Hesperian Health Guides
Different kinds of schools for deaf children
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Children who are deaf or cannot hear well can go to school and learn a lot, including skills they will need to earn a living. They can learn in regular classes together with hearing children, or separately with other deaf children.
Even though you may not have many choices about the kind of school to send your child to, knowing about schools is important because:
- it can help you think about what would be best for your child.
- it can help you work with your school to make the school better for deaf children.
- it can help you work with the community to get the kind of school that families with deaf children need.
Deaf children can learn in the same classes as hearing children
Teaching deaf children and hearing children in the same class is often the only way a community is able to educate deaf children. Children who hear may tease or ignore deaf children because of the way they speak or because they may not understand what people say. But if people make an effort to stop that kind of hurtful behavior, deaf children can have the opportunity to make friends with hearing children and to become part of the local community.
Some local schools teach everyone sign language so deaf children are not left out. Or they spend extra time to teach children who cannot hear well to speak.
Benefits of learning with hearing children
- Deaf children can continue living at home with their families.
- It is often less expensive.
Difficulties of learning with hearing children
- Children who can hear may tease or ignore deaf children.
- Teachers may not be able to learn much about deafness or how to teach children with different hearing abilities.
- There may not be enough people fluent in sign language to learn a complete language. The child's mental development may suffer.
Ways to support deaf children in hearing classrooms
It is not enough just to open the school doors to deaf children. A deaf child who learns in a regular classroom needs a teacher and classmates who can communicate with her. Lessons must be taught in a way deaf children can understand. If a deaf child cannot understand, she will not learn.
When schools do not provide enough support for deaf children, they will not learn as well as hearing children. If schools expect deaf children to learn less, then all children will learn the same thing — deaf children are less capable. This idea is not true and harms everyone.
Offer extra training to teachers so they can learn how to
communicate with deaf children
A teacher who has not worked with children who are deaf or who can hear only a little may be unsure about how to teach a child who does not hear well. Talk to the teacher about the child's needs and abilities, and see if there are simple ways to make learning easier for the child.
If a child can hear a little or read lips, the teacher should face the child when she speaks and check often to make sure the child can see her mouth.
Let the child sit close to the teacher. She will be better able to see the teacher's lips move. She will also be less distracted by the movements of other children.
Help schools meet a deaf child's needs:
- Teachers can prepare the rest of the school — the other teachers and children — to welcome deaf children. They can teach everyone in the school about deafness and about how deaf children learn best by seeing.
- Deaf adults can help the teacher or the students learn sign language. They can help the teacher in the classroom by giving extra attention to the deaf students.
- Because children who are deaf or cannot hear well learn by seeing, schools can help them have their eyes checked and get glasses, if needed.
Parents can meet with a child's teachers to get information about what and how she is learning. This will help parents strengthen and build on what their child is learning at school. They can also tell the teacher about what the child does at home. That way the teacher can include things from the child's experience in her lessons.
Deaf children can learn in their own group
Children who are deaf or cannot hear well can learn in separate classrooms for deaf children in a local school, or in separate day schools or residential schools.
Many local or national associations, or government, religious, community, or aid organizations have started separate schools or classrooms to educate children who are deaf or cannot hear well. These organizations may even offer scholarships for deaf children to study in such schools or classrooms. Bringing deaf children together in their own schools or classrooms creates a community of children who otherwise might have been isolated from each other.
When children attend schools like these, they often learn sign language. Family members will be able to communicate better with their children if they learn sign language too.
Deaf children live at these schools and return home only for weekends or holidays. Children at residential schools often learn skills for work, like computers, mechanics, art, and farming, as well as reading, writing, and math.
Families sometimes worry about their children when they are far from home. Communicating with families of other students, visiting their children at school, and meeting the children's friends and teachers can help parents feel more comfortable when their children are away at residential schools.
Like anywhere else where children live, there are chances for abuse at a residential school (see Chapter 13 for information on abuse). Parents must encourage their children in residential schools to communicate their problems to teachers, house parents, and others.
Most deaf people who have studied in residential schools found the experience good. Even though they missed their families, the school gave them more opportunities to communicate with a larger group of people, and the deaf students created close communities with other students and the staff.
Day schools for the deaf
These day schools teach only deaf students. The children live at home with their families and continue to interact with hearing children and adults in their community.
Separate deaf classes in local schools
In some schools, deaf children spend the entire day in a separate classroom and see hearing children only during breaks. In other schools, deaf children spend part of the day in classrooms with hearing children, learning art, mathematics, or doing exercise. The ages and abilities of children in the special class may vary.
Benefits of learning only with other deaf children
- Most deaf schools and classrooms have teachers with special training to teach deaf children. These teachers can usually meet the deaf children's needs and attend to each child.
- Deaf children feel less isolated when they can communicate with all the people around them.
- Deaf children have opportunities to play, learn, develop social skills, and create friendships.
- Children can meet and interact with deaf adults who work at the school.
- Some deaf schools or classrooms also help deaf children get hearing tests and hearing aids.
Difficulties of learning only with other deaf children
- Deaf children who study in separate schools may not learn how to live and interact comfortably with people in the 'hearing world'.
- The schools may be far away and costly.
- Classes may include children of different ages. It may be difficult for teachers to meet their different needs.