Campus preschool assists auditory access for children

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The Luke Lee Listening, Learning and Language Lab, or “The L” as it is more commonly referred to, is a preschool program at Marshall University that started in 2006 for children that are deaf or hearing-impaired to learn listening and spoken language skills. 

“Our goal is for all of our kids to be mainstream with their hearing peers,” Jodi Cottrell, the program director, said.

Cottrell, a certified listening and spoken language specialist  (LSLS), is the preschool teacher as well as the director and works directly with the four students that currently attend Monday through Wednesday every week.

Cottrell explained how in the classroom, the faculty focus on improving the children’s auditory skills. They have activities such as circle time when they read and other regular preschool activities, but everything at The L is structured specifically around creating auditory access for the children. Cottrell said the strategies aim to help give children the ability to start in elementary schools with hearing peers. 

Along with attending The L three times a week, all of the children go to individualized therapy. These sessions are with the child and the parent or guardian. They work on instructing both the parent and the child with the hearing impairment how to improve speaking and listening skills at home or anytime outside of preschool. 

When describing the importance of teaching the parents techniques to work on at home, Cottrell got out a jar of marbles to demonstrate how important time is for the family. 

“Kids on average are awake for 84 hours a week. One marble is one hour,” Cottrell said. “If they come to therapy for one hour, then the rest of these marbles, these hours, are the parent’s responsibility to help the child’s development.” 

Undergraduates in the communication disorders program are able to observe the preschool during the week. Graduate students in Marshall’s communication disorders program are also a part of the preschool, getting experience in the auditory and verbal education setting. This also helps to ensure that each of the kids are getting the attention they need while they are there, according to Cottrell.

“I rely on our graduate students,” Cottrell said. “I have to have a graduate student to be able to run the preschool in the best way.”

These graduate students are also helping to plan The L Speakeasy Gala, an annual fundraiser to raise money to be able to provide more services across the state for deaf and hard-of-hearing children and their families to learn to listen and speak.

This year’s Speakeasy Gala is taking place Nov. 8 at the Guyan Golf and Country Club in Huntington. For more information on the event, students and faculty may visit the Faceboook   page “The L Speakeasy Gala.”

Emily Hayslett can be contacted at [email protected]