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The visual experience: mainstreaming hearing-impaired students into the artroom.

The list of questions that arises when a hearing-impaired student is mainstreamed into a regular art class certainly suggests that there are some complicated issues involved: * How will we communicated? Will I be burdened by extra work? Will other students not getting enough of my time and attention? Should I evaluate hearing-impaired students' work by the same criteria I use for my other students?

Proper planning and implementing support systems for teachers and students, however, can make everyone a winner. The artroom is a natural place to start since in it we rely heavily on the sense of sight.

Visual Hearing

Hearing-impaired children without other handicaps are physically and intellectually capable of succeeding in regular art classes as long as motivation remains high and everyone shares responsibility. My hearing-impaired students have told me that art is generally a positive experience for them. They say art teachers are more creative than their other teachers in finding ways to be sure information and assignments are understood. Visual communication through art is a language they have in common with hearing students, and they are pleased to be able to apply those skills to their projects.

Hearing-impaired students have the right to be made- aware of everything that is being communicated, and to be able to contribute ideas to the class. When I asked a hearing-impaired former student if her deafness was less likely to matter in art class than in other classes, I expected an affirmative answer. Instead, she said, "In some ways, it did matter to me that I was hearing impaired because I wanted to be more into the classroom lectures, feedback from my teachers, etc. is a visual thing, and teachers made sure I understood and always showed me examples." Which brings us to a very important member of the school team, the sign-language interpreter. There to facilitate communication, he or she is as important to the hearing people in the class as to the deaf student.

What They're Up Against

Language Skills. The deaf often lack basic language skills. They may have limited vocabulary (printed words understood at age twelve: hearing--20,000, deaf--3000), and have limited mastery of sentence structure. The auditory signal is impaired, and visual signals give only partial information. Deaf individuals are exposed to less volume of language. How many TV ads and conversations has a hearing three-year-old been exposed to?

The information given in class must undergo several translations before being communicated to the hearing-impaired student. if the team is not careful, this can resemble the old game of Gossip: The art teacher provides informal and interpretations; the sign-language interpreter communicates them to the hearing-impaired student by sign; to the best of his or ability. Keep in mind that sign language is just that--another language. Listed here are suggestions on how you can help hearing-impaired students overcome their language-skills handicap. * Before class: (1) Meet with the interpreter to define terms and share correct spelling. (2) Work together to create a sign when there is none. (3) Ask the interpreter to suggest some ways that you can make a more effective presentation. * During class: (1) Review past lessons. (i.e., Before beginning two-point perspective, refer to one-point.) * After class: (1) Interpreter can tutor theory and vocabulary. (2) Translate concepts into a lower reading level when necessary. (Change complementary" to "opposite".) Reading skills of hearing-impaired students can be significantly lower than those of hearing students. (3) Get feedback from the interpreter.

Focusing Attention. Hearing-impaired students often need help focusing attention because they are not always sure what is expected of them. An excellent lip reader comprehends only 40%-60% of spoken information. Unlike hearing people who have the option of listening and working at the same time, deaf people need to face the speaker.

Art teachers often give demonstrations. Imagine trying to watch demonstrator and the interpreter at the same time. When I asked a high school student how she handled this, she said her interpreter signed and pointed to the specific part of the demonstration being discussed as she wrote down the main ideas. Even though I try to speak, then demonstrate, the student will usually need the lesson explained again on a one-to-one basis. When a process involves a lot of information (technical and aesthetic), a variety of materials and a number of steps, keep in mind that you may need to break the lessons into several shorter ones.

I try to be sure hearing-impaired students get as much from critiques as the rest of the class. During critiques, we refer to very specific areas of artwork, requiring the student to look closely at the picture while watching the interpreter. Terms the interpreter may not be familiar with may also be used, so I try to be aware of these things and follow the suggestions listed below. 1. Make sure the student can see the teacher and interpreter at the same time. 2. Face the student when speaking. 3. Be sure the student knows who is speaking, and try to have one person speak at a time. 4. Make sure the demonstration is clearly visible. 5. Try to use prints or original work rather than slides. Unless a light is focused on the interpreter he or she may not be visible. 6. Ask the student to repeat the instructions or demonstration. 7. Wait a few extra seconds for the student to catch up.

Self-Assurance. It is too easy to direct or worse, to overlook hearing-impaired students. Sometimes it's a temptation to accept work as it is, rather than critique details needed to improve the project. Not every deaf student will have the self-confidence to say, "Hey, what's going on? " It's not the interpreter's job to suggest the student may be confused--the interpreter simply translates what is said. In this area, helping the hearing-impaired student can be much the same as helping any student build self-confidence. 1. Allow the student to choose shape, color, object. etc. (Do not direct.) 2. Use positive reinforcement. 3. Let the student know when he or she has done a good job and why.

Isolation. The hearing impaired often experience a feeling of isolation simply because they are different. Not only can they not hear, but they speak a different language. When deaf people become excited, they often make strange vocal noises. These noises are often embarrassing to the hearing, but we must remember that they cannot hear the sounds they make. Many deaf students may be learning to speak, but are afraid of being ridiculed, so they choose not to use their voices in the classroom.

High school students I have taught handled the logistics of the artroom differently, depending on their personality. One student sat among the other students, but close to her interpreter, and depended upon the interpreter to jump in at appropriate times to fill her in. Another girl sat farther away from her interpreter, initiated conversation herself, and if she didn't understand something would voice, "What's going on?"

Generally, a completely or partially deaf student not only finds art an important avenue of self-expression, but may also feel less isolated in an art class than other classes because everyone communicates visually. One hearing-impaired college student told me, "I rely a lot on visual skills in my art projects. In my case, I communicate by my work. " How can you help a hearing-impaired student gain a sense of belonging? Here are some suggestions: 1. Trust the student to pass out items, go to the board, etc. 2. Seat students in groups. 3. Interpreter should sign chit-chat, jokes, reprimands, mistakes, etc. 4. Try to include in teasing and play. 5. Learn some sign--just one word or phrase works wonders!

Evaluating Students' Work

The criteria for evaluating a hearing-impaired student is the same as for typical students because, if enabled to develop to the fullest potential, one could not tell the difference between a hearing-impaired person's art and that of a hearing person's.

From my conversations with deaf students, I have come to believe art teachers have, come a long way in providing successful integration. With better support system we can go even further. In-service sessions and scheduled meetings with deaf-education specialist can familiarize teachers with less obvious skills and needs. An important part of the support required is the allotment of time for team members to meet to design and evaluate strategies is also important, and limiting, class size is vital to insuring that everyone's needs are met.

One policy a school district can develop is to provide a system of weighting, where a student with special needs counts as two or three when figuring how many students are in a class. Working one-on-one is time-consuming, but part of the joy and success of our profession. Weighting helps to insure that special-needs students get appropriate attention, but not at the expense of others in the class.

With properly managed we have a chance to expect great things, whether academic or humanitarian, from our students. School districts that do not support integration or that mainstream without a support system, create a situation that can be compared to fishing without a pole. it is more difficult, it takes a lot more time and many would--be "keepers" slip through our fingers. A

Judi Mullin teaches art at Rome Free Academy in Rome, New York.
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Author:Mullin, Judi
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1993
Previous Article:Art appreciation: the learning disabled look, talk and create.
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