Monday, February 18, 2013

Deaf Education in the Dominican Republic

Some educational news from the Caribbean.

All teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing will be required to learn Cued Speech and incorporate it into their literacy instruction in the country of the Dominican Republic.

How did Cued Speech become a core principal of deaf education in the Dominican Republic?

It all began with an American teacher named Peggy Blevins who took several trips to the country, working with teachers to improve children's academic skills in the schools of the deaf. She taught workshops over the past five years, but only one school consistently used Cued Speech in literacy instruction and that school is now considered a model school for the country.

Why is this happening?

Teachers in the Dominican Republic are now realizing the impact of access to cued language for language and literacy development. A consensus is growing in that Cued Speech is worth learning and using because students are showing growth with it. It was not until an administrative decision at the national level that this requirement for deaf educators took place.

What about their natural language? Where did sign language go?

The reality is that Cued Spanish has typically remained a component of literacy instruction, but not other content areas which are provided in sign language. It seems that sign language still remains a part of those students' social fabric. One can consider their approach to be bilingual with sign language and Cued Spanish.

What will the future bring for the Dominican Republic?

At this stage it seems that older students are only using Cued Speech for literacy purposes. It remains to be seen what will take hold for the younger children in terms of communication preference. Regardless of communication, the reality is that teachers will be integrating Cued Speech into their literacy instruction.

Are there any schools in the United States that use this?

Illinois School for the Deaf is the first school of the deaf in the United States that's integrated Cued Speech into its curriculum for literacy instruction. The suburban regions of Northern Virginia and Maryland have had cued language programming since the 1970's and AG Bell Montessori School in Chicago, IL has provided cued language services for children with hearing loss as part of the school's curriculum.

There are deaf parents requesting that their children receive cued language services as part of their educational experience in those schools, especially Illinois School for the Deaf. Those parents recognize that they still have access to sign language, but appreciate Cued Speech for its academic benefits.

Will Cued Speech last in the Dominican Republic?

Based on research and personal experience I can only imagine that the literacy rates of students with hearing loss in the Dominican Republic will increase significantly as a consequence of a shift to evidence-based practices.

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