How To Support a Child with Hearing Impairment or Hard of Hearing in School
By Ellie Plotas
Seeing the ability in disability is the responsibility of society and the academic community.
If we ask a child to describe a dandeline, they would say that they can see something merry, happy; but if we asked an adult to describe what they see, they would say a plant, something dull. This is because children always see the happy version of things -it is that simple; it is adults who change the way they see things through their perspective. When we fail to shift our perspective, we fail to see opportunity. Maybe it’s time for us academics, parents, adults, to take some notes from our 5-year-old self. Children respond to what we instill in them.
Having hearing impairment or being hard of hearing can be a frustrating, isolating and an ultimately unproductive experience for a child without the appropriate accommodations. A supportive environment for many hearing-impaired children to learn is one in which they are not singled out as different, but benefit from the kind of adjustments which go unnoticed by others but are literally transformative for the child. For this to happen, it depends on the teacher and the teaching system as a whole. If children with hearing impairment, and not only, are not taught in the same schools using the same playground with their peers, then how do we expect them to embrace each other when they are adults and not be looked down upon?
A child whose hearing impairment negatively affects their learning is likely to withdraw further into themselves throughout their education, which has a knock-on-effect throughout the rest of their life. The frustration of being unable to express themselves and communicate is highly damaging and can impact future employment and their relationships with both others and themselves.
Why should children be discriminated depending on what we consider normal or not? Equal opportunities for all individuals with special needs should be taken for granted.
Having equal opportunities to learn requires that children with hearing loss have access to information that most hearing children have. This is where technology plays a vital role. Many beneficial impacts of technology rely on mobile networks and quality access to them. It has brought down barriers between the hearing and the hard of hearing in schools and places beyond.
Teachers and their mindset may need to change in order to follow today’s life circumstances. Students are not as they were in the past; they have changed too and are at a much more advanced level in comparison with what they used to be a decade ago.
Traditional curriculums silence students’ individual thinking, expressing, and acting, while penalising those learners who radically differ and deviate from what is established as the norm (Coates, 2017; Shalaby, 2017). Inclusive approaches to curriculum and syllabus design acknowledge student entitlement to instructional access and classroom participation prioritising students’ needs and interests (Everett & Oswald, 2018). Depending on the definitions of inclusion, inclusive curriculums may cross the spectrum from “narrow” to “wide”; where “narrow” refers to disabled students, and “wide” to students with immigrant or refugee backgrounds, socially unprivileged learners, etc. (Kiel et al., 2019; Niholm & Göransson, 2017).
The school should be following a wide inclusive curriculum embracing learner diversity and eliminating marginalisation of any kind. Our goal is to provide all learners with an equitable education fostering their intellectual, social, and personal potential (Mukminin et al., 2019). Three instructional and organisational approaches have been adopted for that purpose; Universal Design for Learning, Differentiated Instruction, and Multi-Tiered System.
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is an approach to teaching that offers all students an equal opportunity to succeed by providing flexibility in the ways students access material and show what they know. UDL also looks for different ways to keep students motivated (Morin, 2020). Differentiated Instruction (DI) is the process of personalizing lessons to meet each student’s individual interests, needs, and strengths. This process provides students with a choice and flexibility in how they learn, and helps teachers to tailor learning. This method also requires instructional clarity and clearly defined goals for learning, better enabling students to meet those goals (Loreman, 2017).
A multi-tiered system of supports is a teaching framework that promotes the success of all students by focusing on their well-being and achievement. It aims to give targeted support to struggling students and relies on multiple tiers of instruction and support in which teachers provide quality instruction across three tiers – whole group instruction, small group instruction, and one to one instruction. Within this framework, the collaboration of learners, teachers, families, and internal and external supports are essential to providing the right program, setting, support, and services (Miller, 2019).
The general English language level of the class is B2. According to CEFR (2020), the learners’ main competencies at this level are:
- Understanding the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in their field of specialization.
- Interacting with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible without strain for either party.
- Produce clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects and explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
Tips for teaching children with hearing impairment
– Make use of all available technology
– Use captions
– Use visual stimuli
– Minimise background noises to a minimum
– Consider classroom arrangements
– Have an ear buddy
– Clear pronunciation
Equality or Equity
Technology has come such a long way in the last few decades we should take advantage of this to the fullest to make schooling appropriate for all in the same school environment. With technology all children with any kind of learning difficulties are able to be taught in the same setting with minor adjustments. This will help not only them but us as a society and then and only then will we be able to talk about equality and equity.
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Ellie Plotas is working her way up to an MA in teaching from Staffordshire University, England, and Unicert College, Greece. Born and raised in Australia and then moving to Greece, she has studied in both countries obtaining various diplomas, including TEFL and TESOL, based on Child Psychology in Education and Dyslexia. She has been running her own English Language School in Greece for the last 30 years.