Nov 3, 2008

What is a "TOD"?

When your child is first diagnosed with hearing loss, you are required to learn not only new vocabulary related to the subject of hearing loss, but you also soon discover that the list of acronyms is just as long. So, here, we are taking one such acronym and defining just what it is, and why it’s so important in your hearing impaired child’s life.

A TOD is a Teacher of the Deaf. He or she is a teacher and has either a Bachelor of Science or a Master's degree in Education of the Hearing Impaired. Audiology classes, language development classes and also classes on speech development are among the required curriculum of a Teacher of the Deaf. A Teacher of the Deaf, therefore, understands the unique needs involved in educating a hearing impaired child. Some TOD training programs emphasize sign language, while others emphasize spoken language. (For more information about training for this rewarding career, visit )

A TOD can play many different roles in the education of a child with a hearing loss. In the United States, as soon as an infant is identified with hearing loss, the state education agency is notified, who then notifies the local early childhood intervention agency. In many towns or counties, the local deaf education program is then contacted so that services or visits to the family from a deaf educator can be implemented as soon as possible. In the very beginning, Teachers of the Deaf typically concentrate on educating parents in the choices available and also help parents by answering the many questions they have. The educational approach to be used (for example, an oral approach, total communication with speech and sign simultaneously, etc.) should be decided based on parental choice.

Many hearing impaired children do not learn language like a typical hearing child. They almost always need to be consciously taught vocabulary and the rules of grammar. At some point, children may begin to pick up language more naturally. In the case of a signing child, the family needs to be very involved and also sign everything they say. In the case of an oral child, the family should be talking all the time to foster spoken language development. In both cases, parents need to be narrating their children's lives! The TOD helps to train parents as to how they can best communicate with their child and also how to help their child to learn language.

Once a child reaches preschool age, depending on his or her needs and language level, the child may enter a special program for deaf children. That child's teacher will probably be a Teacher of the Deaf. This is referred to as a "self-contained" setting because the class contains only (or mostly) hearing impaired students. The TOD's job is to build language (and sometimes to support the student in mainstream classes, if the child spends part of the day in a regular classroom.) Typically, children who need more support and more intense help with language development are placed in a self-contained deaf education classroom for at least part of the day. If the child uses sign language as their primary mode of communication, the Teacher of the Deaf signs as she teaches and there is an interpreter to translate and sign during the mainstream classes. Parents who chose the oral route for their child may still send their children into a self-contained placement, such as an auditory-oral program or school. Again, intense language development would be the reason for children to go to a special program, and the teacher would focus on fostering spoken language development.

Once a child enters a mainstream setting, there are many roles a deaf educator can play. Many times the Teacher of the Deaf is there to make sure a fully-mainstreamed child is receiving the services they need to progress adequately in that mainstream setting and to be sure the classroom teacher fully understands the student's unique needs. The Teacher of the Deaf may be in charge of making sure additional equipment, such as an FM system, is available and working properly, and may be the "go-to" person if there is a problem with such equipment, if there is no educational audiologist available.

The TOD may consult with the teacher and school to make sure the acoustics of the room are appropriate. (Acoustics are how sound behaves in an enclosed space.) The TOD may notice if there are echoes or environmental noises that can be reduced for a better listening environment, etc. Often, a child's IEP (Individualized Education Program) specifies that the TOD consult regularly with the regular education classroom teacher to answer questions, discuss the child's progress and provide suggestions for the classroom teacher on ways to assist the student. Many TODs who work in this capacity in mainstream settings are "itinerant" meaning that they are not based at the child's school. Instead, they may be responsible for several students at different schools in the district, and therefore travel to visit those students and schools on a regular basis. If a school district does not have a TOD, they may contract with a neighboring district or even with a TOD in private practice.

Some hearing-impaired children in the mainstream receive services directly from the Teacher of the Deaf. The teacher may work with the students on "pre-teaching" concepts and vocabulary, which a mainstreamed child will encounter in class; "post-teaching", or reinforcing vocabulary or concepts learned in class; teaching the child to advocate for him- or herself, and/or teaching higher-level language, such as figures of speech or pragmatics (using language appropriately given the situation.) The amount of support (hours per week that the teacher meets with the student), the setting (inclusion meaning in the classroom, or "pulled out" for one-on-one time) are specified in a child's IEP. The nature of the work is also specified in the form of goals.

Now you can see why this role of TOD is so very important. This teacher can assume a role as "team manager," pulling everyone together in order to support and educate your hearing impaired child when they are in school. Making sure your hearing impaired child's needs are met while at school, can be invaluable.

Written by Mary S., Teacher of the Deaf and mom to a deaf child with cochlear implants

(Edited by CI Circle News staff