As a teacher of the deaf, you are well aware of the literacy difficulties faced by deaf people; however, you may not realise how little the wider community understands about how significantly pre-lingual and early life deafness impacts upon the development of English literacy levels. This is because the wider community does not wholly understand the impact of early life deafness.
When a deaf student is transitioning from school into tertiary education, you may have involvement in their initial contacts with TAFE or university staff, particularly regarding their skills and support needs. It is unlikely that these staff will understand the implications of deafness in relation to English literacy. You can play an important role in first alerting them to the significance of a hearing loss and its potential impact on literacy. Key points to make include:
- the potential difference for your student in relation to reading (comprehensive) vs. writing skills (expressive)—it is not uncommon for deaf people with high levels of English literacy to be able to access written text, but still be unable to produce fluent, native-like English text of their own
- that text that your student may produce should be read and assessed for content and concepts and not for English grammatical structure
- that literacy difficulties are not a reflection of a student’s intelligence or ability to succeed within tertiary education and, later, the world of work
- that, depending on your student and the course, it may be far more appropriate to assess the student through teacher-student interaction (e.g. an oral examination) rather than through written work, either examination or essay, and
- that subject specific terminology may be totally unfamiliar to your student as a result of the unconscious and unstructured learning that does not occur for many children with a significant hearing loss.