Deaf children need to try extra hard to learn. Simultaneous development of reading skills and sign language interpretation requires extra effort from both teacher and students. The bilingual development is challenging because the deaf need to deal with restricted access to spoken vocabulary due to their natural impairment.
Challenges of the hearing impaired
They have to depend on alternative ways such as lip reading and understanding the context of the discussion. Parents and teachers do not always have fluent sign language skills. Acquiring vocabulary by reading does not happen much either.
Since the hearing impaired have to map every single letter of the alphabet to a motion of the lips, the learning process needs special attention. Teachers must have special training of teaching protocols such as the Linguistic Interdependence Model by Cummins (1981). It takes special effort on the part of teachers and parents.
The complexity of the sign language community further complicates the issue, as there is no universal language for the hearing impaired. Besides specially trained teachers, it is imperative for parents to learn a suitable sign language to communicate with their children.
Some of the techniques employed by educators include:
- Repeated reading of the same text complemented by sign languages to reinforce the vocabulary
- Developing listening skills with patience so that the children learn to map the movement of lips with the words
- Introducing special group settings for the hearing impaired
- Starting with a simplified idea before proceeding on to a complicated concept
- Teaching must be optimally visual
- Using music to teach as many songs have repeated use of words
- Constant individual interaction between the teacher and the student
Similar to the hearing children, the deaf students also have different levels of understanding. This depends on several factors including the varying degree of deafness. The cooperation from parents and teachers is vital. Many acquire deafness at a later stage of life. Such students have the natural advantage of enhanced vocabulary.
Recognizing the individual differences between students is vital. Incorporating group study strategies among children with different degrees of deafness can be very helpful. The strong community feeling of the hearing impaired enables the students with more vocabulary than the others to help their lagging classmates to learn.