School for the deaf creates program for immigrant teens
Expressing oneself as a deaf person is a challenge in itself, but when not given any special accommodations in public school, understanding teachers’ lessons can be practically impossible. That’s the unfortunate reality for many immigrant children in America, and why The Boston Globe chose to cover a story about a program at Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Boston, Mass.
Harold Johnson, special education professor in Michigan State University’s College of Education, feels that deaf education is an area that can be greatly improved in our education system. He said that educators are aware that deaf immigrant students have special needs, but are not sure the best methods of educating them. The LEAP program, however is trying to make a difference.
Language Enrichment and Academic Pursuit, or LEAP, is a two-year program for teenagers coming from public schools in developing countries that lack special classes for the deaf. For many, being involved with LEAP brings about the opportunity to be understood in a classroom setting for the first time. Initially, the language difference between signing nationalities may act as a barrier, but students are quickly overcoming that.
When asked about the program, LEAP student Alzate-Medina, 15, signed that, “[At first,] I didn’t know what any of the signs meant, but the teachers showed me pictures that went along with the signs and then I learned the vocabulary, and then started to string things together.”
Founded in 1869, Horace Mann is the nation’s oldest public school for the deaf and hard of hearing. While the school teaches both English and American Sign Language at the same time, which helps students’ communicate in a new culture, it does not ease the disconnect of communication between the students and their family members.
“This is an area we are not addressing with teacher preparation programs,” Johnson said in the Boston Globe article. “It’s not in any of the national standards to train teachers how to reach out to parents of deaf children for whom English is not their first language.”
Johnson’s research at MSU focuses on how web-based technology can help free deaf students of the feelings of isolation that so many of them deal with on a daily basis.
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