Over the decades, deaf and hearing-impaired students have variously been taught in regular classrooms, in special-needs units within mainstream schools and in specialized schools for the deaf. Including deaf students in the regular classroom can be beneficial in terms of educational and social experiences. However, certain adaptations or considerations will be necessary to successfully include deaf students alongside their hearing peers.
Noise and Sound
Many deaf students who will be integrated into a regular classroom have some residual hearing and also some language and speech capabilities. To make use of these skills, the classroom setup should be designed favorably for the deaf student or students in your class. Having deaf students sitting near the teacher can enable the instruction to be better heard. If a student has better hearing in one ear than the other, angle her work desk so that her better ear is closer to the teacher. Background noise can cause problems with hearing aids, so aim to minimize noise in the classroom and seat deaf students away from noisy implements such as an air-conditioning unit.
Deaf children who use sign language to communicate typically participate in the mainstream classroom with the aid of a sign language interpreter. Teachers should speak directly to the student rather than addressing questions or requests to the interpreter. It is helpful to provide both the student and his interpreter with written copies of lecture or course materials in advance of the lesson. Likewise, if you use video media in your classroom, provide scripts to the student and interpreter when possible. When an interpreter stands by the chalkboard or smartboard on which the teacher writes, she should stand near the area of board being written on -- this way, the deaf students in the class can view the board writing and the accompanying sign language simultaneously.
Many deaf students learn to lip-read and subsequently respond to what is said with speech or sign language. In the regular classroom, students who lip-read typically benefit from sitting closer to the teacher. As a teacher, you can help students to lip-read by looking directly at the class when you speak. Speak naturally, clearly and slowly -- do not shout or exaggerate your mouth movements as you talk. If you have facial hair, such as a mustache, keeping this trimmed away from your lips will help students to lip-read as you teach.
Being deaf can be an isolating experience in the hearing world, and opportunities for group work and discussion are one of the major benefits of educating deaf students in a mainstream classroom. When facilitating group work in the classroom, clarify the topic of discussion at the outset. Encourage all students to participate verbally, by asking and answering questions or giving reports. Pointing at the person who is currently speaking will help the deaf student to focus his attention and follow the discussion better. Visual cues such as waving can help get a deaf student's attention when it is her turn to talk to the group. Sitting in a circle will help students to see each other during group work.
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