Teaching methods for deaf children and young adults worldwide have altered in recent years, with new hearing technologies and speech-to-text tools, according to a report from Project Forum, at the (US) National Association of State Directors of Special Education.
The Digital-Hearing Age
Infants are being given access to digital hearing at an ever earlier age. Advances in newborn hearing tests, digital hearing aids and surgical skills are seeing children under one year, receiving cochlear implants.
Controversial in the 1990s, cochlear implants are now routine for many deaf or hard of hearing children. Worldwide, implants give more deaf children access to verbal language – the core language of their family and the human population in general.
Instead of sending deaf/hoh children to special schools, the Project Forum report found a growing number of deaf and hoh children are being accepted into local mainstream schools, which are resourced to meet their needs.
Worldwide, the future of sign language is debated. Some in the US suggest a “toolbox” approach: moving from sign-language only to the auditory verbal approach (speech only) where a child never learns to sign, or to a bilingual model (English with sign).
Early Intervention With Hearing Devices
A growing research base confirms the success of cochlear implants and speech, BUT early diagnosis and sustained parent verbal interactions are key to childrens’ outcomes. Educating deaf children in mainstream schools also builds their real-world skills.
Trends show more families are choosing spoken language. In 2010, a pediatric audiology conference in New York, revealed between 89% and 95% of families are choosing a spoken language outcome for their children, with digital hearing devices.
In Ireland, deaf children have been mainstream-educated since the first group of children in the late 1960s and 1970s, and more recently with the 1994 Salamanca Statement (which Ireland ratified) and the 2004 EPSEN Act.
Changed Education Landscape
This means sign language is a minority route for families with deaf children in Ireland, where Census 2011 shows 1,077 people know and use sign language, from an estimated population of 850,000 with hearing issues. Just 0.01% of deaf people now sign, in Ireland.
With the number of schools for deaf children and the use of sign language falling, Project Forum advises more speech and language teachers for deaf children, especially when hearing-aids and cochlear implants are worn.
While interpreters will always be needed, recognising future workplace trends is essential. Sound Advice predicts that sign language interpreters who move into transcribing and captioning will get more work in the years to come.
How sign-interpreters can redirect their skills:
- Retrain to do speech, language and auditory work with young deaf children
- Captioning web-videos for deaf students’ use in education and training
- Certifying in live-captioning/stenography for students and professionals
- Note-taking for deaf/hoh students at third-level in particular
- Lip-speaking at conferences for deaf/hoh individuals who lip-read
- Providing essay and proof reading services for deaf students
- Designing physical environments for accessibility (sound, lighting)
- Interpreting in a specialist area: medical, legal, retail, transport
- Conveying deaf peoples’ diverse needs to corporates, employers and service staff
- Professional coaching for deaf people: CVs and interview skills
(compiled by Caroline Carswell and Nicola Fox)
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