Auditory Breaks

UDL 6.3

Auditory Breaks are academic and non-academic times during the school day where there are zero expectations placed on a student with hearing loss to process auditory information (e.g., directions, content information). Auditory Breaks can be embedded into daily classroom routines (e.g., times when the teacher is not delivering instruction auditorily, such as silent reading), while other breaks can be self-identified by the student as needed. Each student will benefit from different frequencies and durations of Auditory Breaks, but generally breaks should occur after a student is required to engage in a challenging listening task (e.g., complex direct instruction, long lectures or discussion, a lot of background noise) and should last at least 2-5 minutes. Students can access Auditory Breaks by removing or turning off their hearing device or moving to a quieter area in the classroom while working on non-auditory tasks, such as independent writing, transitions, or free time. Because listening tasks can cause physical and cognitive strain on students with hearing loss, providing these breaks gives students an opportunity to rest much like a runner might intermittently walk or jog to catch their breath before continuing their run. These breaks increase a student's stamina to concentrate, engage, and process auditory information throughout the day.

Implementation Tips

Monitoring Auditory Fatigue
Monitor if a student with hearing loss demonstrates auditory fatigue by noticing if physical discomfort is displayed (e.g., student covers ears, looks tired or distracted). Also, listen for the student verbalizing fatigue (e.g., “I have a headache.” / “My ears want to shut down.”) while monitoring throughout the day.
Preparing an Auditory Break Schedule
Prepare a schedule with pre-set Auditory Breaks, similar to this [[ | example ]], to support a student with hearing loss. Choose times outside of academic instruction (e.g., independent work, transitions, station/group work) to avoid overuse of breaks during times when critical information is being presented.
Introducing Auditory Breaks
Discuss how auditory fatigue can affect the student with hearing loss (e.g., “Since your ears work harder to process what you hear, you might feel tired and you might need a break sometimes.”). Show students the Auditory Break schedule and remind them to also ask for support when needed.
Providing Auditory Break Options
Provide break options to best fit a variety of student needs, such as the option to move to a less noisy area in the classroom, to rest their head on the desk, or time for complete silence (e.g., removing/turning off a hearing device, using noise cancelling headphones or earplugs).
Creating a Quiet Space
Create a quiet space in the classroom that a student taking an Auditory Break can choose to access by designating a small area with relaxing or calming materials (e.g., beanbag chair, pillows, picture books). Noise in this area can be minimized using materials that help to block noise, such as a curtain or teepee.
Helping Students Take Ownership of Hearing Needs
Allow the student with hearing loss to use a personal signal or visual, such as this [[ | ear-covering emoji ]] to indicate when an Auditory Break is needed, or provide a sentence stem for the student to use when self-advocating for breaks (e.g., “I need an Auditory Break because ___.”).
Integrating Auditory Breaks
Collaborate with related service providers (e.g., D/HH Specialist, Speech Therapist) to gauge how often a student with a hearing loss will use Auditory Breaks. While implementing any Auditory Break, set a timer (e.g., minimum of 2-5 minutes or longer depending on the student’s individual needs).


Introducing Auditory Breaks
While reviewing a student’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan), a teacher notices Auditory Breaks are listed as an accommodation. To prepare, the teacher collaborates with the student’s related service provider to determine how many breaks will be necessary to support the student in successfully managing the auditory load of the school day (e.g., time spent actively listening). The teacher then pre-plans an Auditory Break schedule based on daily activity layouts and presents the schedule to the student. After, the student is presented with options for taking Auditory Breaks (e.g., removing their hearing device for a short time, moving to a quieter area of the classroom).
Supporting Self-Monitoring and Building Self-Advocacy Skills
After a student with a hearing loss has been participating in scheduled Auditory Breaks over time, a teacher encourages the student to self-monitor the use of breaks. First, the teacher and student jointly discuss the number of breaks the student might need daily (e.g., 2-3 breaks instead of 4) and discuss how to prioritize them (e.g., “Since afternoons can be challenging, make sure to maintain at least one break after lunch). They also choose a discrete cue that the student will use to signal the need for a break (e.g., tapping of the ears). While self-monitoring an Auditory Break, the student independently decides to “cool-down” in the library nook of the classroom with a book and sets a timer for 3 minutes.
Identifying Auditory Break Needs
After class read alouds, a teacher notices a student with hearing loss often displays tantrum-like qualities (e.g., laying on the floor, crying, turning away from the speaker, covering ears) as the class transitions into follow-up discussions. The teacher monitors the student’s actions closely and recognizes that the displayed behaviors might be due to auditory fatigue and not defiance. To support the student with hearing loss in managing and coping with their personal needs, the teacher collaborates with the student’s educational team (e.g., D/HH Specialist, Audiologist) to create an Auditory Break schedule. The teacher then talks with the student about how these breaks will help build auditory processing stamina throughout the school day.

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