Raising Deaf Children

Computer Learning for Deaf Children

Literacy

Imagine if the only language you could speak was Japanese and the only language you could read was English. That's the literacy challenge children using sign language face. An 2007 article by Pieter Reitsma, Ph.D., appearing in the "Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education" explains that since there is no direct link between signed words and written words, children with hearing impairments struggle with literacy and have much lower average reading comprehension than their hearing peers. The study showed that computer-based tools can help deaf children improve their reading skills by using exercises designed to teach them to mentally "sound out" new words like hearing students do.

Speaking & Lip Reading

Cochlear implants can help some deaf children hear but these students then need to learn to speak. The surgeries are often done well after hearing children have started to speak so the children with hearing impairments need some extra help. An animated talking head named Baldi, developed by the Oregon Health and Science University OGI School of Science and Engineering, helps these children develop spoken language more quickly than other programs can. The software has also been used to help children who haven't received cochlear implants learn to read lips more accurately.

Incorporated ASL

Schools typically accommodate students with hearing impairments by assigning ASL interpreters. It can be difficult for the school to assign enough interpreters or to replace an interpreter who is absent on a given day. Some educational software, such as Mathsigner which was presented at the 2010 NTID International Symposium on Technology and Deaf Education, includes animated ASL so deaf students can not only learn the material but learn the associated signs. Another application uses multimedia tools to teach students specialized signs used in topics such as science or technology.

Information Presentation

The NTID symposium demonstrated a number of other computer technologies designed for hearing impaired students. One application used webcams to consolidate multiple sources of information, such as an ASL interpreter and a teacher writing on a chalkboard, onto a single screen on the student's laptop that can be recorded for later review. Speech-to-text applications allow a lecture to be closed captioned on the student's computer in real time. Another presenter showed how real-time captions on a tablet PC simplify the student's note-taking process.

What Makes Inclusion of Deaf Children a Success?

Emotional and Social Development

Dr. Lerman, director of Inclusive Schools Climate Initiative (ISCI), attributes the success of the inclusion program in schools to the fact that the program addresses emotional, social and academic development of students. It also creates an inclusive climate where students feel safe, respected and accepted. The "buddy" system, for example, is whereby two or three "buddies" are assigned to a deaf child to offer support and assistance. The system can be extended to the playground, transportation mode and extracurricular activities.

Creates Positive Deaf Identity

Schools that promote inclusion of deaf children ensure all students receive equal opportunities by discouraging favoritism of the deaf students because of their disability. The inclusion helps build self-esteem and stimulate self-sufficiency. Regular interactions with older deaf children within the school and adult positive role models also helps promote a positive deaf identity.

Preparation for the Hearing World

Deaf schools create a safe but secluded environment that makes interaction with the hearing world difficult for deaf children after school. However, schools that promote inclusion allow the children to interact with the hearing world on a daily basis from a young age. Creation of healthy social relationships with peers who have typical hearing has positive effects on social acceptance and helps children appreciate diversity.

Proximity to Friends and Family

Most deaf students attending deaf schools are forced to board, either due to the far location of a school or to avoid the dangers of commuting. Boarding keeps them away from their families and friends, a support system that is necessary for their growth. Local schools with inclusion programs allow children to live at home where the parents, in conjunction with teachers, can monitor their growth and development and address problems as they arise.