“After joining the school things became a lot easier as I not only found supportive teachers but also classmates, thanks to sign language,”
I recently read an article about a school in Rwanda, that had begun to incorporate sign language into their classes, in an attempt to accommodate for students with hearing impairments (Mushimiyimana, 2017). The Special Education Guide (n.d) defines hearing impairment as “an impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance but is not included under the definition of ‘deafness.’”. This definition does not focus on defining the severity of the disability, but on how it impacts a student’s ability to learn.
Reading this article made me consider: how can we make our school environments more inclusive for deaf or hearing impaired students?
Here is a range of strategies to consider when teaching students with hearing impairments:
- You must consider how they choose to communicate and focus on making this possible in your class and school community. For example, if one student chooses to lip-read, focus on making this easier for them, however, if another student chooses to use sign language, you should also try to accommodate for this.
- Ensure that learning spaces are appropriate; there should be minimal background noise, especially during crucial teaching moments or instructional times. Students should have space within the classroom that allows them to hear and best learn; this may simply be a table closer to the teacher.
- Allow them to feel valued within the classroom, not as though they are a burden or not an equally important and valued member of the class and school community. This may be through incorporating awareness days or programs about hearing impairments or creating spaces that make it easier for students with hearing impairments to interact with others.
Another thing I considered when creating an inclusive environment for hearing impaired students was making it easier for them to communicate with teachers and other students. This can be very difficult if teachers or peers cannot communicate through sign language, so I thought why not simply teach sign language at school as an additional language? The Australian Curriculum has a complete program for teaching AUSLAN, which is not only beneficial for students with hearing impairments but will also be a beneficial learning experience for all students. If you want to know more about AUSLAN in the Australian Curriculum or how it is incorporated, have a look here.
Like always, I simply recommend considering the needs of each individual student; not every student with a hearing impairment will need the same support or will benefit from the same programs, so, ensure that what you are doing is the best for each individual student.
Thanks for reading, I hope you learned something reading this post, I know I definitely learned a lot researching and writing it!
ACARA. (n.d) Australian Curriculum – AUSLAN. Retrieved 22nd October 2017, from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/languages/auslan/.
ADCET. (n.d) Hearing Impairment and Deafness. Retrieved 22nd October 2017, from https://www.adcet.edu.au/inclusive-teaching/specific-disabilities/deaf-hearing-impaired/.
Mushimiuamana, D. (2017). Inclusive Education: Students learn sign language to support their classmates with hearing impairment. Retrieved 22nd October 2017, from http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/221075/.