I remember the time when I enrolled in my first school in Sri Lanka, in 2002. My class teacher was confused and apprehensive about how I could handle it in a 'normal' mainstream classroom. My classmates were curious about the device I wore in my ears. But today, I will focus on the teachers and lecturers who don’t have the proper resources to teach a deaf student.
In Sri Lanka, most of the government schools and state universities do not have resources to accommodate all the students, and most of the schools do not have the proper facilities. In the end, students with disabilities face the brunt of the education system as the schools cannot provide for them. Like my classroom teacher, they would be apprehensive of any student with disabilities. Today, I thought about how best the teachers and lecturers can accommodate deaf students with a lack of resources in Sri Lankan schools and universities.
As a new term or semester starts, I wish the lectures in state universities are briefed if they get students of any disabilities. Please try to read and educate yourself about their disabilities. The internet is at your fingertips. But in the case of teachers, they get to know if they have a disabled child only on the day the child attends their classroom along with the parents. It is where the opportunity presents itself, you can talk to the parents and get to know the extra details about the child.
But in the case of universities, contact with parents is not always possible. Here, we are treated as adults and are required to behave as one coping with a large amount of workload and stress. I thought about this long and hard. However, in my opinion, parents are the best and free resources you could have as they know so much about their child. It would not hurt the lectures to ask the parents of the child about coping with stress, and about the manner in which the student may understand the lectures. Because in my point of view, I would not know what to say unless I go through a few weeks of attending lectures and experiencing the workload.
I have been pondering long and hard about this. Before the college or universities begin, the undergraduates usually go through an Orientation Programme to become acquainted with the process and the surroundings of the university. The lecturers too can go through an orientation, to learn about the various disabilities from the experts, including the parents. For instance, there can be an orientation between the parents and the lectures to get to know how best to communicate and accommodate the student. Since most of the state universities would not acknowledge, it can be strictly a one-time meet and greet meeting. However, it is up to you. It is merely my opinion and an idea.
Patience is the key if you come across deaf students.
However, you have to remember that what you search on the internet would not apply to all the students who are deaf. As time passes by, the deaf student would be aware of what the lecturer or classroom lacks. Please listen to the student and try to accommodate their needs. If you are showing a video, have subtitles so that the deaf student would be able to understand. But, remember, audio clips are not suitable.
More often than not, it is on the first day of academic work that you get to know you have deaf students in the classroom. The foremost thing to do is to accommodate the child’s needs. You can start by asking the students to form a semi-circle and have the deaf student sit in the corner so the student can read other's lips and yours. While teaching, be mindful of your hand gestures. Make sure that your hand movements do not obstruct the movement of the lips.
I noticed that some teachers have the habit of walking from one end of the classroom to the other end. Here, it might interrupt the Deaf student’s understanding of the subject, and they will be too stressed. Please try to restrict your movement. You can walk in front of the class. However, be mindful that you stop while you teach. In the university, my lectures are mindful of their movements and hand gestures. So far, I have had no problems with my lecturers at university.
Keep in mind that the Deaf student would not be able to understand you on the first day, depending on your lips. Few students are experts in reading lips. For instance, I find difficulties in reading thin lips. However, as I meet and talk with the lecturer or teacher for a considerable period of time, I could understand what the lecturer or teacher says.
Patience is the key if you come across deaf students. Every step of the way, you need patience. We may not answer the question the moment you ask us. There is a possibility that we might miss out on a large amount of information, and we find a lot of difficulties articulating the overload of information. I feel that our mind works twice as fast as a normal person. I understand that the teachers and lecturers would have an agenda for their day-to-day activities. But you have to give us time to articulate the information. In case I don’t understand the lecturer, I would do my independent research on the subject depending on the short notes I jot down. There are cases where it has affected me mentally and left me physically exhausted.
As teachers and lecturers, I am sure that you would love to have all of your students enjoy your subjects and lectures. These simple gestures would go a long way to make the child feel at ease, even though there is a glaring issue of the lack of resources. Few people would agree with the 'parent contact' at university. However, I have to emphasize that the parents know a lot more about their child. As we are in the middle of a global pandemic, schools and universities are shifting to online platforms. Online platforms pose different obstacles from a traditional classroom. I would highlight these in my next post.