A Message to the Educator

A friend who is a college professor asked me today what she can do to aid one of her students in her class. This student has a cochlear implant, and as she knew she was limited in her knowledge, she wanted to know what she should be aware of. I am naturally pleased she felt comfortable enough to ask me, and that she recognized there may be things she can do to facilitate her student ‘s success. So until she has a little time to converse with me on this topic, her question has me thinking back to my own experience and what I would recommend for you as the Educator.

My personal experience in high school and university, required me to speak with each one individually, and explain my needs and ask for help. Most were understanding, and most obliged willingly, but there were a few who were very resistant in changing anything to accommodate my needs.

My previous post on Communication Strategies is where one should start, when one has a Deaf or HOH person in their classroom, lecture hall, or seminar group. This information should also be referred to by the Teaching Assistants who often are the main instructors for the smaller class setting.

There are many different classroom settings at this level, lecture halls, smaller rooms for seminars or smaller group classes, and none of which are ideal for the Deaf or HOH student. Acoustics are often an issue, lighting, size of the room or hall, noises from other students, and so on. If it is difficult for the hearing student to hear or follow the lesson, it is even more so for the Deaf or HOH student. I recommend that professors or teachers sit in another lecture or class seminar, and spend some time observing the environment, with and without ear plugs in, to gain an understanding, even if only rudimentary, of how those settings alone impact the success of all their students. Those are things that cannot be changed, but one can at least understand the impact it has on their students.

Every teacher, professor, T.A. Has their own style of teaching, and different subjects definitely impact the methodology as well. Some of the things I am going to suggest is based on my own experience, and should provide a springboard for understanding the needs of your Deaf or HOH student. Most colleges and universities have a Special Needs office that provide advocates, information, equipment, and even photocopies of materials. Utilize that office if available, as that is what they are there for.

1. If your student has not already approached you, arrange a meeting to discuss their concerns, and what their needs are. Quite often they are vocal about exactly what they need, and should be taken at face value. Meet periodically to ensure they don’t need anything else.

2. Be willing to provide copies of lecture notes, or written materials to aid in following the lecture, lesson, or seminar. Even a synopsis is helpful, as it cues the student into what to listen for.

3. Be available for clarification or questions after the class. Especially if there was a large amount of topics covered, which may not have been covered in written materials provided. We all know discussions can go into different tangents, so not everything can be strictly prepared ahead of time.

4. Have fellow students arranged to be paid as note takers, even when the Deaf or HOH student misses a class due to illness. (Usually a Special Needs Coordinator arranges the payment, and equipment needed).

5. If Real Time captioning can be made available, use it.

6. If there is a sign language interpreter, provide a synopsis or lecture notes ahead of time, so they can familiarize themselves with the vocabulary. Work with them on positioning, and pacing of your lesson.

7. If an FM system is required, use it.

8. Try to be aware of lighting, extraneous noise, and reduce frequent movement as much as possible. Speak clearly.

9. If using media such as film or video, try to select those that provide subtitles or captions. This is difficult I know, but if none are available, then allow perhaps a loan of that video to the student to watch on their own with a classmate or interpreter.

10. If using an overhead frequently, or a PowerPoint presentation, be aware that a darkened room makes lip reading difficult. Provide copies if possible, and turn the light on when you speak. Put whatever text you can that is essential into the presentation.

11. For group work, smaller class settings, in addition to the communication strategies previously mentioned, follow up after the class to ensure all went well. Deaf and HOH don’t like to be singled out so usually they will be proactive in these situations with their needs.

12. Allow for different methods of presenting individual assignments, as some may feel self conscious of their speech, or their own communicative strengths. As long as the information and knowledge is shown, it shouldn’t matter how the assignment is presented. Furthermore, quite often one that relies on ASL does not have the same language, vocabulary and understanding of grammar in their writing as a hearing individual. Be understanding when marking written assignments if the information does not make sense to you because of their background.

13. Allow extra time for tests and exams.

14. If using auditory materials in a lab setting, arrange for alternatives or exemptions based on their ability to comprehend (for example a language comprehension tape in French).

15. Instead of using the phone to contact your student, use text, email, or instant messaging. If you can create a forum for your classroom, using an application available on Android or iPhone, or iOS, use that to communicate to all your students the assignments etc. My daughter’s 7th grade teacher established one on (not positive) an app called Educabo…

I probably have not covered every scenario, but I hope at least, I have opened the door for accessibility with that Deaf or HOH student in your class. I also hope that there is a better understanding of the variety of ways that you as the Educator, may accommodate your student, and therefore facilitate their success in your class, and subject. The more accessible you are, the more approachable and positive you are, the greater the chances are that student will be more proactive, and enjoy the class more. I encourage you to seek out your school’s Special Needs office/coordinator, and gain some knowledge that can make you the professor, teacher that all students want to have.

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