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Students who are deaf and hard of hearing are primarily visual, tactile and kinesthetic learners.  The auditory modality alone has proven to be unsatisfactory for developing communication skills.  They learn by what they see and do. They learn by demonstration and interaction with others.

Communication with sign language is a clear way to communicate words and ideas. Learning and understanding verbal communication is difficult because the concept of verbal words being made up of combining individual speech sounds comes from hearing the sound while speech is occurring. By using the colorful FONEMZ shapes in conjunction with sound production, the student develops an understanding of the one to one relationship between the shape and speech sound presented. Association of color and shape with individual sounds is an effective and fun way to clarify and remember the process. By next combining sounds and connecting this verbal sound production with objects and sign language, the concept of verbalizing words becomes clear.

When working with deaf and hard of hearing babies, toddlers, preschoolers and early elementary students, incorporation of felt shapes and feeding puppets makes for a very inclusive and engaging activity for young learners. This approach is an evidence-based practice (Pieretti, 2015) Working with older students who have developed a strong language base, can improve the clarity of their communication by having a clear depiction of all the speech sounds in American English. The visual, tactile and kinesthetic aspects of the FONEMZ program are enhanced by encouraging autonomy, interaction and choice in every activity. Activities are hierarchical, and rapidly move form sound production, relating syllables to words, to word "building". When they have mastered independently building simple words with FONEMZ, the student is ready to begin relating mastered sounds to the alphabet, using the FONZABET. The students rapidly transition to the spelling and reading of real words, because all letter combinations in the FONZABET are color coded to match the color of the FONEMZ that make up the word.  

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