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Education - Including Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in the Classroom

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Updated June 17, 2014

Are you a teacher who has a deaf or hard of hearing child in your classroom this year? Here are some tips from my personal experience, plus resources available on the web.

Tips from Personal Experience

I grew up mainstreamed in hearing classrooms before we even had a term like "inclusion." These tips are from my own experience.
  • Give deaf/hoh child seat in front or near front. This one is just common sense because the deaf/hoh student needs to be able to see the teacher and blackboard (or whiteboard) clearly.
  • Be careful about turning your back, because then the deaf/hoh child can not read your lips. Face a deaf/hoh student when talking to them directly.
  • Talk directly to the child, not to the interpreter (if there is an interpreter - I didn't have one). It is important to do this so that the child feels like he/she is part of the class.
  • To reduce the risk of a deaf/hoh child being bullied, encourage the child or child's parents to explain deafness/hearing loss to the class.[This is important. I remember that one resource teacher did not explain my deafness to the class, which set me up for being bullied. My mother was upset by this.]
  • Always write tests, quizzes, and homework assignments on the board. [When I was a child, I often missed out on such announcements and was surprised by quizzes that the rest of the class had known were coming. Good thing I was in the habit of reviewing the material so I didn't fail the "surprise" quizzes.]
  • If you have a mustache and the deaf/hoh child reads lips, consider shaving it off or reducing it to a small enough size that does not hinder lipreading.
  • If the class is watching a film, either make sure the film is captioned or provide the child with a copy of the script. This will avoid situations like what happened when I was a teenager, cutting class to avoid having to watch an uncaptioned Romeo and Juliet.
  • Do not treat a deaf/hoh child any differently from the hearing children. That means no special treatment.
  • Request the assistance of an itinerant teachers or resource teacher. They may have more suggestions and be able to provide assistance.
  • If a website used in the classroom has only audio, make notes for the deaf/hoh student (suggested by a deaf college student).
  • Provide an older deaf/hoh student with note takers, either peer or professional.
  • Be aware of the importance of classroom acoustics, as it has an impact on how much the deaf/hoh student is able to hear.

Resources on the Web

Further suggestions can be found on the following web resources:
  • Hands and Voices has a PDF, "Mainstreaming the student who is deaf or hard of hearing - A guide for professionals, teachers, and parents. Pages 17-20 are especially useful for teachers.
  • There is an online video transcript of the video "Make a Difference: Tips for Teaching Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing."
  • Listen-Up's page, "Information Packet for Your Child's Teacher" includes cochlear implant information for teachers. Interestingly, one of the tips is "no oral tests." To this day I wonder how I managed to get through all those oral spelling tests without benefit of an interpreter.

Books and Articles

Our Forgotten Children: Hard Of Hearing Pupils In The Schools (Third Edition) (compare prices), is published by the AG Bell Association. This book has become a classic, discussing the needs of hard of hearing children who can be overlooked. One article is "Investigating Good Practice in Supporting Deaf Pupils in Mainstream Schools," (Eric EJ627557), Educational Review, v53 n2 p181-89 Jun 2001. The abstract states that it is a survey that identified best practices for meeting the needs of deaf students in the mainstream.
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