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September 14, 2005

System helps students with and without hearing loss

From: Asbury Park Press, NJ - Sep 14, 2005


Resting side by side on Green Grove Road in Neptune are Summerfield Elementary's two schools. One has housed its students and staff since 1923; the other awaits completion slated for March 2006.

But on the first day of school, students weren't thinking about the old or new facility. By 9 a.m. they had paraded down Green Grove Road to Highland Avenue, bypassing the construction of their new school, to attend a "First Day" celebration on the sports field behind the two buildings.

With many parents in attendance, first-day jitters were absent as the students continued to play for one more day.

"We want the parents to be engaged and for them to partner with us in educating their children," said school counselor Betty Ryan. "That's what (today) is all about — everyone working together."

Music teacher Joe Riccardello entertained the prekindergarten to fifth-graders with his acoustic guitar while the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office provided photo identification for the students, an emergency drill and K-9 demonstrations.

Off to one side, booths provided information for parents on everything from voter registration, library program and area banks to Jersey Shore University Medical Center's pediatric and behavioral health units. Amid those booths was audiologist Christine Labenski of East Brunswick who was on hand to explain the new facility's active learning system to the parents of the school's currently enrolled 350 students.

Created by Phonic Ear, a 45-year-old California-based company that manufactures and designs assisted-listening devices for hearing-impaired children, Labenski said the "FrontRow" active learning system blocks out background noises, allowing children to focus on an educator's voice.

"This system doesn't only help children who are hearing impaired," Labenski explained. "It's recommended for special education classrooms and ESL programs, and will help to improve any child's reading, vocabulary and language art scores.

"It's a simple system," she continued. "The teacher wears a microphone or transmitter that is broadcast to four strategically placed speakers within the classroom."

Ryan said she believes most teachers will use the system.

"Kids have become so attuned to visual clues," she explained. "But in the classroom it is important to pick up on auditory clues, and a system like this will assist the children tremendously."

By winter break, all Summerfield students will all have an opportunity to experience the active learning system.

"It will be placed in every room in the new facility," school principal Arlene Rogo explained. "Many of our hearing-impaired children have cochlear implants, and this will be so beneficial in drowning out the excess noise. Even in a hearing classroom, it will be valuable for the children with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or ADD (attention deficit disorder) because of the projection of the teacher's voice."

New to the school this year, teacher Kelli Nulle of Tinton Falls said she doesn't know much about the new auditory system other than it will help her to focus her second- and third-grade special education classes.

"Your voice goes above everyone else's," she said.

And for Nulle that will be a great asset.

"Literacy is important at this age," she said. "Learning different ways to teach these students is important because just lecturing doesn't work. Getting them involved helps them to learn."

Michelle Gladden: (732) 643-4204 or

Copyright © 2005 Asbury Park Press. All rights reserved.