In my quest to look into the forgotten and frustrated groups of schoolchildren, I came upon something that hits close to home. When most of us think about the children that attend school that may need extra assistance, we immediately look towards the children who have disabilities, special needs, are poverty-stricken, or are immigrants. We will usually completely look past those who are either born or later become blind, deaf, hard of hearing, or have problems seeing.
When my mother was just starting off in school, she wasn’t doing well on most of her assignments. Her teachers thought this could be because of a potential learning disability, but that wasn’t the problem. What was my mother’s real problem? She has a hearing disability and could not always hear the instructions her teachers were giving. Sitting near the teacher and wearing a hearing aid from the 70’s helped as much as you would think they would, so school was still a struggle for her growing up. It’s still a struggle for thousands of children that are in similar situations today.
In one of my classes, my teacher is allowing us to do a project that lets us explore a topic to greater depth. Inspired by my mother’s story, I would really like to do mine on blind/deaf children and how they’re learning to read.
Pat Wolfe, EdD, suggests that when your child is young and learning to read you should look for signs that may indicate that they’ll need extra help. The signs include confusing letters, connecting the wrong sounds with letters, skipping words, not remembering words, or frequently guessing at unknown words, rather than sounding them out. All of these could be problems for children who have problems seeing or hearing and mislabeling their problems could have dire consequences for their academic and personal development.
There has been research done that shows that if a child cannot read proficiently by the time they are in third grade, their chances of dropping out of high school are 4x higher than the average student. This is extremely alarming for parents of children that are blind because their children are naturally going to need more time to learn braille. If a child has trouble seeing the problem could go undetected for a lengthy amount of time. For a deaf child, learning to read can be challenging because there are no sounds to connect to the words they’re seeing.
What I am asking for help with on this project is any resources that may point me in the right direction to understand the policies that are affecting these children and how they’re learning to read. I would really like to meet with teachers that are specifically working with children with sight or hearing disabilities to get more of an understanding of what those policies look like in action. If anyone knows of any people, organizations, or websites I can contact or go to, please let me know. For a project this big and this important to me I want to make sure I do the best possible job for these children as I can. Thank you in advance.