Inclusion Strategies For Teaching the Hearing Impaired
Since the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which advocates the placement of special needs students in the least restrictive classroom environment, children with hearing loss have increasingly been included in mainstream settings. Inclusion provides several advantages. Deaf and hard of hearing students can more efficiently learn to communicate with their hearing peers, they may feel less physically and socially isolated from other children, and they may have more access to certain academic or vocational opportunities.
When determining whether inclusion is the ideal option for a hearing impaired student, parents, teachers, and school administrators need to consider factors such as the availability of trained support aides, the district's access to assistive technological devices, the student's linguistic and academic levels, and the potential for effective peer and teacher communication.
Hearing Impaired Children In The Mainstream Classroom
A range of services are available to ease the adjustment of a deaf or hard of hearing student into an inclusive school environment. These services may consist of technological devices such as amplification systems and captioning services, or personal support through note takers and interpreters. Even without paraprofessionals, teachers can implement a few basic strategies to help hearing impaired students get the information they need, such as pre-teaching specialized vocabulary, writing readings and homework on the board, posting schedules and providing lesson outlines ahead of time. Arranging buddy systems can also be a benefit if students are missing information. Educators can usually access more information and training through itinerant staff in their school district, if they wish to learn more about classroom accommodations, teaching strategies or specialized equipment. Teaching children with hearing impairments can be challenging for mainstream educators, therefore some specific accommodations and inclusion strategies should be outlined by the IEP team prior to a student being placed in the regular classroom.
Some individuals and families rely on American Sign Language for communication and education, and others, who have slight to moderate hearing impairment, wear hearing aids and rely on lip-reading in the classroom. Either way, when a classroom includes students with hearing impairment, teaching strategies will need to be a little different from the norm.
Teachers should provide seating with an unobstructed view of the instructor and lesson materials. They may also need to become more linear in their activities to increase the student’s understanding. For example, they should write on the board, then turn around and give instructions, rather than teaching with their back to students. This may take practice, since teachers tend to be natural multi-taskers.
Regular education teachers and peers should strive to maintain eye contact when instructing or conversing with a hearing impaired student, even if an interpreter is needed to communicate information through sign language. It is important for everyone to wait until the student with hearing loss knows who to turn their attention to, before beginning to speak.
One way to encourage feelings of inclusion and confidence when teaching children with hearing impairments in the regular classroom, is for teachers to familiarize themselves with fingerspelling or basic sign language. School districts that have the means to offer hearing children an extracurricular course in sign language can help to foster communication and friendships for students with hearing difficulties.
Peers and school staff can access online simulators to gain an understanding of what it might be like to have a hearing loss. It would be helpful if they learned that hearing aids amplify every noise in the classroom, not just the teacher’s voice. This might help them to keep extraneous noise, such as tapping pencils and side conversations, to a minimum.
It is often helpful for the student with hearing loss, their parents or an educator to teach basic communication strategies to peers, at the beginning of the school year. Additionally, peers will benefit from learning about the technology they may see throughout the school year. Understanding equipment like hearing aids, cochlear implants and FM systems will eliminate any fear or anxiety about these devices, increasing the chances of positive interactions with the students who use them.
Encouraging Self-Advocacy Skills
When students with special needs attend general education classes, it is essential that they learn how to get their needs met early on. Many IEPs for students with hearing impairment include self-advocacy goals such as identifying optimal learning conditions, utilizing communication repair strategies and knowing who to ask for help. Another helpful strategy is to pair younger children with older hearing impaired students or adult mentors for additional support and sharing of their own personal learning strategies.
Over time, educators who work with students with special needs may find their methodology evolving. As they learn to cater to students with a hearing impairment, teaching strategies put in place for one child may become useful for several others in the classroom. Flexibly teaching in the general education classroom may lead to greater success for all.