Cleveland State University, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, recently held a workshop for Barbadian teachers at the UN House, Marine Gardens, Christ Church.

The working visit from the Cleveland State University, Ohio, was facilitated by Dr. Violet Cox (a Barbadian) and five faculty members from the speech and language and audiology department.

Ten students from the University also joined faculty members as they visited special schools across the island as well as the Albert C. Graham Centre at Jemmotts Lane, St. Michael. At least one teacher from primary and special schools across the island attended.

Director of the Speech and Hearing programme at the University, Dr. Myrita Wilhite, emphasised that students who are unresponsive, inattentive, irritable, and have challenges in understanding subjects might be experiencing hearing problems. ???Trouble learning to read, write or sound out words ??? when we see a word that we don???t know what do we tell our students? Sound it out! But those with even mild hearing loss do not have any idea which sounds are associated with that letter,??? she explained.

Dr. Wilhite noted that children with hearing difficulties may often have low self- confidence and self-esteem because they recognise that they are behind in the class, a situation which may be compounded by their teachers and parents.?????Sometimes we make it worse by going to them and saying, ???You just don???t listen,??? ???You can???t hear???, and all of that mounts on what he [or she] is already feeling inside and the sad thing is that sometimes we squash that joy for learning because it doesn???t take much to lose that motivation,??? Dr. Wilhite added.

Teachers were, therefore, encouraged to be advocates for their charges, alert parents about issues, place students with hearing loss closer to the top of the class, and use handouts to supplement lessons to aid the students. The visiting faculty member stressed that one had to ensure children were not only given the tools to succeed but offered kindness that said: ???We know and understand that you are struggling and we are going to try to help you with whatever it is that you are struggling with.???

Areas covered during the workshop included strategies for identifying children with possible hearing loss; strategies for including them in the regular classroom and managing their learning.??Barbadian teachers were also exposed to methods to address speech and language difficulties and to assist in the student???s development of language.

Education Officer Kaye Sargeant, speaking about the outcome of the workshop, noted that an important point made was that in every class room it is possible to have a child with hearing difficulties and the teachers not be aware.?????It is sort of a hidden disability,??? she said, while stressing that the workshop met its objective in exposing teachers to the signs that may alert them that a child may not be hearing as he/she should.

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