What Does an Itinerant Teacher Do, Anyway?

itinerant teaching May 26, 2021

People often ask me, "What Does an Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf/Hard of Hearing Do, anyway?  How is this different from any other Teacher of the Deaf?

 

An ITINERANT TEACHER OF THE DEAF AND HARD OF HEARING is a traveling teacher that works with students who have hearing loss.  Other names for this role include “Teacher of the Hearing Impaired”, (which, in general, is no longer considered politically correct), or a “Hearing Teacher,” probably because “Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing” is such a mouthful!  You may also see DHH (Deaf/Hard of Hearing) Teacher  or ITDHH (Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.)  From here on out, if you see the letters DHH, that stands for Deaf or Hard of Hearing.  You will see this frequently when talking about Deaf/Hard of Hearing students.

 

Where Did She Come From?

Historically, students who had a hearing loss and needed an IEP either attended the state residential school or were bussed to a magnet program that housed what is called a self-contained classroom of deaf and hard of hearing students.

Over the last twenty-plus years, there has been a gradual shift in the delivery of services for students who have hearing loss, more politically correctly called students who are deaf or hard of hearing.  The shift has moved from bussing students to a different school where they can be with other students who are deaf or hard of hearing in a single classroom to staying in their neighborhood school (often being the only student with hearing loss in the school)  and having the teacher travel to them, pulling them out for 1:1 services.   (Let me just pause to say that both placements have benefits and drawbacks.)

This shift has largely been caused by the emphasis to educate students with special needs in their neighborhood schools.   The purpose of this is to provide a “natural and real-world environment for both the children with hearing loss and also the other students”, so they can see what different needs look like and be sensitive about them.  This shift has been very controversial in deaf education as it is difficult to truly meet the needs of a student who has limited access to their education and their peers because of hearing loss without a deep knowledge of how to do this- however, expansion on that topic is a blog post for another day.   While this is especially challenging for some students, other students have thrived in their neighborhood schools.

Regardless of the controversy, the reality is most students who are deaf or hard of hearing are currently educated in their neighborhood schools, and their specialist travels to them and usually pulls them out of their classroom to work 1:1 with them.

 

What Does Education Look Like for a DHH Student?

 

88% of deaf and hard of hearing students are currently educated in their neighborhood school. Of these students, 60% of DHH students are in the regular education classroom the majority of their day, being pulled out for services for 75 minutes or less. That includes special education services for speech and language, deaf and hard of hearing or tutoring services. These students are performing relatively close to their peers.

 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 11% of DHH students are in the general education classroom less than two and a half hours each day. Although they are in their neighborhood schools, these students still have vast varying means. These needs are serviced in different ways. Many districts that do not have a self-contained Deaf and Hard of Hearing classroom offer services in other special education classrooms.

 

Enter....  the Teacher of the Deaf.

In general, the expertise of any Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing students is broad.  They are experts in the areas of :

  • How hearing loss impacts language development
  • Impact and use of assistive hearing technology (including hearing aids, cochlear implants, and FM/DM devices) and how to maximize it’s effectiveness (because what’s the point if the technology isn’t working?)
  • Impact of language accessibility and need for full access to language throughout the day
  • Literacy development and how it differs from children with normal hearing
  • Impact of hearing loss on social/emotional development and self-concept
  • Accessibility and learning 
  • Teaching techniques to build self advocacy skills coping strategies 

 

Since an Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing isn’t with a student all day, the role shifts to include coaching and consultation of the general education staff on the above areas.

An Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf will take her expertise and:

 

TEACH THE STUDENT:

  • Their specific needs related to their hearing loss 
  • How to maximize their technology including FM systems, hearing aids, Cochlear Implants and how to troubleshoot them
  • How to be a leader with hearing loss, which means how to self advocate
  • How to socialize appropriately and “repair communication breakdowns” with peers when they don’t hear all that’s going on around them

 

 

TEACH THE TEACHERS:

  • The student’s specific needs related to their hearing loss 
  • How to maximize the use of hearing technology, such as FM systems, hearing aids, Cochlear Implants and how to troubleshoot them
  • How to modify curriculum as needed and give classroom support
  • How to modify the environment to provide full and equal access to the DHH student
  • How to support the social/emotional needs of a DHH student who often is left out of peer conversations and activities, or has communication breakdowns caused by their hearing loss

 

PROVIDE ACADEMIC SUPPORT:

  • empower language, including auditory skill development, as well as sign language skill development
  • Support reading and literacy 
  • Teach self-advocacy and build self-identity as a student who is deaf or hard of hearing

 

TEAM WITH THE STUDENT'S:

  • General Education Teachers
  • Special Education Teachers
  • Interpreters
  • Speech/Language Pathologists
  • Educational Audiologists
  • Parents

**You will note that fitting and ordering amplification devices such as hearing aids and FM/DM and classroom sound systems are NOT on this list.  That is because the specifics of matching these needs, fitting and programming this technology for a student’s specific hearing loss is outside of any DHH Teacher’s scope of practice.  This should be provided by an Educational Audiologist, who has the proper training and expertise.

You can see that an Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf’s role is intensive.  The challenge is combining the consultative/coaching role to her practice, especially when it is difficult to connect with others with a tight schedule.  This is where ITDHH’s often need to be creative and resourceful.  

Although the role can be challenging, it can be very rewarding.  I'll admit that it took a while for the itinerant role to grow on me.  I will also admit that this delivery service isn't a fit for every kid.  Itinerant Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing often have to advocate for students to make sure that their needs are met.

These days, I love working with teams of teachers, having that special 1:1 bond with students, and being able to hone in on self-advocacy and communication repair are the most fun and most rewarding lessons ever. 

Are you an Itinerant  Teacher of the Deaf?  Could you use support, community and on-demand trainings to meet the needs of your students?  If so, check out the Professional Academy, where you get all of this in one location. CHECK OUT THE PROFESSIONAL ACADEMY HERE.  

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