‘Deaf children fighting to be heard’
Sir, – As a profoundly deaf retired secondary teacher and principal with a cochlear implant, your article “Deaf children and families fighting to be heard” (August 28th) struck a chord.
According to the chief executive of the National Council for Special Education, “Deaf and hard of hearing children should be able to leave school with levels of educational attainment that are on par with hearing peers of similar ability”. Yet the article indicates that the participation rate for deaf students entering third-level education in 2016 was only half that of the national average.
When asked if it knew how well deaf children were doing in terms of performance in State examinations, the Department of Education said the information required to comment on this was “not currently available”. One wonders when it will be!
The Education Act 1998 states one of the functions of the inspectorate is to advise the Minister on any matter relating to the linguistic needs of deaf students in recognised schools. It should be an easy task for it and other relevant bodies to put such a national system in place.
While many individual teachers, special needs assistants (SNAs) and schools are making a difference, I accept as one parent pointed out that “teachers need to recognise that a deaf child is not just a child who cannot hear, but a child who might need to learn differently”. This may pose a major challenge for some teachers at second level. Nevertheless, setting high standards for each child and developing strategies to achieve them is the daily task of every teacher.
In the words of another parent, “care needs should be listed as bridging communication and repeating misheard or unheard instruction”. This has implications for SNAs whose role can often be “centred around physical care needs”. It is an area that schools may need to evaluate.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that many deaf adults tend to withdraw from society, which in turn may contribute to depression and other health issues. In a similar manner, deaf children tend to lose out in terms of educational achievement and personal development. Schools have a vital role in ensuring that this need not be the case.
If you had a child starting school last week, you will probably have already met the principal or special needs teacher. Your child may or may not require an SNA. Individual subject teachers, other staff and peer mentors can and do make a difference in providing quality supports that are not always obvious to others.
If your child is happy in school, she will learn. Keep an ear and eye on things. If you have concerns arrange a chat with the principal or other relevant staff. – Yours, etc,