Deaf & Hard of Hearing Program (DHHP) serves Berks County’s school-age students with hearing impairments.
Two classrooms in the Reading School District serve the students: Northwest Area Elementary School (grades K-5) and Reading High School (grades 10-12+).
Each classroom serves up to eight full- or part-time students. Classroom staff includes: teachers, educational interpreters, communication facilitators, speech and language therapist, school audiologist, hearing itinerant teacher, and a school psychologist.
All classrooms use what is called “total communication,” combining sign language, speech, speech reading, and use of residual hearing to meet the unique needs of each student.
Each classroom teacher is responsible for teaching academic classes. Academics are taught on an individual or small-group basis using language-based instruction. Classroom para-educators support and reinforce instruction.
Depending on needs and abilities, students also have the opportunity to attend academic, elective, and vocational classes with same-age peers in regular classroom settings. Educational interpreters accompany students to these classes as needed, providing the students with a means to obtain and express information in their primary mode of communication.
A major component of the DHHP is speech and language services. These may include: evaluations, re-evaluations, consultations, integrated service, and direct individual and/or group sessions.
Specific services vary depending on student need. Individual hearing loss, parent input, and goals set by the student’s team determine the approach needed for each student. Services vary from an oral-aural emphasis to full utilization of sign language.
These services may include providing educationally relevant hearing evaluations, interpreting audiological assessment results for parents and school personnel, and making recommendations about the use of hearing aids, cochlear implants, assistive technology devices, and group and classroom amplification.
Other services include ensuring the proper fit and functioning of hearing aids and other auditory devices, providing services in the areas of speech reading, listening, communication strategies, academic support, use and care of amplification, including cochlear implants, and self-management of hearing aids.
The DHHP provides psychological assessments, including: cognitive and intellectual evaluations, individual achievement testing, perceptual-motor functioning, adaptive behavior, and social, behavioral, and emotional measures.
In addition, those students in need of extensive support in the area of skill development, behavioral interventions, personal care assistance, and educational programming may receive the support of a communication facilitator. These individuals may possess signing skills, if applicable to a student’s needs.
Students who need sign language support may see an educational interpreter to obtain and express information. These students may utilize educational interpreters while attending academic, elective, and vocational classes outside the hearing-impaired support classroom.
School districts must make referrals for services by submitting a Request for School-Age Programs and Services Form to the BCIU. A DHHP representative will contact the student’s teacher, if applicable, and begin the assessment process. The assessment identifies the student’s strengths and needs and guides the team, which includes the school district’s staff and administration, in determining the appropriateness of enrollment in the program. Enrollment typically includes part- or full-time placement.
Students ages 5-21 with a documented hearing loss needing total communication to access their educational program are eligible for the DHHP.