Hesperian Health Guides
Good schools meet deaf children’s needs
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All communities can have good schools for deaf and hearing children. It is not money, new buildings, or 'expert' teachers that make a good school. A good school pays attention to all the needs of its students and has committed teachers who help children of different hearing abilities learn and use language.
Schools that respond to the many different needs of deaf children can make a great difference in their lives.
Schools can cooperate with health care services and hospitals to provide hearing and eye tests, and hearing aids and eyeglasses. Schools can be made available for vaccination campaigns to make it easy for parents to get the children vaccinated. And schools can include nutrition and sanitation in the subjects they teach.
Schools can make time for deaf children to learn and play with hearing children, and not allow children to tease each other. When schools teach about the history and importance of deaf people and the deaf community they can help deaf children feel important and build self-esteem.
When schools first include children who are deaf, they often make mistakes, despite their good intentions. Schools have to learn about deafness, just as deaf children and their families have to learn about schools. Here is a story of one family that persisted in getting their daughter an education and about the change that made in her life.
When Oyuna was 7 years old she started going to her neighborhood school, in a small town in Mongolia, with other children her age. Her parents had to work hard to convince the school to allow their deaf daughter to attend. The traditional belief in Mongolia is that deaf children are 'abnormal' and should not be with 'normal' children. Her parents felt very lucky that the director of the school agreed to admit her.
But even though Oyuna was going to school, she still had no means of communication except some gestures, pointing, and a few sounds. Her teacher at the neighborhood school could not communicate with her. It was soon obvious that Oyuna was not learning. Oyuna's parents began to lose hope because the only school for deaf children was in the capital city, very far from Oyuna's home.
Then a neighbor told them about a new program at another nearby school. A teacher at that school, whose own son was deaf, was helping to train the other teachers in basic sign language. The deaf children and the hearing children were all being taught in sign and in spoken words, in the same classroom.
Oyuna now goes to her new school happily every morning. The children in her class won a prize in a math competition among all schools in the town. And Oyuna got a prize for her good handwriting. Oyuna has changed from the sad, unsmiling girl who started school into a happy, playful child who often helps other children in her class.
Good schools have teachers committed to learning
The most important qualities in a teacher are that she expects deaf children can do well in school and life, and that she takes the time to learn about each child's needs and abilities.
Experience makes the best teacher
The class was small, so the teacher was able to spend time with each child. She learned to identify and make use of their strongest abilities to help them learn.
Many people think that a teacher with special training is the best teacher for deaf children. This is not always true. Training about deafness does not automatically make a better teacher. Many teachers of the deaf do not have the opportunity to train in their own country, so they go away to learn in places that are very different from their own communities. The ideas they learn in another country may be difficult to use or may not work at all in the schools and communities back home.
A teacher who is trained to teach deaf children can be a resource for other teachers. Teachers of the deaf and teachers with experience teaching hearing children can learn from each other and build on what they know. This sharing of experience benefits all children.
Deaf adults help deaf children learn
Deaf adults are probably the best teachers for deaf children. Good schools involve deaf adults in the classroom as teachers, translators, and assistants. Deaf adults understand the challenges deaf children face. Deaf adults can become role models for deaf children, and help create positive attitudes about deafness and deaf people.
Children can help each other learn
Many children need help to learn difficult ideas. Deaf children often need extra help and attention to learn skills like reading and writing. Children — deaf and hearing, older and younger — can help each other learn skills and feel comfortable at school.
Children can take part in their own educationA teacher in a school in Zambia encouraged the children to express themselves
One week the children chose to learn about the reason why people fight and have wars. Another week they chose to learn about the weather and the reasons it rained during the wet season. As the weeks went by, many children became more interested in what they learned. They behaved better and attended school more regularly.
By the end of the school year, the children even went around the village to find other children who weren't attending school and encouraged them to come.
When children are involved in their education and work together to solve problems, they get an education better fitted to their needs. They feel confident about themselves, about what they learn, and about their ability to make a difference in the world!
Family support at school is importantParents and families have a major role in the education of their deaf child. Parents have experience they can share with the school to help teach deaf
As parents become more aware of their child's right to education and ability to learn, they will themselves begin to make demands on local schools.