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SOESD / Newsletters / The Source / April 2005 Source: Steve Boyarsky, Superintendent / Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Communication Opportunities Prove Essential

By Barbara Franklin, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Department Chair
D/HH students on a river trip.
D/HH students on a river trip.
The Program for Deaf/Hard of Hearing provides services to approximately 120 children, birth to 21 years of age, residing in five in Southern Oregon counties. Some of these students are bused to classroom “centers” in order to receive high levels of specialized instruction and interpreting services. The majority of the D/HH students, though, are served in their neighborhood schools with specialized instruction provided by an itinerant teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing. Sign language interpreting may also be provided when needed. Communication is one of the biggest concerns when working with Deaf/HH students. Almost one-fourth of the D/HH students use sign language to get information and to communicate with others. The students served at the educational centers have access to communication with peers and adults due to the number of signing students and staff at these sites. The students served at their neighborhood schools, though, are often the only deaf or hard of hearing student at a school. Even though a sign language interpreter may be assigned to one of these students, there are still a limited number of people in the school with whom the student can effectively communicate. D/HH students who do not rely on sign language for communication also often have difficulty communicating clearly with their peers and the staff at school. These students may also experience a feeling of isolation because they seldom or never see other deaf or hard of hearing people. Communication with peers and adults is essential for learning social skills, developing language, and for academic achievement. The Program for D/HH has been committed to giving students as many opportunities as possible to interact with other D/HH students within this region, as well as, outside Southern Oregon. Several students from Klamath and Jackson counties participated in the Deaf Academic Brain Bowl competition in Salt Lake City this February. While there, they not only competed against other Deaf/HH teams from other states, but also had the opportunity to interact and socialize with these peers. After this experience, one of the local students said, “I realized that I’m not the only hearing impaired student and I’m not stupid.” On February 25, approximately 60 D/HH students and staff traveled from Douglas, Klamath, Jackson, and Josephine counties to Diamond Lake for a day of exercise, communication, and fun in the snow. It was a gorgeous day and everyone was able to spend several hours on the tubing hill. The tubing activity, lunch and the ride to and from Diamond Lake provided a diversity of opportunities for students to communicate and socialize with one another. Several students have already asked when the next trip to Diamond Lake will be! Southern Oregon University’s Drama Department provided another opportunity for some of the elementary age students to get together by putting on a sign interpreted performance of “Fable Tales.” Not only was the performance dynamic, but the students were also able to enjoy lunch and some playtime together at Lithia Park after the play. One more field trip is being planned for this school year ¹ a trip to the Scienceworks Museum in Ashland. The students will have a chance to socialize and eat lunch together prior to participating in the educational activities in the museum. The Program for D/HH has also been working on a Video Relay System (VRS) as another means of encouraging communication and interaction among deaf peers. With the Video Relay system a camera and microphone receive and transmit video and audio signals so that a signing person can sign directly to another signing person at another location. The system can also facilitate communication between hearing and deaf people through a sign language interpreter relay facilitator. This method is much better than using a Telecommunication Device (TDD), because emotions and meaning can be more clearly expressed through the video. A Video Relay System has been set up at Lincoln Elementary School in Grants Pass, and others will be set up in D/HH classrooms in Klamath Falls, Central Point, and Medford in the near future. Even though the D/HH Program in southern Oregon is rural and spread out across many counties and school districts, it will continue to have a high priority for providing educational opportunities for students to communicate with their peers.


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Newsletters - The Source - April 2005 Source: Steve Boyarsky, Superintendent - Deaf and Hard of Hearing
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