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Deaf Students: A Teacher Resource Guide

For a child, growing up with deafness can be quite difficult to deal with when they enter school. They may feel left out socially when their peers are able to so easily communicate with each other. Schoolwork may suffer too if the teacher cannot manage to effectively transmit concepts and instructions to the deaf child. Falling behind in school and withdrawing socially can have many negative effects on the child’s behavior and personality, and some of it may become obvious in their home life too. However, over the years, there have been many techniques and methods developed to help draw deaf children in and allow them to become properly integrated in school. Have a look at the following information to learn how to adapt to and communicate with deaf children.

Types & Causes of Childhood Deafness

There are several different causes of deafness that occur in children. The first major factor is genetics. If there are occurrences of deafness in a child's family history, that child may be at higher risk of being deaf. While some children are born with this condition, others develop it in their early years. Since children are so delicate through their developing years, head injuries or severe cases of infectious diseases, such as meningitis, may cause deafness. Another way in which deafness occurs is during the fetal or birth period due to complications, infections passed on from the mother, or as a side-effect of drugs consumed by the mother while pregnant.

Signs of Hearing Loss or Deafness in Children

Some children may be able to hide their hearing loss or deafness for a while before parents eventually catch on. It is important to watch out for subtle signs that they may not be hearing as well as they should. Babies as young as newborns normally can detect and respond to sounds in some way or another. They may express this by gurgling, laughing, cooing or moving their heads towards the sound. Pay attention to these responses. A baby who does not react at all to any sound may be experiencing some degree of hearing loss. Toddlers may react similarly and they may also express negative emotions due to their frustration at being unable to properly understand what people are saying to them. Watch out for delayed speech development as well, or speech that sounds slurred or acoustically incorrect.

How to Effectively Communicate with Deaf Children

Unlike in the past, today there are many technological hearing aids and other devices that improve hearing for children. Kids with severe deafness may have a cochlear implant surgically inserted to improve their hearing. An FM system is one of the most widely used hearing aids today and it can be attached to the ear with an external earpiece. By communicating in sign language to the child while speaking to a class, the teacher can help the deaf child to follow the lesson at the same time as everyone else. Since children tend to pick up languages and concepts quickly, hearing children can also be introduced to ASL so that they can communicate effectively as well.

Adapting the Classroom

Adapting a classroom to include deaf children is not difficult, but there are a few aspects that require some changes. For example, when speaking to the child, try to pronounce words clearly and use gestures to illustrate your point. Too much chatter and other noise in the background makes it difficult for deaf kids to focus and hear properly, so help the other children understand that they need to be quiet. Give the child time to answer or express themselves. Remember that many deaf children have some speech difficulties. When showing movie clips in class, make sure that it includes subtitles. Visual aids, such as basic images or illustrated flash cards, can be used to help a deaf child understand a concept more easily. Drawing related images on the board while discussing a concept can help communicate the idea better for students with hearing loss. Try to incorporate a computer (with deaf-accessible programs) and a headset into the classroom as well.

Organizations & Other Resources

There are many organizations across the nation that help deaf children to adapt and learn how to cope with their impairment. Apart from this, they also provide tremendous resources for parents and teachers to learn how to better communicate with these children. These resources may range from instructional guides to online courses. Some organizations may even provide interpreters for the classroom.

The original deaflinx.com site was written and authored by Amy Frasu. Deaf Linx is now run by Ericka Wiggins. Here are the Facebook and Twitter pages for Deaf Linx.