By admin | October 28, 2012
Teaching methods for deaf children and young adults around the world have altered in recent years, partly due to new technologies and speech-to-text tools, according to a report from Project Forum, at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, in the US.
The Digital-Hearing Age
Children are being given access to some digital hearing at an ever earlier age. Advances in newborn hearing tests, digital hearing aids and surgical skills are seeing children under one year, receiving cochlear implants.
Controversial in the 1990s, cochlear implants are now a routine option for some deaf or hard of hearing children. Worldwide, implants give more deaf children access to verbal language – the core language of their family.
Instead of sending deaf/hoh children to special schools, the Project Forum report found an ever-increasing number of deaf and hoh children are being accepted into mainstream classes, which are resourced to meet their needs.
Worldwide, the future of sign language is debated. Some professionals in the US suggest a “toolbox” approach to teaching: moving from sign-language only to a bilingual model (English and sign), where sign language is used as a supplement to the cochlear device, particularly when a child is bathing or sleeping.
Early Intervention With Hearing Devices
These professionals urge caution with the success rates of cochlear implants and amplified speech, BUT early diagnosis is key to childrens’ outcomes. In some parts of the US, educating deaf children in mainstream schools is seen as a way to reduce the expense of special schools for deaf children.
Regardless, the trends show more and more families are choosing the route of spoken language. In 2010, a pediatric audiology conference in New York, revealed between 89% and 95% of families are choosing a spoken language outcome for their children, facilitated by digital hearing technologies.
In Ireland, deaf children have been mainstream-educated since the first group of children in the late 1960s and 1970s, and more recently with the 1994 Salamanca Statement (which Ireland ratified) and the 2004 EPSEN Act.
Changed Education Landscape
This means sign language isn’t always a default route for families with deaf children in Ireland, where Census 2011 shows 2,297 people know and use sign language, from an estimated population of 850,000 with hearing issues.
With the number of schools for deaf children and the use of sign language decreasing, Project Forum advises there is more need for speech and language teachers for deaf children, especially when hearing-aids are worn.
While interpreters are likely to always be indispensable, recognising future workplace trends is important. IDK predicts that sign language interpreters with a broader skill-set will get more work in the years to come.
Some suggestions for sign-interpreters to diversify their skill set:
- Speech, language and auditory work with young deaf children
- Caption web-videos for deaf students’ use in education and training
- Training facilities/service staff that deaf people have diverse needs
- Train in live-captioning/stenography for students and professionals
- Note-taking for deaf/hoh students at third-level in particular
- Lip-speaking at conferences for deaf/hoh individuals who lip-read
- Providing essay and proof reading services for deaf students
- Designing physical environments for accessibility (sound, lighting)
- Interpreting in a specialist area: medical, legal, retail, transport
- Professional coaching for deaf people: CVs and interview skills
(compiled by Caroline Carswell and Nicola Fox)