Hearing impaired students can flourish in regular schools, shows study

One of the pages from the syllabus of The Association of People with Disability for hearing impaired children.   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

When trainers from the Association of Persons with Disability (APD), Bengaluru, first met 7-year-old Muskaan from Vijayapura, who has 90% hearing loss, she did not communicate with anyone, not even her parents. She was frustrated and isolated by her inability to interact.

Today, she goes to school regularly and her writing and comprehension skills have improved vastly. She is one of the countless students who benefited from a four-and-a-half-year-long project carried out in three districts of Karnataka, which showed that when provided with the right ecosystem, hearing impaired students can flourish in a regular school environment.

Twenty-one trainers from APD identified 790 hearing impaired children aged between 6 and 14 in 345 schools (mostly government schools) in Chickballapur, Davangere and Vijayapura districts. They trained the child, their family and teachers, and peers in total communication, involving Indian sign language (ISL), speech therapy and lip-reading.

The project showed that post-intervention, the retention rate of the students, who were part of the study, increased to 96.41% —which is more than the average among school-going children.

According to APD, the retention rate of hearing impaired children in regular schools is usually as low as 25%. The project, which was operational between July 2012 and December 2016, was supported by Deaf Child Worldwide of U.K. and funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

In 2012, the team did a baseline-level survey to identify hearing impaired kids. “Initially, it was a major struggle to convince parents to send their children to a regular school. Even the teachers seemed hesitant to take on the additional burden,” said Guruprasad S., assistant director of APD.

After creating awareness on deafness and imparting basic ISL to the child’s peers, some of the students who picked up ISL quickly were keen to help their mates. They were given structured training in ISL. “Training the child’s peers proved particularly beneficial — when the class would be going on, the classmate would interpret lessons for the hearing impaired child,” said Ravi R., programme trainer in Vijayapura.

Around 4,000 students were trained in the basics of ISL vocabulary in the three districts.

Special textbooks were designed to teach words in Kannada. The trainers also developed subject textbooks for classes 4 to 7, which laid emphasis on visuals. “Teachers were sensitised on how to teach when there is a deaf child in class. For example, to use the blackboard effectively,” said Mr. Guruprasad.

Usha Manjunath, Dean (Academic and Student Affairs) of the Institute of Health Management Research, was an independent consultant for the project. She said the project makes a strong case for inclusive education for deaf children.

“There was a perceptible amount of increase in retention rates and comprehension abilities of the children,” said Dr. Manjunath. “Teachers reported that the children, who were earlier isolated by their inability to communicate, became more outgoing and took part in group and co-curricular activities.”

“The idea was not to overburden the teachers but to create a supportive environment involving parents, peers and the community,” said K.N. Gopinath, Executive Director (Operations), APD. “This makes the project scalable and achievable across the State,” he said.

Model schools

During the project, one of the problems that cropped up was handling schools in remote locations that had just one or two hearing impaired students. “A major portion of the time of trainers went in travelling,” said Mr. Guruprasad.

To overcome this, the concept of model school was introduced in 2016. A centrally-located school would be identified where children with disabilities from nearby schools could be sent. All teachers of that school would be trained and the infrastructure designed keeping in mind the needs of persons with disabilities.

“The model school met with great success where implemented. At present, there are 10 such schools in Davangere and five in Vijayapura,” said Mr. Guruprasad.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2021 10:50:33 PM |

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