Invenio 2009

Improving the teaching of Hispanic deaf students

Teaching Hispanic deaf studentsThe Communication Disorders Program at Lamar University received a five-year grant funded at approximately $300,000 annually from the Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services. The grant addresses preparation of special education personnel to serve infants, toddlers, and children with low-incidence disabilities and preparation of personnel in minority institutions.

The focus of the grant is to increase the number of teachers working with Hispanic deaf students. The majority of the funding has been used in recruiting and scholarships to attract and train students who are interested in teaching and working with Hispanic deaf students upon graduation. The mission of the Lamar University Speech and Hearing Sciences Department is to teach American Sign Language literacy while incorporating understanding of the home culture and how to relate to parents and children who are from a different culture yet who are also dealing with deafness.

Previously funded projects have been very successful in recruiting and training Hispanic graduate students for careers in deaf education. Since 1989, approximately 40 percent of deaf education graduates have been from minority groups. To date, Lamar has trained 23 Hispanic teachers who now teach Hispanic-deaf children. The deaf education program is culturally diverse and has successfully recruited deaf, minority (partially Hispanic), and minority-deaf faculty and university students at the master’s and doctoral levels.

Through this grant, Lamar University seeks to continue the program, which has four related objectives: 1) increase the numbers of Hispanic teachers of the deaf; 2) train teachers to meet the unique needs of Hispanic-deaf students, including those who are immigrants; 3) increase the quantity and quality of teachers of deaf students; and 4) create, develop and produce a "Teachers & Parents Guide" of teaching practices for Hispanic deaf students, including immigrants (print and CD-ROM versions). The department developed training DVDs in addition to the recruitment and training of prospective teachers.

Innovative features include an emphasis on the role of the Hispanic teacher working with Hispanic-deaf children; a focus on parent counseling and training in homes where Spanish is the primary language; the infusion of Hispanic and immigrant culture into the K-12 curriculum for the deaf; the development of teaching methods to match the cultural learning styles of Hispanic-deaf children; the construction of instructional materials that are culturally sensitive including CD-ROM reading lessons; and providing workshops related to the needs of Hispanic-deaf children via distance learning.

The successful implementation of the program has had a positive impact in Texas, where 18 percent of the deaf school children are of Hispanic origin but less than eight percent of their teachers are Spanish-surnamed. The capacity of the institution to continue this project and meet established goals is exceptional.