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 M.Z., California

When and/or how much will a deaf student fall behind his hearing peers in school if he needs but does not have an interpreter

Question from M.Z., California. Posted November 3, 2011.
Response from Brenda Seal - Gallaudet University

A deaf student who enters school with the same language-literacy skills as hearing “grade-level” peers should not fall behind if the IFSP, IEP, or 504 plan recommendations are appropriate and followed. If, however, recommendations call for an educational interpreter and one is not provided, then we would expect harmful consequences, but we can never really know the degree to which or direction in which learning will be affected.

A deaf student who enters school lagging behind grade-level hearing peers will likely continue lagging at the end of the school year(s), even when IFSP, IEP, or 504 recommendations are appropriately provided. That’s because the best predictors of success in school tend to be strong language-literacy foundations at the onset of school. Frankly, we can never be sure how much a student’s skills will compensate the lack of an interpreter or interact with an inadequate or talented interpreter to shift learning from one direction to another. Multiple variables on any given day, week, month or school year influence the learning we all experience. That’s why federal laws guide those of us who inform decisions to view each case in its totality and, when moving the learning gauge, stack the supports to favor maximum.