Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Educational Technologies

A two-fold question:
1. Is there a quality note taking device on the market for use in a classroom setting?
2. What is your take on note taking (note taker) and /or note taking technology (if even developed) for a freshman boy going into highschool with a moderate to moderately severe hearing loss. He wears hearing aids and currently has an FM and classroom amplification in his middle school classrooms.

Question from M.D., New York. Posted April 25, 2012.
Response from Michael Stinson - NTID

With regard to the first part of your question, Microsoft Onenote may be used with a tablet PC, networked or not networked with a second computer so that the deaf student may view the notes as they are taken during class (assuming there are the two networked computers.) C-Print research conducted at NTID (http://www.ntid.rit.edu/cprint/) has a notetaking prototype that is part of the C-Print Pro tablet version that the local BOCES and Rochester City Schools prefer to OneNote, but it is not yet on the market.

On the second part of your question, I would strongly urge you to request a notetaker for your son. And that should be a qualified, paid notetaker, not another student taking notes for him. If the school system resists, this is worth fighting for!

I have a question about personal FM system compared with soundfield. Our school district says that our daughter 3 years old is too young to give accurate feedback on if the Fm is working properly so they do not advice us to use it. Our daughter has severe hearing loss, uses hearing aids both ears, but tests low average on language skills as of now. No other concerns. We will be transitioning into the school system soon. They have a self contained class room with soundfield but we feel that a regular setting is least restrictive for her and want to find out which system to ask for in that setting.

Question from A.R., Florida. Posted March 16, 2012.

I am absolutely flummoxed at the school district’s position, and cannot think of one piece of evidence to support their recommendation.   The FM is an excellent solution in this case. The personal FM has a ‘boot’ which fits onto the individual’s personal hearing aids.  The teacher wears a microphone and transmitter, and the teacher’s voice is transmitted directly to the child’s hearing aid.  The statement that a three-year old is not able to tell if the FM is working correctly makes no sense, because the child is wearing a hearing aid and the child either has the skills to indicate the hearing aid is working correctly or not.  The same premise of operation will be at work with the FM system.  Infants can use FM systems, infants wear hearing aids, CIs and we all learn to read their behavior to assess whether the system works correctly and eventually the child becomes an accurate reporter. I  worked in a preschool classroom where all the 3-year olds used personal FM systems.  The FM system can and should be given a “listening check” each day.  The FM system will allow your child to be placed in a most appropriate environment.  It will cut down on background noise and give her a ‘direct link” to the teacher’s voice, where a sound field system will not.

There are several websites that can inform the district personnel how to do daily listening tests on the hearing aid and the FM system.




I am currently working with a 14 yo student who has had a single Cochlear Implant (CI) for a bit less than one year now.
The school district has brought in a Teacher of the Deaf who “Specializes” in working with children who have a CI. In reality the Teacher is from an “Oral Only” school for the Deaf and at a recent IEP meeting it was ‘recommended’ that the Interpreters be removed right away.

With over 15 years of experience interpreting for children, I know that this is the absolute worst thing the school could do. At minimum, the child needs a transition period. And it is entirely possible that the child will use interpreting services for the rest of their life. As the child grows up, that will be their decision. But for now, it is my belief that a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) should include accommodations that the child has had all along. I can not convince the School of this because “I” am not an “expert”, I am ‘just’ the interpreter.

Can you provide research or other documentation that the path being examined, removal of interpreting services, is a bad choice? Or, documented research of how people with CI continue to use Interpreting Services frequently and the benefits of this?

Question from D.G., Connecticut. Posted January 3, 2011.

You are caught in the middle of an all-too-familiar situation. Unfortunately for all concerned (and the student in particular) the evidence is not as clear as everyone assumes. That is, there are studies showing that children (much younger than this one) with cochlear implants benefit from greater exposure to spoken language compared to those in sign language settings, but there is no evidence that there is any particular amount of exposure that is necessary or sufficient. In contrast, the only study we are aware of in which students with cochlear implants (including those who receive them relatively late) were performing academically at a level equivalent to their hearing peers was one in which the students all had access to sign language interpreting in the classroom (see below).

With young children, there is evidence that neural pathways associated with hearing are still developing, and greater exposure to language through the cochlear implant is important. That is not going to be the case with a 14-year-old, however. As you point out, the student is in need of transition. In fact, there is abundant research indicating that sign language together with a cochlear implant either facilitates spoken language or is independent of it. There is no evidence of any harm. Those who argue for “total auditory immersion” with the implant typically rely on a “laziness” argument, suggesting that the child will not utilize hearing if they have the easier route of sign language. In theory, the two together should be beneficial, allowing the child to use sign language to fill in the gaps of the auditory input from the implant (which is significantly degraded from normal speech) – and vice versa.

Because of the diversity of students and educational settings, there is not going to be any research demonstrating that either removing interpreting services or keeping them in a situation like this is going to make a significant difference one way or another. However, given the lack of evidence for sign language creating any difficulties in the evidence indicating its benefits for students with implants, removal doesn’t seem like a very good idea. Perhaps most importantly, however, the student is 14 years old; his/her preference needs to be taken into account.

Suggested reading:

Spencer, L.J., Gantz, B.J. & Knutson, J.F. (2004).  Outcomes and achievement of students who grew up with access to cochlear implants.  Laryngoscope 114, 1576 –1581.

Spencer, P. E., Marschark, M., & Spencer, L.J. (2011). Cochlear implants: Advances, issues and implications. In M. Marschark & P. E. Spencer, Editors (in press). Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, Language, and Education, Volume 1, second edition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Can you help? I have requested an FM system for my 13-year-old deaf daughter, who uses spoken language. The school is offering an oral interpreter/transliterater. I’m afraid that that would make her overly dependent, whereas an FM system would make her use her hearing.

Question from A.B.. Posted September 7, 2010.

The first question is whether this child has sufficient hearing to benefit from an FM system. If so, you should be aware that most FM systems are “one-on-one” between the teacher and the student. Given the importance of classroom discussions for a student at this age, the FM system preferably would be a sound field system which would allow her access to everything going on in the classroom. Once again, the question is whether the child has sufficient hearing to benefit from a sound field system.

There is no evidence that a transliterater is going to make this child “dependent” or in any way have negative consequences. This kind of argument is similar to one often made by speech-language pathologists, who argue that if young deaf children are forced to use their hearing they will benefit, whereas if they rely on a transliterater or sign language interpreter, they will essentially become lazy, and not use their hearing (or speech). There there is absolutely no evidence to support this view. The myth of sign language interfering with spoken language is just that, a myth, propagated by peple unfamiliar with the research literature. Transliteraters (often called oral interpreters) can provide a child with access to ongoing instruction and discussion in the classroom with no fear of the child becoming too lazy to utilize speech and hearing.

Unfortunately for your purposes, there is no evidence to indicate whether a transliterater or FM system would be generally preferable, and such decisions have to be made based on the individual child (e.g., does she have any attention deficits that would prevent her watching a transliterater?).

All of that said, I would expect that an FM system is far less expensive than employing a qualified transliterater, even assuming you can find one. Unless you have a highly-qualified transliterater, it’s a very bad idea! All too often, school systems assume that almost anyone can do oral transliteration. Not so. Further, purchase of an FM system would mean that the equipment is in place for other students or this particular student, as she moves forward in school.

One more note: Frequent difficulties associated with the utilization of FM systems in the classroom include bad classroom acoustics, the teacher neglecting to ensure that the system is turned on, and failure to frequently test and maintain equipment. If all of these pitfalls are avoided, an FM system can be a wonderful tool.

My son has an interpreter in school with him all day. Recently we went to a local event that had CART [Communications Access Real Time]. I looked that up on the web and found both CART and Cprint (speech to text). This seems like a good way to get my son’s English to improve. If he watches CART or Cprint all day he will be getting 100% English all day. How do I get my son’s school to give him “speech to text” instead of an interpreter?

Question from Nathan L., Bellingham, WA. Posted May 12, 2009.

I direct C-Print research and development. C-Print research and development has been conducting a program of research on the effectiveness of captioning in education since 1995, and has included high school students. You can visit our website for information about the service and training. For assistance in locating a C-Print captionist for a demonstration or for the school district to hire and train a C-Print captionist, please contact us at cprint@rit.edu.

The first step in arranging for captioning services would be to gather information regarding what captioning services the school district provides. Regardless of whether the school district has provided captioning in the past, if it at all possible, arrange for your son to have a trial, or even a demonstration of one of the captioning services. If you can try to work with your son’s school system in a step by step manner to evaluate the effectiveness of the service for your child, the district may be supportive. That is, try to have the demonstration, then the trial, then an IEP meeting that discusses the evidence that was gathered before the decision about whether the service will be provided. If the IEP meeting agrees that captioning should be provided, then the district should support the service in accordance with the IDEA legislation. If you go to the NTID department of research website and click on the C-Print button on the sidebar and then click on publications, the following downloadable PDF documents summarize research on high school students.

Starting at the top of the page: 

  • Stinson, Elliot, Kelly & Liu (2008) This includes a separate study with high school students and also one with college students. 
  • Elliot, Stinson, & Coyne (2006) This is a study with high school students only. 
  • Elliot Stinson & Foster (2002) includes results for both high school and college students but does not report on the two groups separately. You can also click on the research summary. This research summary indicates whether each result included is based on data for high school or for college students.