Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Question from J.H., Michigan

I am working with a 4th grade hard of hearing student in a mainstreamed setting. He receives no resource room and this is not a Deaf Ed or Hearing Impaired program so there is no Deaf Ed or HI teacher present. It is obvious that my student has other deficits in addition to his severe to profound hearing loss. He uses hearing aids as he is not a candidate for cochlear implantation. As a young child he signed before he could speak and as he’s become older he stopped signing and only uses his voice. However when receiving information he appears to “space out” and lose all focus of the lecture. Sometimes he is looking in the complete opposite direction of me, the interpreter, as well as the teacher and any visual aids the teacher is using to demonstrate the task she wants them to complete next. Then when it’s time to do the assignment he has no idea what to do. He was recently tested for ADD, ADHD, and Autism but the results were sketchy as it’s hard to tell where the hearing loss is causing a loss of incoming information and where the attention decifit is preventing him from receiving new information or directions. He is now on medication to see if this will help his ability to stay on task and attentive. As an interpreter who has worked with this inparticular student for several years I have developed some strategies that seem to help him aquire the meat of the lessons. In my experience with him he learns best through hands on activity and one on one work. It is also my opinion that a straight up interpretation of what is being said is ineffective. He learns information best through conversation. For example if we’re working on multiplication in math (48×3), in the event that he stops working, I’ve found it to be most beneficial to say “what do we do next? You finished multiplying the 8 and the 3, you wrote down a 4 but what else do we need to do? 8×3=4? and he’ll reply “no, it not equal 4, it equal 24″ then I’ll say, “ok where did the 2 go?” and with this he’s back on task. If we’re watching a movie about a lion stalking it’s prey I find that straight up interpreting the narrator is unproductive. So I will say “hey!, what’s the lion doing?” and try and engage him in the movie through a conversation. I understand this isn’t the most common use of interpreting services and my team is having an issue with the student’s lack of automony or ability to work independently. I agree he is at an age where independent work should be something he is capable of doing but I don’t agree with the approach of cutting off all support. Any advice on how I, as the interpreter, can support his independent working, language development, and comprehension of the lessons with out appearing to be “helping” or “aiding” or stunting his automony development? Should I revert to straight up interpreting and watch him fall further and further behind his hearing peers? Any advice for the teacher or the rest of my team?

Question from J.H., Michigan. Posted February 14, 2011.
Response from Jennifer Adams & Kate Rizzolo - NTID

It seems clear that the student needs more than straight interpretation, and that may violate the role/job description of educational interpreters in the current setting.

Consequently, someone needs to request a new IEP meeting for this student!! Very detailed explanations about what the student is able to do and the needs (what the student’s weaknesses are stated in terms of what would support him in his learning) should be developed with all IEP committee members’ input (including the interpreter).  This may serve the purpose of clarifying several issues that can be seen:  1.  Is the current placement appropriate for the student?  2.  What types of supportive and related services are really appropriate for the student?  3.  Should a 1:1 assistant (who is an interpreter, but hired to be an assistant) be placed with the student as opposed to an interpreter?  4.  What evaluations and assessments will appropriately gauge the student’s needs?  5.  Should a Deaf Ed/HI program be located to which the student can attend?

Allowing a child to sink in the name of “developing autonomy” because he does not know how to swim will not help him develop the ability to swim.  He needs to be taught how to swim.  Otherwise the only thing that will happen is that he will become fearful of the water and cease interest or attention to it at all.