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December 5, 2006

UNCG: Project Duet

From: UNCG University News - Greensboro,NC,USA - Dec 5, 2006

By Michelle Hines, University Relations
Contact: (336) 334-5371
Posted 12-5-06

GREENSBORO, NC – Thanks to an $800,000 federal grant, Project Duet can start making its music – the music of speech.

Drs. Mary V. Compton and Judith Niemeyer, researchers in the Department of Specialized Education Services at UNCG, will receive the U.S. Department of Education funds to help improve spoken language communication in deaf or hard of hearing children ages birth to kindergarten. They dubbed their endeavor Project Duet because it involves close partnerships with the children’s families.

Compton and Niemeyer say the need for personnel trained in auditory/oral communication modes is skyrocketing in an age when more children with serious hearing problems are identified as infants, when hearing aids are available, and when cochlear implants can be done on six-month-olds. Project Duet is funded for four years. The program will accept 28 students, educating 14 students over the first two years and the remaining 14 over the next two years.

Prior to mandatory hearing screenings instituted by 40 states, including North Carolina, in 1998, hearing loss was often not identified until age two, Compton says. This opportunity for early intervention significantly improves the chances of a child who is deaf or hard of hearing learning to communicate via spoken language. As many as 594 North Carolina children ages birth to ten were identified with hearing loss in 2003.

“Now that it’s mandated, we need professionals to work with these families and young children,” Niemeyer said. “Once there were schools for the deaf, but that’s changed now. Big time.”

Students in the program will pair up with a family for a year, accompanying them to audiological evaluations and other appointments.

“It’s critical that the family have a very strong role in the child’s program and that they have choices,” Niemeyer said.

According to a state report put out in May 2005, 96 percent of families whose children were diagnosed with hearing loss through newborn screenings wanted them to communicate through spoken language. And technological advances like the cochlear implant aren’t instant fixes.

“You still have to train the brain to listen,” Compton said. “And that takes time.”

All students must be admitted to the Teacher Education program and must apply for stipends. They will have internship opportunities in area schools, hospitals and agencies, and those who complete the program will earn a B.A. in Specialized Education Services and teaching licenses in both Hearing Impairment and Birth-Kindergarten. They must teach two years in the field for every year they draw a stipend.

“It’s really a career opportunity for individuals, irrespective of age, who like young children and like to deal with families,” Compton said.

For more information on Project Duet, call Compton at 336-334-3771 or Niemeyer at 336-334-3447.

© 2006 UNCG University News