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An inability to comprehend verbal language due to an inability to hear characterizes deafness. The official definition of deafness from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is “a hearing impairment that is so severe that the child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification.” The phrase “with or without amplification” is significant as it indicates that a hearing aid will not provide sufficient accommodation so that the student can succeed in the classroom.
Hearing loss varies in severity; however, as IDEA’s definition specifies, deafness entails the most severe cases. Impairments can affect the ability to hear intensity (loudness, measured in decibels), pitch (frequency, measured in hertz) or both. Typically hearing loss above 90 decibels is considered deafness, according to National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY).
Students who are deaf face several educational barriers, which can make the following tasks difficult:
- Learning by lectures
- Participating in classroom discussions
- Giving oral presentations
- Taking oral exams
- Note taking
- Watching educational films
Additionally, NICHCY identifies language arts as a potentially problematic subject, specifically in topics such as vocabulary, grammar and word order.
Tips for Teachers and Parents
Armed with the right accommodations, students can overcome every educational challenge listed above. For instance, NICHCY notes that a child who is deaf could receive assistance from a note taker so that he or she can focus on lip reading during lectures, and that arranging priority seating at the front of the classroom can enable a child to lip read more effectively. A sign language interpreter can also assist by translating spoken lectures. Teachers, using PowerPoint presentations to accompany your lectures can help as well.
A sign language interpreter can also be of assistance during classroom discussions. The same goes with lip reading, although that may prove more difficult depending on the proximity of the classmate speaking. Text-to-speech assistive technology offers a deaf student the ability to share comments with the class if he or she does not use a sign language interpreter.
The same text-to-speech assistive technology can enable a student to give oral presentations and take oral exams. See 7 Apps to Use as Assistive Technology for text-to-speech iPad apps to consider. When watching educational films, enabling captions and ensuring that the child who needs to read them is seated where he or she can see them can solve potential problems. Finally, extra classroom time focused on English or the help of an English tutor can counteract the challenges this subject presents for deaf students.