University of Edinburgh

Moving on from School: challenges for deaf pupils, their families and professionals

Presented on Wednesday 28 September 2005

Are deaf students always prepared for life after school?

Claire Guthrie
Glasgow Metropolitan College

Glasgow Metropolitan experience:

  • Extended Learning Support service
  • Tutor for sensory impairment
  • 100 Deaf or hard of hearing students

Glasgow Metropolitan experience

Notes: I work at Glasgow Metropolitan College as part of a team of ELS tutors. GMC has come about as a result of merger between GCBP and GCFT.

The College has invested relatively speaking in its ELS service. Some Colleges have 1 ELS tutor, while we have a number of tutors who specialise in different areas as well as in general support. We also employ learning assistants and work with sign language interpreters on a freelance basis (12.)

The College has a full-time tutor who specialises in SI that's been my role for the past 4 years.

We are the only College in Glasgow that has created such a post.

I should say that:

  • I am not a teacher of the deaf,
  • I had little experience in working with the deaf when I took the post and did not sign.
  • I simply applied for a job as learning support tutor.

I think it's important to say that, not as a criticism of GMC who have established the post of SI tutor which is commendable, but in order to be honest about the level of knowledge Colleges might have of deaf students and the support they might need. It is a topic for another presentation perhaps: how prepared Colleges are for Deaf students. In the four years since taking up the post I have supported over 100 deaf and hard of hearing students it's been a steep learning curve - and I guess that experience is what has brought me here today.

College Support:

-ELS tutor
-Deaf Awareness

-radio aid
-spelling aids

H & S
-flashing lights

-extra tuition

-extra time
-communication support

-educational psychologist

College Support

Notes: This is the support we can offer deaf and hard of hearing students at Glasgow Met.

It has taken four years to build up this level of service, which we hope is not too far removed from the support students received at school.

Deaf students 2005-06:

  • 10 BSL users; 6 full-time
  • 7 hard of hearing students; 5 full-time

Notes: In this current session at Glasgow Met, I am involved in supporting these students (I also have other responsibilities as part of my remit.)

Where do our students come from?

Where do our students come from?

Notes: Our deaf students come from a range of situations. At present I am working with learners who range from 16-85.

School Support:

School for the Deaf

Hearing Impairment Unit

Mainstream School

In terms of students arriving from school, they tend to have been educated either in one of these three schools

Students report accessing the following support at school:

  • One to one tuition from a ToD (includes communication support, converting handouts into Plain English or BSL, and possibly notetaking)
  • Smaller class sizes/ or 1:1 support if in mainstream
  • Access to specialist knowledge via ToD, audiologist, etc
  • Deaf peer group (not always)

A significant difference between school and College for some students is that upon arrival at College students can choose their preferred mode of communication. A student from an oral system may opt to learn via BSL (presuming they have knowledge of language.) A further difference is the responsibility students are given at College for engaging in their own support - students need to work with ELS service in determining how many hours SLI or NT needed, students also have awareness of budgets and the possible limits of support. At College students are also likely to encounter the shortage of interpreters first hand.

When students report concerns about coming to College it's usually with regard to Reading and writing in English. They need for handouts in plain English, new terminology explained, and lenience from tutors in marking their work in terms of grammar and spelling.

Are deaf students always prepared for life after school?

  • Personal adjustment
  • Other support needs
  • Prior experience
  • Coping strategies

Notes: I'd like to look now at whether deaf students are in fact prepared for life at College.

The answer is, as I'm sure you may have guessed, that some students are prepared and some are not.

So what does it mean to be prepared for College? College is a predominantly hearing environment with pockets of staff that are deaf aware. It is important to realise that deaf peers and support staff may be located in a different buildings around the campus. Life is easier at College for students who have PERSONALLY ADJUSTED to their situation and their needs able to ask for what they need and are willing to receive support. Students who feel that their hearing loss is something to hide or to be glossed over, or as something to be ashamed or embarrassed about can have a tough time as support may draw attention to the hearing loss and is therefore avoided. Students AND Colleges have a responsibility to ensure that support gets put in place, and it's important that both play an active part in doing this. Students with other support needs, eg; dyslexia, mobility difficulties, issues in personal life can find College challenging. Again a willingness to speak out and ask for what is needed helps, which is harder if there are more needs to articulate especially at a young age. Ex young man confident and assertive smooth transition.

Building on prior experience is also important in preparing for College. If the school works with the College in transition it can be very beneficial. A ToD can explain how, eg; assessments were tackled for an individual, and a continuity of support can be provided. I think the idea of a transition year (preparation for study) is very good and one and I would recommend it if poss although students often want to get straight in and get started on course which is understandable.

Coping strategies may make the difference between a relaxed and successful time at college and a painful and awkard time. If a deaf student has already found coping strategies for communicating in a range of situations; resorting to pen and paper, booking a SLI through his/her disability advisor, using a minicom or email to arrange a meeting the world becomes more accessible. It is important that deaf youngsters feel equipped in tackling new situations. Ways of coping at home don't necessarily translate to a formal environment. Youngsters can get into difficulty if they are not equipped for a range of situations and instead rely on home signs, or a form of oral communication that works at home but does not transfer so well to other environments.

In conclusion:

  • English language support
  • Communication strategies
  • Deaf peer group
  • Early initial contact
  • Research how prepared College is for deaf students

Notes: It depends on the individual and their life and educational experiences as to whether they are prepared for College timing can be an important factor.

If you are thinking about College, or a deaf person you know is, it may be worth thinking about the following:

Being able to access the written word can open up many channels of communication. For this reason, I recommend to all of our students that they read as much as possible newspapers, leaflets, anything, the signs you can read from the bus window, your train ticket, the football column, etc. Read what is interesting, and what holds your attention, do a little every day before coming to College. Access English classes for deaf people.

Think in advance about communicating in different situations. If you had to make an appointment how would you do it would a minicom be beneficial, do you need to develop your confidence in communicating and rely on family less?

Find out from other deaf and hard of hearing students how they have coped learn by others' mistakes. Don't struggle alone.

Make early contact with College. Most work is done at pre-entry stage in paving way for successful experience.

Ask tough questions of College, make sure there is adequate support. Are interpreters qualified and so on. Perhaps most importantly: Find out if the College or University of your choice is prepared for you/ your child, your students.