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May 13, 2004

Program helps hearing-impaired students

From: Charlotte Observer, NC - May 13, 2004

30 attending Cabarrus schools are involved in the system's effort

Special to Cabarrus Neighbors

Since May is Better Speech and Hearing Month throughout the country, it is a good time to highlight the Cabarrus County Schools' Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Program.

The program serves 30 students ages 3 to 18 in the Cabarrus County Schools who are identified as deaf or hard of hearing. Children with educationally significant hearing loss often experience speech and language delays. Without addressing these language delays, deaf or hard-of-hearing children may fall behind in reading and written language.

Every second of the school day is spent on language development of children in the program, even if they're just choosing a snack in the classroom. The main objective is to decrease the gap between the language delays of these children and their hearing peers, so they can meet the same educational standards.

Because all of our children have different needs, each student identified as deaf or hard of hearing has an Individualized Educational Program that determines the level of service and placement for that student.

Many of the deaf or hard-of-hearing students in Cabarrus County attend the school that their hearing peers in their neighborhoods attend. They attend regular education classes and receive support from either a teacher of the deaf, a resource teacher or a speech/language pathologist.

To meet the needs of every child, various programs have been developed at schools throughout the county. Because of the dramatic increase in the number of preschool children with cochlear implants in recent years, an auditory-oral preschool program has been created at Cox Mill Elementary School.

Each student in this Cox Mill classroom either has had a cochlear implant or wears a hearing aid that allows the student to process and use spoken language as his or her primary mode of communication.

The goal of this classroom is to provide a language-rich environment to address the delays in speech, expressive and receptive language and vocabulary that are caused by hearing loss. This special environment also helps to raise the level of communication skills for these students so they are better prepared for kindergarten.

Besides the auditory-oral program, children whose primary mode of communication is sign language are also served. Winecoff Elementary, Northwest Cabarrus Middle and Northwest Cabarrus High schools house the majority of classes for these students.

Students who communicate primarily through sign language have sign-language interpreters who go into the classrooms with them.

The interpreters ensure that the children have equal access to all communication, instruction, announcements, special programs, videos, peer interactions and so on throughout the school day and for after-school activities, such as sporting events, cheerleading, clubs and field trips.

Just like their hearing peers, deaf and hard-of-hearing students can choose to participate in any school-related activities.

The goal for all deaf and hard-of-hearing students in the Cabarrus County Schools is to reach their full educational potential and to live full, productive lives. Audrey Scurfield is a specialist in hearing-impaired education with the Cabarrus County Schools.

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