D., Woodard, J., Zdanski, C., & Adunka, O. (2011). Cochlear Implantation in Children with Labyrinthine Anomalies and Cochlear Nerve Deficiency: Implications for Auditory Brainstem Implantation. Laryngoscope, 2011; 121(9):1979-1988.
Upcoming workshops/webinars by our faculty, students, and mentors
  1. Andrews, K. & Vernelson, S. Bloom & Lahey I CASLLS I: Road Map to Typical Language Development. Jan. 9-10, 2012. LSLS credit. <brochure>
  2. Barton, C. (class of 2011). Advanced Bionics Webinar Series 2: Using Music and Water to Facilitate Listening in Young Children with Chris Barton. <Contact Chris for details on the webinar>
    1. Splish, Splash Music in the Bath, Mar. 27, 2012, 12 pm & 8 pm EST.
    2. Singing in the Rain: Using Music and Water to Facilitate Listening. May 15, 2012, 12 pm & 8 pm EST
  3. Nelson, D. & Teagle, H. Classroom Observations. Feb. 23, 2012. <brochure>
  4. Heavner, K. & Vernelson, S. Bloom & Lahey II / CASLLS II: Roadmap to Language Development. March 1-2, 2012. LSLS credit. <brochure>
  5. Robertson, L. Project EAR's 8th Annual Symposium: Focus on Literacy and Hearing Loss. Greenville NC. Monday, March 19, 2012. For more information contact: or 252-744-6128 <Project EAR>
  6. Vernelson, S. & Moore, S. Laying the Foundation for Long Range Planning. Jan. 31, 2012. <brochure>
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Job changes? Interesting training opportunities? Additional certifications? New tips & tricks? Please send us your news at FIRST YEARS Webmaster.

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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: January, 2012