My guest today is Suzanne Rupp DeMallie, who’s recently published an amazing book: Can You Hear Me Now?: Join the Conversation to Make Public Education a Better Choice.
As a parent to a child with auditory processing disorder, Suzanne fought a nationwide battle against bureaucracy to get teacher microphones into classrooms throughout the United States.
We’re discussing her family’s experience with auditory processing disorder, practical ideas for supporting kids dealing with the issue at home and at school, and what it was like fighting for microphones in the classroom at the national level.
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About the Author: Suzanne Rupp DeMallie
After years of work, research into her son’s learning difficulties led Suzanne DeMallie to author the Classroom Auditory Learning Issues resolution, adopted by the National Parent Teacher Association in July, 2007. Suzanne was awarded the National PTA’s Life Achievement Award in May 2007, the highest honor from the nation’s largest child advocacy organization.
Then, she taught for seven years in the Baltimore County Public School system, where she learned about the policies and bureaucracy that hurt our childrens’ learning from inside the system. In her recently published book, Can You Hear Me Now? she walks parents and teachers through everything they need to know to make a difference in their local district and beyond, from the most basic questions they should be asking to the most effective steps they can take to make their voices heard.
Transcript for Ep 24: Auditory Processing Disorder at School with Suzanne DeMallie
Introduction to Suzanne:
Our guest today is Suzanne Rupp DeMallie, who’s recently published an amazing book: Can You Hear Me Now? As a parent to a child with auditory processing disorder, Suzanne fought a nationwide battle against bureaucracy to get teacher microphones into classrooms throughout the United States.
Research into her son’s learning difficulties led Suzanne to author the Classroom Auditory Learning Issues resolution, adopted by the National Parent Teacher Association in July, 2007. Suzanne was awarded the National PTA’s Life Achievement Award in May 2007, the highest honor from the nation’s largest child advocacy organization.
Then, she taught for seven years in the Baltimore County Public School system, where she learned about the policies and bureaucracy that hurt our childrens’ learning from inside the system. Can You Hear Me Now? walks parents and teachers through everything they need to know to make a difference in their local district and beyond, from the most basic questions they should be asking to the most effective steps they can take to make their voices heard.
I enjoyed reading this book and learned a ton.
What Is Auditory Processing Disorder?
Before we dive into the interview, I want to preface our discussion by talking a little bit about auditory processing disorder. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, auditory processing disorder affects at least 3%–5% of school-aged children, as well as many adults. It’s basically a neurological issue where you hear the sounds in your environment fully, all the biologics of your hearing work, but your brain doesn’t process, or handle, those sounds appropriately. If you’re at all familiar with sensory processing disorder, this might sound familiar, and yes, it is similar.
Auditory processing disorder can occur by itself, but it also often occurs as part of sensory processing disorder, and can co-occur with autism and ADHD both, so it will affect many, many families listening to this. I have it, and my son has it. My daughter isn’t diagnosed but struggles with all processing sometimes.
I don’t think I’ve ever talked with a parent specifically about auditory processing disorder before, and talking to Suzanne, I recognized so much of my own experience with my son in her stories about her son, Christopher. My hope is that you’ll learn a lot from this conversation, and with that, here we go.
What Does Auditory Processing Deficit Look Like at Home?
Danielle: Hi, Suzanne. Welcome to Neurodiverging! Thanks for being here today.
Suzanne: Thank you for having me.
Danielle: I’m so glad to have you. I know you’ve just written this fantastic book, Can You Hear Me Now? which I really enjoyed reading. You’ve split the book into two sections, where one is about your experience with your son’s auditory processing disorder and how you wanted to get teacher microphones into the classroom to help support auditory needs for all kids. And then the second part of your book is about your experience in the Baltimore school system as a teacher.
I wanted to start off by talking about your family’s experience with auditory processing disorder. In your book, you said your son Christopher was diagnosed with auditory processing disorder when he was pretty young. Right?
Suzanne: Right. He was in kindergarten at the time.
Danielle: That is very young. I was trying to remember. My son also has it, and we first noticed issues around that time too. Would you talk a little bit more about Christopher’s initial troubles and what, as a parent, you noticed he was struggling with? What was going on at home?
Suzanne: I think, as a parent, the most obvious problem that I saw was with his speech. Or I should say that I heard was with this speech. He was delayed when he started to speak. At two years-old, he was saying very few words, and they were also very unclear. The older he got, he was starting to say more words, but, again, the way he said them, it was very difficult to understand.
For the most part, when I would ask him something, you ask a young child, two or three year-old, you’re asking pretty basic questions, but I could tell that he understood. He seemed to understand what I was asking him, but just his way of communicating back to me, he was very unclear.
He was in a preschool program for two and three year-olds, and the preschool teachers had said he has trouble naming just basic objects and people, animals, those kinds of things. At three he couldn’t count beyond nine.
He was constantly misusing pronouns. He would never use the pronoun “I,” he would always say “me.” So, “Me have a truck. Me want to do this.” Initially [I thought,] maybe that’s normal for young children, but the preschool teachers had said, “No, this is really a problem.”
His older sister could understand a lot of what he said, but his father, because he was gone most of the day, he really had great difficulty understanding him, as well as his teachers and his peers. Even his young classmates would laugh or giggle in class when he would say something because it sounded funny.
I also noticed that he started to digress in terms of his ability to do just basic self-help things like put on a pair of pants or shoes, toilet draining, even things like that. He was going backwards. I later learned that that’s actually called learned helplessness when a child feels like they don’t have control over the situation.
They start to just give up on things that they can do, socially. We live in a neighborhood with a lot of young kids, and at that time there was this large group that it would always play together. He would just, a lot of times, go off on his own.
I think part of that was, he would not like noisy situations. So I think sometimes the noise was overwhelming for him. I remember in church, when the congregation would sing, he would cover his ears. That’s what clued me into like, “Oh, he really seems like he doesn’t like noise.”
So those were all kinds of things that I saw, his preschool teachers were seeing. And the preschool teachers at one point, I think he was in the 3s, had recommended that I have his speech tested through a county program called ChildFind that tries to identify early on any problem that might impact educational learning.
So I had had that tested and they did identify him when he was a little over three year- old with a speech and language impairment. We started to receive services for that. But when he was in kindergarten, that’s really where everybody realized that this was more than just typical for a boy. Because I used to hear that all the time when I’d bring up a concern: “Oh, well, boys develop slower.”
Everybody started to see that something just isn’t right. It was his kindergarten teacher who called me in for a conference in November and said that she was very concerned and she said he wouldn’t even try to sing the alphabet song.
He couldn’t say his alphabet. There was a whole section of it, that LMNOP section, that he just had no idea what letters were in that section. Phonics were a real struggle for him. They were starting to teach the beginning of reading and he was having great difficulty with that.
He could not count beyond 10. He couldn’t sequence numbers 11 through 20. Socially, he was withdrawing from the class, like during circle time when they would share, he would not want to share anything. And he started to withdraw himself from his peers and his group. He actually complained that school was just too hard for him.
Danielle: Yeah, that’s really tough for a parent to deal with.
Suzanne: Yeah. I left that conference and I just sobbed. I just sobbed because, I was very upset and I was crying for that reason, but in a way it was almost also a release for me, because I had had these concerns in my gut for so long, and finally, someone else was agreeing with me and saying, “I think you should take him and have some testing done.”
So, it was a little good and bad because it’s scary. Because you don’t know what the problem is, but I felt a little better that someone else was agreeing with me and seeing a problem too, and not just dismissing my concerns.
Danielle: Yeah, I really appreciate you telling us your story. One of the reasons I was so excited when you agreed to come do this podcast is because when I was reading your book, even though my child has been diagnosed as autistic, as opposed to auditory processing being the primary issue, so much of your story rings true to my experience, as a first-time mom especially, in seeing a child who is not progressing typically and has a lot of the same kinds of issues. I know a lot of times auditory processing disorder, any hearing issue or processing issue, can look like autism and vice versa in the beginning before the child is a little older.
So when we initially got my son diagnosed, we were looking for, is it a hearing issue? Is he hard of hearing or experiencing deafness? Is it auditory processing? Is it autism? What is going on?
I had thought that something was going on from very young. He had the same speech delays and the same issues, but I wasn’t getting that validated from other people until he went into school and everybody, his teachers were saying, “Oh, this is actually far below what we expect.”
Whereas my mom and my family were saying, “Oh, boys develop slower.” It is disheartening, but also helpful to hear from someone else who, and I know a lot of our listeners are going through similar experiences, where I’m sure that they can relate to that feeling of, “Oh, this is a real thing! This is not me making up something as a parent, who’s overly concerned.”
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Suzanne: And I think too, as a mother, before someone else validated my concerns, I felt guilty for thinking that. Well, how can any mother feel like something’s wrong with their child or that they’re not progressing the way they should be?
And, he had an older sister who really caught on to things quickly and was always right on schedule or ahead. And so, I felt guilty too: maybe I’m comparing him to her and I shouldn’t be doing that. As a mother, you just feel so many, so many emotions.
Danielle: Yeah. Yeah. And I felt the guilt as a first-time parent, maybe I did something wrong, like I’m parenting wrong and I’m creating this issue. So to get it heard from the outside is really something I think a lot of people can relate to.
How Did Auditory Processing Issues Affect the Family?
So then once you got the diagnosis, you went and did the speech evaluation and went through Child Find, and then once you got the auditory processing diagnosis back, how did it impact your son and your family? What were some of the things you were most worried about when you first got the diagnosis?
Suzanne: I don’t think it really impacted Christopher very much just because he was so young. I don’t think he really knew. When he went for the testing before we got the diagnosis, the educational testing, I think in a way he felt a little relieved that someone was trying to help him. I think that was a little comforting.
It impacted our family because, well, first of all, I was just so afraid because I didn’t know what the diagnosis meant. I knew it was something neurological. And so that just presented a big concern for me because I just thought, “Oh my gosh, if it’s neurological that maybe means he’s not going to be able to learn, and he’s not going to be able to be in a mainstream classroom, and he won’t be able to have friends and do all these things.” I was very scared and I had to educate myself and that’s really what started to alleviate some of those fears, is when I did start to learn about it.
Knowledge is helpful in that way. It’s comforting in that way, but it did impact the family. I turned my kitchen into a classroom and I tried to fill in all those gaps and those areas of concerns that the kindergarten teacher had brought up. Physically, our home became a little bit different and I was spending a lot of time helping him and he had two other siblings. So I think they probably, especially the older one, probably noticed a little more that Mom’s busy with Christopher.
Financially it impacted us, certainly, because once he did get the diagnosis, we started implementing some of those recommendations, like speech and language therapy. And we used a program called Fast Forward, which was quite expensive. So, it did impact the family. Probably not Christopher as much when he was young.
Danielle: Working through that fear that you were talking about, of the diagnosis, also resonates with me because you don’t know, and there’s always that fear of having letting your kid be happy, getting them friends and making themselves able to be understood, and just feeling comfortable with the world. And that can be really hard when you are scared that they won’t ever be able to get it.
I think the fear is just caused by, you don’t know what that diagnosis means. You don’t know what their life is going to be like. I think your mind just goes off in all the worst directions. And so when you try to educate yourself more on this particular problem and what can I do to help, then it focuses your mind in the right direction.
Suzanne: Yeah, absolutely.
Working with the School System on Auditory Accommodations
Danielle: You made a lot of changes to your home too, like you said, making it into a classroom to support Christopher’s needs, but what about in the classroom? In your book, you talked a little bit about the IEP process in first grade, I think, when he moved out of kindergarten.
Suzanne: Yeah. He was diagnosed in kindergarten and when he was in kindergarten, he was in a private setting. He attended kindergarten at a church that was up the street from us and they had a preschool program and then a kindergarten program. And when I got the diagnosis and then I got some recommendations on what they could do in the classroom to support him better, I turned that information over to his teacher and the director of that private school. And immediately they put everything into place.
Danielle: I remember reading that! That was amazing.
Suzanne: I mean, they really went out of their way to do everything that they could that was suggested to them immediately.
Not so in the public system! My husband and I had scheduled a meeting in March of his kindergarten year with the public school that he would be going into, so that we could bring these problems to their attention and do whatever we needed to do to get those accommodations in place for when he would start the public system.
First I just learned that there’s a process for that, and you can’t just say, “Here’s the paper, please do items one through five,” and have them do it. So you have to go through a process of proving that there’s a need. Then, really advocating for it.
And we had had all this private testing done. We turned over all the results from that private testing. And, you’re probably very aware that the public school system has to look at that information and consider it, but they don’t have to go by it and use it in their final determination. And, they did a little bit of their own testing, very little, and they concluded basically that there really wasn’t any to do anything for him.
By that time, the speech and language services that he had gotten for free through the public system when he was in preschool had ended, they had said that he had satisfied all of his goals at that point, which was miraculous because I think two months before it ended, he wasn’t anywhere near dissatisfying them.
And then all of a sudden, boom, it’s like everything. I don’t know if they pushed back because he had qualified for services at one point and then they had released him from that. And maybe there was a concern of, well, “We said he was fine and we released him. And now here we are putting him back in the system.”
Again, I don’t know if that played into it. I think part of it is, with auditory processing, it is just a really different problem, a different issue that I think, if we had gone in and said, He has a hearing deficit and can’t hear this frequency of sound in one or both ears.
I think people are just more familiar with that, and there are accommodations that they know to put in place that definitely will help. I think it’s just anything neurological, certainly auditory processing, I think it was just a little bit more vague and unknown.
I felt like I was constantly trying to explain what the problem was and, in many ways, he seemed normal and fine and got the scores that they thought a child his age should get on tests. He was very strong visually, so any testing that they did that involved a visual component, he scored very well in.
But there were some tests that indicated he was extremely weak in phonics and indicated a weakness in the temporal processing of auditory processing. So for whatever reasons, they did not think that he qualified, they said they would watch him, “We would monitor his progress,” I think was how they responded.
Danielle: That’s so frustrating!
There’s a Simple, Cheap Solution to Acoustic Troubles in the Classroom
Suzanne: So frustrating. And I’ll tell you what was really frustrating too. During the course of my research on his particular problem, I had uncovered all of this research about how every child in a classroom is at risk for not being able to hear and understand what their teacher says because of poor acoustics in the classrooms.
And because all children have immature auditory neurological capabilities, until they’re in their teens, it’s not fully developed, what that means is if I, as an adult, I’m in a classroom and I’m standing there with a five or a six year-old next to me, we can be in the same environment, the teachers speaking at the same decibel level, and background noise is at the same level. We’re both hearing it, but I might be able to understand something that that child can not.
Because my brain can fill in the missing pieces. If there is a part of a word that I don’t pick up a line, as an adult, we do this automatically, and we don’t even realize we’re doing it. And children don’t have those neurological abilities when they’re young.
So I had uncovered all of that. And I had uncovered a very easy solution for it. Give a teacher wireless microphone and put one or more speakers in the classroom. And it was a real easy solution. It was not very expensive to do. It was equivalent to the cost of about one computer per classroom.
And so I had become a really strong advocate for putting this technology in the schools and a company that made a system like that donated one to me to use as part of my advocacy. I had this speaker and wireless microphone and I offered it to the public school where Christopher would be attending in first grade and they wouldn’t use it.
I was like, Here’s a free piece of equipment. And I say, Could you at least put the speaker in the back of the room? All you have to do is plug it in. That’s it. No, there’s no maintenance for you. And the teacher wears a wireless microphone on a lanyard around their neck. And the only thing you have to do is charge it at night, just plug it in so the batteries recharge at night.
They would not use it because legally, they weren’t obligated to use it. And they were afraid if something happened to the equipment, then they would be obligated to, I guess, reimburse it. And that was just so frustrating to me. I’m like, You’re not going to do anything that I’m asking, and here, I’m giving you something free to use that will not only help him, but it will help every child in the classroom.
And it’s going to help the teacher’s voice so that they’re not straining their voice all day long and you won’t use it. And so that really was incredibly frustrating as a parent.
The Bureaucracy in Public School Systems Blocks Change from Being Made
Danielle: The number of times in your book that bureaucracy stopped you and others from being able to get things done, just as a reader, was so frustrating.
And also as a a person with auditory processing issues and a child with auditory processing issues, so close to home. I’m thinking of all the diagnoses in our family that are neurological issues like autism, like ADHD, auditory processing disorder.
And of all of those, the one that’s probably the easiest to “solve,” in terms of making it easier for the person to function in the world, is auditory processing disorder. Like you say, it’s a very easy solution just to help kids learn better. And the number of times you hit walls was just astonishing and so frustrating and sad.
Suzanne: Yes. Yeah. It’s just ridiculous. And it points out why the why the education system is in such bad shape and why we really need to make it better. Because they’re just things that, like you said, could easily be fixed or made better and improved. And the bureaucracy a lot of times is what gets in the way.
Danielle: So you talked a little bit about your experience with the advocacy for teacher microphones. So in the book, you talked a lot about how you worked to popularize that and get it moving within your school system, but also with the PTA nationwide and all the work you did.
And I was wondering if you could talk and tell us a little bit more about your journey working on getting those microphones into the classroom. What were some of the bureaucratic issues that you encountered that are the most [frustrating]? There’s a litany of them. You can maybe choose your most frustrating or, or however you would like, but just to give people an idea of what you were up against.
Suzanne: I think I gave my first presentation to the public school that Christopher would be going into. So he was still in kindergarten. He was diagnosed, I believe it was like in January, 2005. And by March, 2005, I had uncovered all the research that supported using this technology.
April, 2005, so, within four months, I had made a an appointment to speak at a school improvement team meeting at the public school that he would be attending the following year for first grade. I put together a PowerPoint that summarized what the problem was, who it would impact, which is really all of the kids in the classroom, and the simple solution, then the research that supported that if we put these in the schools, it will improve academics. and literacy and behavior and attention and reduce teacher absenteeism from vocal fatigue and reduced special education referrals.
I think I talked for maybe 20 or 30 minutes. I was so nervous. And in fact, I sat down as soon as I was done going through this PowerPoint and my husband was with me and he nudged me and he said, You’ve got to stand up and ask if there are questions.
And so I did, but the school improvement team was immediately on board with it and they then wanted me to present it to the school’s PTA the following month.
I did the same thing, only the next time I gave that presentation to the school’s PTA, I had invited a school board member that represented that district. I had contacted him. Someone had suggested that I reach out to him. He was a lawyer in the area and then he was a member of the school board.
I had reached out to him. I had shared with him my research ahead of time, and he was immediately supportive. I’m not saying he was like, Oh, here, let’s put it in every school and I’ll give you a check, but he was definitely supportive of learning more about it and taking it to the next step.
So he attended as well. And then he told me, You’re going to need to share this information with the school board, because for one thing, if you make a change to a school facility, which would be done if you’re putting speakers into the ceiling of the classrooms, the school board is going to have to approve it and they have to select a vendor.
And it’s a very, very long process. I didn’t even know the process at that point. I just knew, I need to do this next step. He said, You need to attend a school board meeting. So I did that. And I found out at school board meetings in my area, I was only allowed to speak for three minutes at the end.
Danielle: I remember reading that! I was just like, Ugh.
Suzanne: I got there before the meeting started to sign up so that you got one of the 10 open slots to be a public speaker. Since I had gotten some parents on board with it from the school improvement team, I rallied some of those people and said, Would you also go with me and be a public speaker? So that instead of just getting three minutes on the topic, if we all speak together, we can get like maybe 9 minutes or 12 minutes on the topic.
So a few people did that and we spoke and we got the attention of the school board pretty early on. At least they realized, This seems to be an important issue and there’s enough people here speaking about it, maybe we should listen.
At the end of a very long meeting, I was able to give out the handouts and submit those at the end. And I did all that with the research. And then I found out I needed to start attending budget meetings for the district, because if they’re going to do anything, it has to be in the budget to do so.
So I had to go Baltimore County where I live. It’s a pretty large county, so it’s divided into different areas and I had to speak in all the different areas of the budget meeting, I was allowed three minutes to advocate for them including something in their budget to buy it.
That was the beginning of what happened within my school district. And I just realized early on that this is a bigger problem. [Teacher microphones] are a bigger need than just something for my son or something for his school or something for our county. And at some point, and I said, I really don’t understand why every child across the nation doesn’t have this in their classroom.
Moving from Local Advocacy to National Advocacy
I formed a nonprofit organization to take it to that next level. I began speaking everywhere that I could at schools, to local PTA meetings, to politicians, just anywhere anybody that would listen to me, basically, I was there.
I traveled around initially and Maryland a lot. And then I wrote a resolution that was adopted by our local PTA, by the Baltimore County PTA, and the Maryland state PTA also backed that resolution and sponsored it. Eventually I had to write another one for the national PTA and when I got to that level, by that time, that was about two years later.
That was in 2007. I had gained the support then, once they ratified it, of 6 million national PTA members. So I had a large backing and I had a website that was developed and I reached a lot of people around the country and even outside of the United States through that website. And I developed surrogates, other teachers and parents and a speech language pathologists who were really on board with what I was trying to do.
So I would share with them my PowerPoints and my information, and then they would do a presentation in their area because I honestly just didn’t have the funds to travel to all the states. So that’s what happened. That’s a really quick summary. It was a long process.
I had done that for four years and then I went back to school to become a teacher, and I was looking for a teaching job. And at that point a U.S. Representative, Jim McGovern, had heard about what I was doing and he invited me to come and share my information with him in DC. And that led to an invitation to meet with the U.S. Department of Education.
So I had gotten quite far but some of the problems I ran into, first of all, I always heard that money was an issue. I would counter that with, Okay, but if you spend the money on the equipment, you’re going to save in what you’re paying for substitutes to cover for the teachers when they’re out, because their voice isn’t working anymore. You’re going to save on special education referrals, and I had research very good research that backed me up on that. So I would share that with them.
I also heard a lot of times, Well, we’d like to try to pilot it in one school before we start trying to budget for it and put it in other schools. And that always was really puzzling to me because, kids are kids. There was enough research done that I felt like that was an excuse or a waste of time and even money to pilot it. So sometimes what I would do to alleviate that concern was, I’d say, There’s a district that’s not far from here that’s using it. How about if I can put you in touch with teachers or the superintendent in that area and maybe you could talk to them about what they’re seeing as the results, rather than you being the one to pilot it? So that helps sometimes.
The bureaucracy I ran into with that whole process of the board of education having to approve something, they had to approve the vendor. They had to get the bids and approve the vendors and they had to approve the budget, but then the budget had to be approved by a politician. I always ran into a snag with that in my area with politician, always challenging the budget and slashing it in some cases.
The one problem I ran into, which was incredibly frustrating, and at that point I was like, I’m done with Baltimore County, I’m just going to focus on the rest of the country. The county executive had taken the money out of the budget that the board members on the board of education had approved for this equipment.
The first year I was advocating for it, they had put $400,000 in their budget for it. And he reduced it down to $50,000. And the second year they came back even stronger and they said, we’re going to put $500,000 in the budget. And he took it all out. So they were upset that he had taken it out.
So they decided, Well, we don’t need to approve a vendor because there’s no money to buy this equipment. But principals in the area wanted the equipment and had discretionary funds that they could use for it. But because the board members hadn’t officially approved a vendor, they weren’t allowed to buy any equipment.
Those were little things with the bureaucracy that were just incredibly frustrating to deal with.
Danielle: Oh my gosh. I can’t imagine your persistence in dealing with so many little things going wrong.
Suzanne: And the funny part was that, most of the problems I ran into were in my area. I had more success outside of my area than I did within my area.
Danielle: Yeah. It sounds like you had some really great ideas for disseminating information too. Like having surrogates, the idea to put a team together like that and have them go do it. That’s just a really good example, I think that’s a really interesting way to further a movement.
Suzanne: Yeah, definitely. Yeah. We didn’t have social media then, there wasn’t a Facebook or Twitter or anything. And so parents that are trying to advocate for something now or anyone trying to advocate for something can use those free resources and that’s incredibly helpful at spreading spreading the word.
Danielle: Yes. And I’ll have a link to your website in your book and everything in the show notes for folks who are listening. So make sure you go check those out. Great.
How Do We Advocate for Our Kids’ Needs in the Classroom?
And, so for parents who are listening, some of whom will have boundless energy and some of whom are working full-time and have other special needs kids at home, what are some ways that they can advocate for their child to get educational supports that they need in the classroom?
Are there any ways to get things done that don’t require years and years and boundless bureaucracy hoops to jump through?
Suzanne: Yeah. I mean, for simple things that you’re trying to get in the classroom where you’re not trying to modify a school facility and that’s what I was going for, so that’s, one reason mine was so challenging. A lot of times you can talk to the administration of your school. And first of all, I’m a teacher and teachers, they really do want to help every single child.
They want to work with you. So, I think if you can partner with the teacher and say, I’d like you to have access to this in your classroom because it’s going to help my child, and what can I do to help you have that in your classroom, or to allow you to be able to use that in your classroom?
The teacher may have some good ideas and certainly will know how their particular school works, which administrator is a really good one to approach. I would also say the guidance counselors in schools are amazing. They really are a great resource. They want to help all the kids and they want to work with the parents. And a lot of times they can be that liaison between the parents and the people that work in the schools. So I would definitely try to reach out to a guidance counselor.
If money is the issue, if you can find a group that will donate materials, that’s another way. So if they threw out for you, Oh, we’d like to do that for you, but we don’t have the funds for it, or We don’t have the funds right now, you could say, Well, what if I can find a group that will donate those things to you? Or what if I have a fundraiser for it?
So you can ask them things like that. Also if you have any formal recommendation that your child have that in the classroom, that it will be helpful. That’s something that they just can’t turn down, especially if you have an IEP or something they’re legally obligated to to use.
Any good teacher is going to want to do and put in the classroom anything that’s going to help the kids. And that in turn is going to make the teacher’s job easier as well. So I think if you can always couch it as like, I know you’re really busy, you have 25 kids that you’re trying to help here. How can I help you? What can I do to help you? That’s going to go a long way.
Danielle: Yeah. Thank you so much. This sounds like really great advice.
I know in this podcast, we’re skipping over your whole career as a teacher. So you have to go read her book! It’s so good!
How Can Parents Support Teachers to Improve Classroom Accommodations?
But just briefly, as a teacher, now that you’ve been working in that capacity for such a long time, is there anything parents can do to support you in creating more accessible classrooms? So if, when you’re hitting bumps as a teacher, in getting things into your classroom, is there any way parents can help with them?
Suzanne: I think by first, just asking, What is it you need? What would make your life easier while you’re in this room, working with all of these kids? Any good teacher wants everybody, all the kids to be successful and to be happy while they’re there.
And so you can just set up that partnership relationship and really let them know that you feel their pain, and you want to help them.
A lot of teachers are parents as well. So that’s another thing to tap into if you do sense a little resistance from a teacher, probably just because their plate is so full, I would pull the parent card out and say, I realize that you have a lot to do here in the classroom but this is my one child, and, it’s my job as a parent todo everything I can to make sure my child has what they need. So how can we work together? And I think again, that will really get into the heart of the teachers and they’re going to want to work with you.
Danielle: Thank you so much, Suzanne. That’s really helpful stuff. Do you want to tell folks listening where they can learn more about you and your book?
Suzanne: If they go to my website, which is https://suzannedemallie.com/ , first of all, they can get a lot of specific information about the hearing issues that I was talking about in the classroom. I have a lot of research on there. They can also easily buy my book through the website.
There’s access to be able to contact me directly if they want to reach out to me personally. And I also have on my website links to all of my social media. So that’s probably just the easiest way for anyone to learn more or to reach out to me.
Danielle: Wonderful. Thank you so much!