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How to determine if a deaf school is suitable for your child

Posted Jan 20 2011 6:47pm

deaf school children.jpg
By Ewan MacDougal, St John’s School for the Deaf

Although many hard of hearing or deaf children attend public schools, some families still prefer schools for the deaf, as they are sometimes the better option for a child.

When a child is born with complete deafness, special education programs for speech and language development are sometimes necessary for his or her academic well-being. Hearing loss is typically diagnosed between ages two and four, by which time, many children have already suffered from considerable expressive and receptive language delays.

Whether the child's parents choose sign language, total communication, or signed English systems, selecting a school can be a monumental task. When determining if the child should attend a traditional school versus a deaf school, one should do the following:

Visiting and observing

Visit schools that are in session, both traditional and deaf, and try to picture the child in this setting. Does it appear to be an environment in which he or she will be comfortable? Is the atmosphere inviting or intimidating? Do the children appear to be absorbing what is being taught, or do they seem frustrated and distracted? Parents must be sure to observe children in a similar age group as their child. One should take note of things like how much class participation occurs, as well as the acoustics in the room.

Whether a deaf school or a traditional school, it is imperative that one meets the parents of other students, as well as teachers in the school. Do the teachers exhibit patience, and skill? Are the parents of other students satisfied with their children's academic process? Are support groups offered for parents, and are they allowed to observe classes in session if they wish to observe their child's progress? Are parents involved in the school? Is there a teacher-parent association? These are all vital components of satisfactory programs.

Parents should meet with the school's principal or director with some well thought out questions in mind. It is a good idea to write questions down, as it is easy to feel overwhelmed or intimidated in such a situation, and some of the most pertinent questions may be forgotten this way.

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Asking the right questions

Some good questions to ask include the average teacher to student ratio, what the typical yearly curriculum includes, and how much free time the children are given during the day. If one is visiting a deaf school, he or she may wish to ask if listening systems are utilised in the classroom, and if an audiologist is on staff who can troubleshoot problems with hearing aid devices. Similarly, if one is meeting with the administrator of a traditional school, he or she will want to ask how safe the outdoor playgrounds are for a deaf child. In addition, parents should find out if there are progress check systems utilised that are specially designed for deaf children. It is also a good idea to discover if other deaf children attend the school, and how they are faring.

Making a final decision

After visiting and observing as many schools as possible, one should be able to make an educated decision on which type of school will be best for his or her child. A family must consider that they may have to re-locate if a deaf learning establishment is chosen, while this will not be an issue with a traditional school.

Selecting a traditional or deaf education program for a deaf child will have a considerable impact on his or her future. It is essential to thoroughly research each option and select a program that will best meet the parents’ education goals for their child. With the right emotional support and education, a deaf child can grow up to be a highly successful individual.

St John’s School for the Deaf in Leeds, has just launched a new website. If you are currently deciding where your deaf child should go to school you may find the site helpful.

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