The Core Points
- Newborn hearing tests (since 2012) and infant education give today’s kids a headstart.
- Today’s cochlear implants and hearing-aids give digital sound quality like never before.
- Infant verbal education leads children into preschool with peer-level spoken language.
Over 3,300 deaf children in Ireland (90%) are mainstream-educated, with under 4% using sign language (#NCSE, 2011). Currently in the US, 89% to 95% of hearing families choose a spoken language outcome for their deaf children (Teresa Caraway, PhD, 2012).
Is A SNA Needed?
Do deaf and hard-of-hearing children really need a SNA or resource teacher in mainstream education, and how will individual children in mainstream education be affected if supports are lost? While not all the children in question need extra resources, this issue needs planned, per-case action for the right resources to go to a child as required.
Many people in Ireland are unaware that 90% of deaf and hard-of-hearing children are mainstream-educated, with supports (State and home back-up). To address the teaching supports issue for these children, awareness of their modern needs is required. Policies for teaching supports must also consider the drastically improved outcomes for today’s children with infant detection and education.
Parent Requests For SNA Access
Parents sometimes request full-time SNA support when it is inappropriate because school-start is an anxious time. Mistakenly, they may believe they are entitled to SNA access when allocation is in fact according to need such as additional care, or other health issues.
For most young children, SNA access suffices, especially as the junior and senior infants curriculum is so hands-on. Further, if SNAs, resource teachers and visiting teachers do their job well, the children start to learn independently and need less support over time.
However, there are individual exceptions. A self-starting child with SNA support gets an ambiguous message that they need lots of help, so support needs balancing for each child.
Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) and Resource Teachers
There is a big difference between SNAs and resource teachers. SNAs work in the classroom alongside the class teacher, and are hired in a care role, not an educational role, to look after and support children with a disability or special needs during school hours.
For deaf and hard-of-hearing pupils, an SNA can ensure any communication needs are met, and the child is aware of processes in a classroom. SNAs are not always exclusive to one child, but can be shared between a few children with different needs (the norm now).
Resource teachers provide in-class support, team teaching and/or one-to-one tutoring. These qualified teachers work on foundation literacy, numeracy, pre-tutor and rehearse material before a class (phonics, new topics and extended language). They also review concepts the child has not understood, in line with learning goals in their education plan.
SNA Allocations To Deaf Children
Deaf children with significant additional difficulties tend to have SNA support for their school career. SNAs are about care, health and safety, equipment and clarification of instruction. Deaf-only pupils at second level, might have pre-tutoring and resource teaching, not a SNA.
Many late-detected primary school children with hearing issues start school with SNA access and become independent. For children in a small rural school class of 8 pupils with resource support, there is barely space in a room for a SNA, who may not be needed in that context.
In allocation terms, pupils with mild and unilateral hearing loss do not typically need SNA support. Occasionally full time SNA support may be applied for, on behalf of a very high-need child with complex (medical) needs, or who is terminally ill.
Most often, older pupils at primary school level become independent and manage their own FM equipment with help from teachers if necessary.
Making A Case (As Needed)
If your child’s SNA and/or resource teaching hours are cut, these practical solutions give possible work-arounds. For some parents, writing to TDs and local media achieved the required change to their child’s supports. Each child needs different supports and these sometimes have to be quantified.
Having an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and reviews with your child’s Visiting Teacher, Audiologist and Speech Teacher will alert you to when extra school supports may be needed on an occasional, or ongoing basis.
(compiled by Nicola Fox, with input from Caroline Carswell)
- New School Year – A Quick Reference List
- Learned Helplessness: When Less Support Is More
- Classroom Teaching Assistants Can Be A ‘False Economy’
- Proposed SNA Cuts – Just The Tip Of An Iceberg?
- What To Do If Your Child’s Support Hours Are Cut
- Why SNAs Can Be So Important To Deaf Children
- SNA Provision: The DES Value For Money Report