The Sound Beginnings preschool and kindergarten program is for children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing whose families want their children to learn to listen and talk. The program follows a specialized listening and spoken language (LSL) approach that emphasizes growth across developmental areas. The program facility is conveniently located on the Utah State University campus alongside the USU Pediatric Audiology clinic. Though a private program, there are no tuition fees for children with a diagnosed permanent hearing loss to enroll in Sound Beginnings.
Audiology services are available on-site at Sound Beginnings year-round for children enrolled in Sound Beginnings. Services include hearing testing, hearing aid services, and cochlear implant mapping.
Parents are encouraged to be engaged in their child’s ongoing education and are welcome to visit or volunteer. The program incorporates a strong parent-school communication in order to ensure that goals and educational activities are successful in helping children show benchmark skills at home and school. Classroom instruction is theme-based and play oriented with engaged, hands-on learning opportunities.
Classroom programming provides a language-rich environment that emphasizes age-appropriate growth across developmental areas:
- Listening/Auditory learning
- Receptive Language (Understanding Language)
- Expressive Language
- Social Skills
- Academic Skills (as designated by the Utah Early Childhood Core Standards from the Utah State Office of Education)
Classroom instruction is provided by highly qualified deaf educators who have obtained, or are in process of acquiring, a post-master’s professional certification as a LSL Specialist Auditory-Verbal Educator (LSLS Cert. AVEd) or LSL certified-Auditory Verbal Therapist (LSLS Cert-AVT). This professional certification is awarded by the Alexander Graham Bell Academy for Listening and Spoken Language.
Individualized programming for each child’s educational service plan is determined by parents and the Sound Beginnings educational team following child assessments. Annual goals and objectives are outlined in a personalized service plan. Progress reports are provided to parents during the school year to communicate a child’s success with individualized goals and state benchmarks for preschool/kindergarten.
Children enter the preschool program as they approach 3 years of age and participate in both classroom instruction and individual therapy sessions. Sound Beginnings offers a full-day preschool class that meets Monday-Thursday from 8:30 am-3:00 pm. Half-day and modified weekly schedules are also available to tailor-plan services according to child and family needs. The preschool classes maintain a small class size with an approximate 4:1 child-adult ratio.
Sound Beginnings offers a full-day kindergarten class that meets Monday-Thursday on a schedule similar to the local school district calendars. Half-day options are also available for children who attend their local neighborhood kindergarten program.
Targeted enrollment in the kindergarten includes children with hearing loss as well as typically developing children with normal hearing (as space permits) to provide mainstreaming opportunities in preparation for successful integration in the neighborhood elementary schools. The kindergarten class maintains a small class size of up to 10-12 children, with an approximate 5:1 child-adult ratio. Children with hearing loss enrolled in the kindergarten program also participate as needed in individualized therapy sessions focused on the development of auditory, speech, language, and pragmatic skills.
The curriculum follows standards outlined in the Utah State Office of Education Kindergarten Core Standards, in addition to the continued emphasis on speech, language, and literacy development. Children with hearing loss also participate in individual therapy sessions focused on their language and academic priorities.
Individual Therapy for Listening and Spoken Language at Sound Beginnings
Children who attend the Preschool and Kindergarten programs participate in individualized auditory learning and spoken language therapy sessions. Sound Beginnings has the opportunity of interdisciplinary collaboration of highly specialized deaf educators, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists who regularly coordinate efforts to respond to each child’s targeted needs. Graduate students, who are masters or doctoral degree candidates, deliver individualized therapy using the most current auditory and research-focused training techniques. Therapy sessions with graduate students are coordinated with and supervised by highly specialized speech-language pathologists and/or teachers of the deaf from the Dept of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education. To enhance home/school collaboration, parents participate in at least one session per week and are welcome to attend more often if desired. The individual therapy sessions also can be observed by parents from attached observation rooms.
Mainstreaming for Sound Beginnings Children
Children in the Sound Beginnings program benefit from mainstreaming activities with typically developing children in the adjacent Dolores Doré Eccles Center for Early Care & Education program. Children from both programs interact with shared playground times and occasional joint activities.
Sound Beginnings can assist with coordinating or scheduling other related services as appropriate for each child. This might include occupational therapy, physical therapy, or psychological services. These services can be provided through community resources, or university-based clinics. Any potential charges or fees are the responsibility of the child’s family as per the agreement with the service provider.