The Critical Shortage of TODs: What This Means for Our Kids

Compiled by Candace Lindow-Davies, H&V Headquarters

As parents of children who are deaf and hard of hearing (D/HH), we know they have unique needs which require specialized instructional support. In the past, we may have had highly qualified/trained professionals guiding our family and child right away. While we may have seen for ourselves the important role a teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing (TOD) can play, we may not have fully grasped the shortage of TODs in the field. Nor may we have understood the challenge of advocating for specialized educators and managing a work force of qualified staff, so TODs are at the ready when our children need them. Hands & Voices (H&V) has turned to some experts in the field of deaf education to learn more about these challenges, how they impact our children, and what parents can do to help.

Why do you think there is a shortage of TODs?

Sidebar Articles with Important References

These two short pages below appeared as sidebars to the main article in the Fall 2019 Communicator.

  1. What is the role of Deaf/Hard of Hearing Teachers?
  2. TOD Shortage: Professional Resources 
    Our panelists shared ideas for professionals coping with teacher shortages. 

Karen Anderson, Audiologist and Director of Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss, shared “I conducted a survey a couple of years ago about the role of TODs. Of the 267 respondents, 40% were planning to leave the field within 5 years. Many of our TODs have been in the field 20 plus years. The number of teachers in training programs has not kept up with those retiring. The move to full inclusion, with a focus on consultation and a lack of direct service is happening. Many TODs got into the field to teach students rather than consult with other educators, so satisfaction is an issue. Also, there appears to be a growing trend to underserve students, meaning not provide the direct specialized support needed to meet their unique deaf/hard of hearing (D/hh) needs, and rather have a special educator provide support. This can be hard for TODs who recognize more intensity and D/hh-specific targeted services are needed for student success. In rural areas it is especially hard to attract TODs and they are more likely to face this model. While there is a shortage of TODs in most places, the rural areas have the biggest challenge hiring/retaining teachers.”

Dr. Harold Johnson, Emeritus Professor/Kent State University, and creator/founder of, added, “Faculty from the remaining deaf education teacher preparation programs are retiring and often not being replaced; thus, accelerating the closures of more deaf education teacher preparation programs plus severely restricting the preparation of new faculty to enter deaf education teacher preparation. Johnson notes that Dr. Susan Lenihan from Fontbonne University wrote a 2011 article entitled, Trends and Challenges in Teacher Preparation in Deaf Education, which he considers a very good source of information.

What are some creative things being done about the shortage issue?

Rebecca Jackson, President of the Council for Exceptional Children’s Division for Communication, Language and Deaf/Hard of Hearing, offered “The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) at the U.S. Department of Education recognized the need to increase the number of leaders in administration, higher education, policy, and education to improve the interventions, services, and outcomes for children with sensory disabilities (deafness/hard of hearing, deafblindness, blindness/visual impairment).1 In response, OSEP created the National Leadership Consortium in Sensory Disabilities (NLCSD) to provide support to doctoral students in the areas of sensory disabilities. Thirty-four doctoral scholars have taken part in the NLCSD. In addition, OSEP has offered competitive personnel preparation grants to educator preparation programs since 1958 to ‘help meet state-identified needs for adequate numbers of fully certified personnel to serve children with disabilities.’2

At the Federal level, grant/loan forgiveness programs support individuals pursuing or holding a degree in education. Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants provides up to $4,000 per year to students who agree to teach for four years at an elementary school, secondary school, or educational service agency serving students from low-income families and to meet other requirements.3 Once they begin their career, educators may be eligible for teacher loan forgiveness.”

Barbara Raimondo, Executive Director of the Conference of Educational Administrators of School and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD), “Many in Washington are trying to address this issue. For example, the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Service provides information and advocacy on this topic. There have been a number of IDEA full funding bills over the years that attempt to provide sufficient funding. The Committee for Education Funding ( sets out recommendations for personnel prep funding. There is no one answer to address this.”

Anderson: “It is starting to be a trend for schools to accept tele-education solutions ranging from 100% remote services, to remote consultation and instruction with students interspersed with onsite observation, assessment, and some direct instruction. There is much that needs to be perfected in how best to provide itinerant D/HH support via tele-education, but some early reports sound very good. CID (Central Institute for the Deaf) is providing some remote consultation and mentoring services and Utah State University has a tele-intervention program. “

Johnson: “In addition, it should be noted that one goal of when it came online in January of 2000 was to assist school districts in finding deaf ed teachers for open positions. I would hazard to suggest that most programs serving students who are D/hh do not know about  As a result, openings go unfilled I would also suggest that when programs cannot find qualified teachers of the deaf, they work to change state standards so that the individual they can find are considered "qualified" to teach students who are D/hh. Finally, I would suggest that there is a gap between the prep that deaf ed preservice teachers receive and the roles they are expected to fill. This is especially so in relation to itinerant positions.” 

What can parents do if their child does not have a TOD?

Mary Cashman-Bakken, J.D. and Minnesota State Specialist: D/HH – Minnesota Department of Education advised, “Parents could ask for consultations from a neighboring district who has a TOD, consider other placement options, and look at state and national websites to see what resources are available. Parents could also check with their state monitoring and compliance departments in their respective state Department of Education agencies for further assistance.”  

Raimondo: “Parents can use the tool “Optimizing Outcomes for Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Educational Service Guidelines,” published by the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, as an advocacy tool, spelling out what systems should include.”

Anderson: “Due to the low incidence of deafness, the school district often has no idea what the unique needs of our students are, how auxiliary aids and services play a role, the requirement for communication effectiveness the same as peers (equal access) by ADA, and how instruction needs to differ. It is often up to parents to seek resources and understand the needs, ADA and required accommodations such as hearing assistance technology, interpreters, and captioning. Parents need to start early, keep the focus on raising awareness for multiple years, and then often help the district locate the TOD resources their child needs, especially as the language/vocabulary/academic requirements step up in grade 3 and above. This is why H&V is such a critical resource!”

Anna Paulson, Coordinator of Educational Advancement and Partnerships at the Minnesota Commission of the Deaf, Deafblind & Hard of Hearing, shared the DCD Position Statement written by Jackson/Raschke/Paulson and approved by the Council for Exceptional Children to provide guidance on the legal implications of NOT hiring a TOD to serve D/hh students:

Johnson:  "The primary problem of deafness is not a lack of hearing, but an abundance of isolation from peers, high expectations and effective learning opportunities. The chronic and increasing shortage of highly qualified teachers of students who are D/hh increases student isolation. Parents can begin to address this shortage by recognizing effective teachers and encouraging school administrators to both post jobs and search for teachers on, a resource for us all."  

Paulson: “I would say that for those of us who are Teachers of the Deaf/hh (or a teacher in any field), the level of respect for our training has increased and the pay is more aligned to the work. Teaching is a noble profession and parents can encourage their child to become a TOD.”

While TOD shortages are a reality and each school may tackle the challenge differently, parents have many tools, programs and allies to turn to, including the Hands & Voices ASTra, educational advocacy program ( We hope the discussion here raises awareness and shares strategies to make the case for specialized services targeted to the specific needs, subtle and otherwise, of our child’s development.  ~





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