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Letter: Don’t put barriers between any student and learning

South Centennial students studying in their classroom on Sept. 29. The school is slated to close, but the board is now exploring the question of when this should happen.
All students deserve to get the best education our society can provide. — SaltWater Network file photo

Recently, the Newfoundland Coordinating Council on Deafness (NCCD) had a meeting. In attendance were parents of school-age children who have a hearing loss and are receiving some services from the Department of Education. These services are inadequate and do not permit their children to fully participate in the classroom.

When many of these parents found out their child had a hearing loss, they were informed by audiologists at the Janeway that learning American Sign Language (ASL) was not necessary. Why would parents be told this myth about ASL? Research has shown that ASL, used with both hearing children and children with a hearing loss, allows children as young as four months to communicate with their parents.

Jane R. Madell, PhD, has said, “The educational audiologist is responsible for managing audiological issues for children in schools.”

Ms. Madell is a pediatric audiologist, speech-language pathologist, listening and spoken language specialist and auditory verbal therapist. She suggests that an educational audiologist should monitor all audiological evaluations of school-age children and then help school staff understand the effects of hearing loss on academics.

Prior to the Newfoundland School for the Deaf (NSD) closing, there was a full-time educational audiologist responsible for testing and fitting the students with appropriate assistive devices in NSD, other schools around the province and pre-school age children. She would travel to the homes of these children along with NSD’s home-parent teacher and help educate them about their children’s hearing loss. She followed these students from then on to their post-secondary experiences. If they left the province to go to Gallaudet University or another institution that provided appropriate services to deaf students, she would follow up when they returned for a visit. Should they go to Memorial University or College of the North Atlantic or another local post-secondary institution, she would provide audiological services until they graduated.

There is still an educational audiologist at the building known as NSD. She still provides audiological services for deaf and hard of hearing students throughout the province via the itinerant teachers. This highly educated woman, who can communicate with deaf students in ASL, has just been told to limit her services to the schools in the metro area only and to cease providing them to post-secondary students. Why?

Itinerant teachers have told me that often when their students have a problem with their hearing aid, they are told to send them to the Janeway audiology department. The Janeway often takes weeks and weeks to send a temporary replacement or repair the students’ old aids. When they send these aids to NSD, the educational audiologist there has them back within days, either a loaner or a repaired aid. That shorter time can make a huge difference in the students’ ability to maintain their academic standing.

It is difficult enough for deaf and hard of hearing students to get a good education here. It is known that these students need more time to go through the curriculum, not because of an inability to learn, but because of the nature of teaching those who depend on visual communication. Why make this task more difficult by putting barriers in their way?
Is this inclusion? Of course not.

John Reade
St. John’s

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