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 D.B., New York

I am helping my niece prepare for college. She is a high school student enrolled in a full academic program with a number of honors level courses. Interpreters are struggling with fingerspelling words in earth science and algebra. We have been advised to seek note-takers by one set of people and others suggest a laptop. The school district has limited resources. Can you steer me in a direction to find out which accommodations would serve her best. She wants to attend college and is interested in law. She is a diligent student.

Question from D.B., New York. Posted November 30, 2011.
Response from A.P. - NTID

You didn’t provide much information about your niece and her communication skills and preferences. You mentioned interpreters struggling with science and math signing, and we assume that your niece prefers that means of receiving academic information. If that is the case, there are resources on the Web that will help your niece and her interpreters identify signs for many science and mathematics terms. One resource that might help you is the online science signs lexicon at http://www.rit.edu/ntid/sciencesigns/. At the same time, make sure she keeps up with her reading. When it comes to test time, she will need to recognize and know the meanings of the technical terms, not just their signs.

Notetakers and real-time captioning (often now done with laptops) are additional support services that many deaf students use in high school classrooms around the country.  The accommodations that would best serve your niece would take into consideration her preferred support services and what is available in her school.  Often, a deaf student has an individualized education plan designed by the student, teachers, and parents, and they decide as a team what resources to provide.  Have you discussed this with your niece? Does she have such a plan (IEP) with her needs and the school resources defined?