Being a parent is challenging, you obviously want the best for your child especially when it comes to making decisions about their education. Deaf Education is continually improving and teaching methods are changing throughout the world.
There are some research papers by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) which is on the ‘Recommended Reading list’ on page 42 of the guidebook for parents. The papers offer good advice and information about the education of deaf and hard of hearing children in Ireland.
Bilingual Education is method of teaching a child through two languages, in this case, Irish Sign Language and English. This method of education is the preferred approach by the Irish Deaf Society as it means that a deaf child is taught in their natural language. They will be inclined to read expressions and body language and so will acquire Irish Sign Language much quicker than they will a second language such as written English.
The main benefits of bilingual education are;
- receiving education in a language which is accessible to them
- increases cognitive development and has a positive effect on intellectual growth
- helps with literacy skills and assists in being successful in examinations and tests
Early intervention (page 10) is important to ensure that there are no delays in your child’s language as this may have a serious effect on their literacy skills as they get older.
Currently in Ireland there are limited choices to where you can send your deaf child to pre-school. There is just one pre-school that specifically caters for deaf children; The Mid-West School for the Hearing Impaired based in Limerick.
If you are unable to send your child to this school and want to ensure your child is acquiring a language before entering primary school, you can avail of the Home Tuition Scheme.
The Home Tuition Scheme means that a children with Special Educational needs can avail of up to 20 hours of tuition a week while awaiting appropriate educational placement. This scheme can be used to teach your child ISL and improve their literacy and vocabulary development before they enter Primary education. You can apply through the NCSE – (National Council for Special Education) details are located in the ‘Useful Contacts’ list on Page 43.
There are three main schools that cater for deaf and hard of hearing children in Ireland, it is here that their ISL skills will develop more fully.
Dublin – Cabra
These schools have been in place since the mid-19th century. They offer boarding facilities so that students from outside Dublin can stay at the school midweek and go home at the weekends and holidays.
Limerick – Rosbrien
This school was set up to offer those from the Mid-West region education from pre-school to post primary level. It has been in existence for over 25 years.
Deaf Units in Mainstream Schools
These units are located in various schools around Ireland. They may have only a few deaf children enrolled at any given time. Children of mixed ages may be grouped together and taught simultaneously. You can see the locations of these units below. This list does not cover all Deaf units around the country.
It is understandable for a parent to not want to send their child to a school that is far away from their home and it is for this reason that they may opt to enrol their child in a local mainstream school. Mainstream education means the deaf or hard of hearing child is integrated into a classroom of hearing children.
It can be challenging for a deaf child to be in a mainstream setting where there can be more than 20 hearing students and they may not get the extra attention from the teacher they require. There may be a need for additional support in the form of a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) or a Visiting Teacher who regularly has one-to-one sessions with your child.
Important factors to consider when placing your child in mainstream education.
- Ensure they get adequate supports in the classroom such as SNAs, extra tuition, loop systems (a device which amplifies sounds through a hearing aid), Visiting Teachers etc.
- Teachers in mainstream schools may not be qualified to teach children who are deaf or hard of hearing so it is important that you make them aware of the additional support that your child may need
- Your child may need extra support around social inclusion to avoid isolation. They could be the only deaf child in the class or the school. It is important that the school and class teacher are Deaf aware and have a positive attitude to the needs of your deaf child.
Supports for third level education are always improving and many Deaf people have achieved undergraduate, postgraduate and doctorates degrees. The ‘Disability Access Route to Education‘ (D.A.R.E) and ‘Deaf Support in Third Level‘ (DS3) can help to ease the transition between secondary education and entering third level for the first time.
It is important that your child registers with the college or university’s access or disability officer who will carry out an assessment and provide additional supports. This may be in the form of interpreters, note-takers, one-to-one tutorials, extra time in examinations etc.