NOTE: Since this post was written in 2011, digital hearing-devices are available to many pupils and students. Accordingly some are accessing sound for the first time – with more independence and self-directed learning in their classrooms.
The Special Needs Assistant (SNA) scheme in schools in Ireland was assessed in value-for-money terms by the Department of Education from 2007/8 to 2010. Their June 2011 report is online.
In the report, concern emerges that “excess [SNA] support may lead to an over-dependence by the student on … support, [with] loss of opportunity for the student to develop independent learning skills”. Separately, “an over-reliance by the class teacher on a student having such support”, can arise instead of the class teacher learning from the opportunity.
Given these concerns, teaching deaf and hard of hearing children independence works by using praise, not criticism, as learning tools.
The DES report’s findings in relation to deaf children and students:
- A ratio of 12 deaf/hard of hearing (hoh) pupils per SNA was advised in the 1993 Special Education Review Committee (SERC) report.
- SNAs “have a key role in supporting the needs of deaf/hoh students.”
- “The role of the SNA in Ireland should be restated… to include the necessary duties required to support the needs of deaf/hoh students.”
- This support can involve note-taking and/or use of ISL or SSE in class, checking audio-visual gear and providing deaf-awareness training.
- Where needed, a SNA for a deaf/hoh student reinforces concepts, provides follow-up instruction and facilitates academic participation.
Since 2011, hearing services for school-age children have drastically improved. Most deaf/hoh students do not need SNA support at school, but any teaching-support hours need prudent assignment. For a deaf/hoh student, a SNA is a teaching-assistant, not a carer. Accordingly, each SNA assigned to a school needs their responsibilities defined.