Club addresses hearing needs

Published 10:06 pm Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Bennett’s Creek SERTOMA club has donated a variety of technology devices to Suffolk Public Schools that will help educate students with hearing or speech impairments.

To help speech-language impaired students communicate, the club donated five Nexus 7 tablets, worth $199 each, and five applications of Tobii Sono Flex communication software, $99 apiece, according to a school district news release.

The devices are programmed with voice output symbolic communication software, and the tablet is small and light enough for students to easily transport.

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Janette Presley, an assistive technology specialist with the district, said this allows students to communicate with peers and staff outside the classroom setting and improve their social communication skills.

“It’s wonderful that there’s community outreach out there that’s helping our school system,” Presley said.

It didn’t stop there. The club raised money for four Echo Smartpens, which cost $195, and accompanying notepads that are $9.

The pen records strokes as well as audio, and bookmarks allow information to be quickly located.

In a pilot project, Presley said, the product helped a student with hearing impairment in his ability to write. His teacher saw an increase in the student’s ability to construct complete sentences and less frustration on written tasks.

Finally, teachers will be better heard after the club donated a $1,500 Phonax Soundfield, which incorporates a speaker and transmitter, allowing users to amplify their voice.

Classroom noise, the distance between the teacher and students and classroom acoustics can all impact learning, even for students without hearing impairment, Presley said.

The devices will help the students learn grammar, she explained, adding they “often have issues knowing grammar and putting it into sentences.”

Previously, the SERTOMA club donated six special electronic dictionaries, which show students how to sign words they don’t already know.

“We drafted up a proposal, and we met with the (club) board, and they went ahead and they provided (them),” Presley said of the donations. I definitely appreciate it, especially with our budget.”

The SERTOMA club’s fundraising activities include the annual Suffolk Chili & BBQ Fest, held at Bennett’s Creek Park in the spring.