Including Deaf & Hard of Hearing Kids in the Classroom

School students with raised hands, back view
 Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Are you a teacher who has a deaf or hard of hearing child in your classroom this year? Here are some tips from my personal experience, plus resources available on the web.

Tips from Personal Experience

I grew up mainstreamed in hearing classrooms before we even had a term like "inclusion." These tips are from my own experience.

  • Give deaf/hoh child seat in front or near the front. This one is just common sense because the deaf/hoh student needs to be able to see the teacher and blackboard (or whiteboard) clearly.
  • Be careful about turning your back, because then the deaf/hoh child cannot read your lips. Face a deaf/hoh student when talking to them directly.
  • Talk directly to the child, not to the interpreter (if there is an interpreter - I didn't have one). It is important to do this so that the child feels like he/she is part of the class.
  • To reduce the risk of a deaf/hoh child being bullied, encourage the child or child's parents to explain deafness/hearing loss to the class.[This is important. I remember that one resource teacher did not explain my deafness to the class, which set me up for being bullied. My mother was upset by this.]
  • Always write tests, quizzes, and homework assignments on the board. [When I was a child, I often missed out on such announcements and was surprised by quizzes that the rest of the class had known were coming. Good thing I was in the habit of reviewing the material so I didn't fail the "surprise" quizzes.]
  • If you have a mustache and the deaf/hoh child reads lips, consider shaving it off or reducing it to a small enough size that does not hinder lipreading.
  • If the class is watching a film, either make sure the film is captioned or provide the child with a copy of the script. This will avoid situations like what happened when I was a teenager, cutting class to avoid having to watch an uncaptioned Romeo and Juliet.
  • Do not treat a deaf/hoh child any differently from the hearing children. That means no special treatment.
  • Request the assistance of an itinerant teacher or resource teacher. They may have more suggestions and be able to provide assistance.
  • If a website used in the classroom has only audio, make notes for the deaf/hoh student (suggested by a deaf college student).
  • Provide an older deaf/hoh student with note takers, either peer or professional.
  • Be aware of the importance of classroom acoustics, as it has an impact on how much the deaf/hoh student is able to hear.

Resources on the Web

Further suggestions can be found on the following web resources:

  • Hands and Voices has a PDF, "Mainstreaming the student who is deaf or hard of hearing - A guide for professionals, teachers, and parents. Pages 17-20 are especially useful for teachers.
  • There is an online video transcript of the video "Make a Difference: Tips for Teaching Students Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing."
  • Listen-Up's page, "Information Packet for Your Child's Teacher" includes cochlear implant information for teachers. Interestingly, one of the tips is "no oral tests." To this day I wonder how I managed to get through all those oral spelling tests without the benefit of an interpreter.

Books and Articles

Our Forgotten Children: Hard Of Hearing Pupils In The Schools (Third Edition) (compare prices), is published by the AG Bell Association. This book has become a classic, discussing the needs of hard of hearing children who can be overlooked. One article is "Investigating Good Practice in Supporting Deaf Pupils in Mainstream Schools," Educational Review, v53 n2 p181-89 Jun 2001. The abstract states that it is a survey that identified best practices for meeting the needs of deaf students in the mainstream.