Deaf & Hard of Hearing - Total Communication


The Total Communication Program provides access and instruction in American Sign Language, spoken English, or a combination of both to ensure that every deaf and hard of hearing student develops a full language and can gain meaningful education.

Core Skills

  • Communication
    • ASL, Spoken English, or both
  • Academics
  • Self-Advocacy
  • Self Identity
    • Connection with Deaf Culture 
    • Pride in oneself

Our Deaf & Hard of Hearing Program is a center-based program in Kent County housed in Northview Public Schools.  It is designed around each student’s unique blend of abilities and needs.  All forms of communication are used – verbal, nonverbal, amplification – whatever meets each student’s needs and  maximizes language competence and knowledge in each student. 

The best method of communication depends on:

  • amount and type of hearing loss
  • age when the loss occurred
  • age when the loss was identified
  • parent’s experience with hearing loss
  • cognitive abilities
  • experiences
  • motivation

Center Program's Learning Philosophy

  • Diversity is Valuable.
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing Students are Valuable.
  • Deaf/Hard of Hearing students have the right to learn all forms of communication.
  • Visual & manual methods of communication are options and need to be used consistently.
  • Using hearing technology both at home and school also provides the opportunity for listening abilities and spoken language.
  • Speech is an important tool for communication with hearing people.
  • Sign language does not prevent speech development.
  • The clues and context of a sentence plus sign language, facial expression,  and speechreading provide complete linguistic information for deaf or hard of hearing children and youth.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Program Beliefs

  • Language acquisition during infancy and early childhood with parents is crucial.
  • Visual representation of language enables children to understand ideas and  concepts.
  • Language is essential for learning.
  • Speech and language are different abilities.
  • Auditory/vocal & visual/manual modes give the child a complete communication system.
  • Sign language, fingerspelling, and oral/aural techniques complement each other.
  • Sign can assist speech and language development.
  • Sign language is learned by members of the family. enables and enriches the child’s socialization at home.

Parent/Infant Program – Birth to 2 years old

Infant communication begins with parent-child interaction. Service is delivered to infants and parents through a home-based program that promotes the use of amplification, fosters vocalization and response to sound, and develops symbolic expression through speech and sign. Parents meet as a group to share experiences, ask questions, and get ideas from other parents, specialists, or individuals with hearing loss.

Early Childhood Education – 2 to 4 years

Communication skills develop through watching, listening, speaking, speech reading, playing, signing, and instruction in the early childhood classroom. Speech/language therapy is built in each child’s schedule. Reading and math readiness activities are in daily lessons. Daily learning activities are rich  environments to socialize and develop communication.  Self esteem is fostered and children meet deaf and hard of hearing adults.

West Oakview – Kindergarten to 4th grade

Expressive and receptive language skills – speaking, listening, writing, reading, signing – grow from Kindergarten through 4th Grade. The general curriculum of math, spelling, reading, social studies and science are taught with emphasis on language skills. Special instruction designed for D/HH students may be used as well as instruction using computers for practicing and applying what is learned. There is individual speech and language therapy. Students in general education classes also have interpreters, amplification, and supplementary instruction available to them.

Highlands Middle School – 5th to 6th grade

Deaf and Hard of Hearing students continue to focus on expanding expressive and receptive language skills at this level, with the added emphasis on gaining independence  Students follow the general education curriculum for core academic classes of Math, Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts. They also receive instruction in Technology, Art, and Physical Education, with an additional option of Band and Choir.  As in the elementary school, all support services are continued.

Crossroads Middle School – 7th to 8th grade

Deaf and hard of hearing students continue in the general education curriculum – science, math, social science, art, English, physical education and computers. Language arts and subject area instruction increases vocabulary, reading comprehension and application to the “real world”.  Grade 7 and 8 students have the option of experiencing the “real world” of work and relating it to daily life through  Community Based Instruction (CBI). This involves instruction in class and field-based experiences where supervised students work nearby.

Northview High School – 9th to 12th grade

Grades 9-12 continue to emphasize language and reading skills while progressing through the general education curriculum. Students study English, science, math, social science, and electives such as Spanish, art or wood technology. CBI continues to be available to relate classroom learning to independence. Northview High School also collaborates with colleges and technical centers such as Kent Career Training Center and Kent Transition Center to provide a rich array of learning options as students approach the need for more training or independence and adulthood.

Infant/Parent Sign Class

To support our Infant/Parent program, we offer a weekly class for families of our students in the program to learn basic sign language skills.  This includes any family member who interacts with the children in their natural environment.  This class supports the work done in the home, as well as offers families an opportunity to share and collaborate similar experiences.

Sign Language Interpreters

In accordance with each student’s IEP, sign language interpreters are available to students within the educational setting.  This also includes extra-curricular activities after the traditional school day.  Northview’s interpreting staff have met and exceeded the skill standards set by the state of Michigan.

Speech and Language Pathologist

Students have access to speech and language services to assist in communication development. Individual students may meet with the speech and language pathologist one-on-one, as well as have the opportunity for push-in services within the classroom environment.


Northview has an audiologist on staff to assist with all devices within the district.  These services include audiological testing, as well as servicing equipment such as hearing aids and cochlear implants.  Our audiologist also helps fit each mainstream classroom with amplification equipment to help the Deaf & Hard of Hearing students receive the maximum benefit of their hearing.

Ancillary Services

Depending on each individual student need, additional ancillary services can be provided for students.  This can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work, etc. The IEP team determines the appropriate ancillary needs of every child.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services of Grand Rapids

DHHS is an independent agency serving Grand Rapids and surrounding areas since 1996. We serve approximately 3,500 – 4,000 deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing individuals and businesses each year through interpreter services, mental and behavioral health, ASL classes, equipment distribution, community relations, and advocacy

Signing Savvy

Signing Savvy is a sign language dictionary containing several thousand high resolution videos of American Sign Language (ASL) signs, finger-spelled words, and other common signs used within the United States and Canada.

Success for Kids with Hearing Loss

This is a ‘go-to’ site for more information about the listening, learning and social issues of children using hearing technology with different hearing levels.  There are no-cost links to hearing loss and hearing technology, audio demonstrations and printed materials.  Practical information and tools are available for supporting the future success of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children socially and academically.

The Holley Family Village (Brooklyn, MI)

The Holley Institute owns and operates Holley Family Village at De Sales Center which has offered educational and recreational programs for the Deaf, Deaf/Blind and hard of hearing since 1996.

During the summer months and from time to time throughout the year, The Holley Institute offers quality programs for Deaf, Deaf/Blind and hard of hearing people and their families. The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales use the facilities in June for the Salesian Leadership Camp.  When not used for these events, the facilities are available to other nonprofit organizations for retreats and workshops.

Contact Our Office

Joanne Platt
Brandi Czechowskyj
Program Coordinator
Isabel Romero
Administrative Assistant