BATOD
The British Association of Teachers of the Deaf
Promoting Excellence in Deaf Education

THE ROLE OF THE PERIPATETIC TEACHER OF THE DEAF

BACKGROUND

This paper is written in response to the perceived threat felt by some Teachers of the Deaf who believe that the entitlement of hearing-impaired children to have access to a trained Teacher of the Deaf is being eroded. In this paper I intend to examine what it is that Teachers of the Deaf can offer that teachers of special educational needs cannot. It is an attempt, therefore to define the uniqueness of the role of a Teacher of the Deaf and the reasons that require the LEAs to employ them.

Those Teachers of the Deaf who are employed as peripatetic teachers fulfil many roles, To be effective such teachers need to be trained, experienced and have adequate time to carry out their duties, The peripatetic teacher must be a teacher, adviser, counsellor, diplomat, learner, technician and manager.


The Teacher of the Deaf - AS A TEACHER

Peripatetic Teachers of the Deaf may work with children from pre-school age to college age. They will have to work In a variety of environments which may have different levels of resourcing available. Peripatetic Teachers of the Deaf need to have a variety of teaching strategies at their disposal to meet the needs of hearing-impaired children effectively. Strategies are most effective when they have been grounded and developed in practical teaching situations, To develop a variety of strategies the Teacher of the Deaf will need to be both an experienced teacher and an experienced Teacher of the Deaf. S/he should have held appointments in schools and/or units for deaf children and young people and should be a qualified Teacher of the Deaf.

Hearing impairment adversely affects the ability to acquire and retain language, Individuals with hearing losses become restricted in their ability to use language at a number of levels, They will have fewer words with which to converse. Also thought processes will be inhibited by the relative paucity of their internal language.

Teachers working with hearing-impaired children should have an understanding of the complexity of 'language' and its development. They should also have a deep understanding of the ways in which hearing Impairment may affect language development, Language is a psycho-social phenomenon through which we understand our complex social world. To interact with others we not only need knowledge of words and how to string them together but we also need to know how the contest may alter the meaning of words and sentences, We also need to know which sentence structures are appropriate to which situations. An individual whose language development is not as rich as others will be disadvantaged by his/her lack of depth of understanding. The skill to identify these needs must first be based in effective training and developed with appropriate practice. Although Special Education Needs teachers may have an understanding of language development they may not have an adequate understanding of effects of hearing loss on that development.

In addition to having difficulty in language acquisition, hearing-impaired children may have speech that is not easily comprehensible. It is therefore essential that the peripatetic teacher involved should have an understanding of the effect of hearing loss on the ability to perceive and interpret speech sounds. This understanding can only develop as a result of effective training and experience. Further, for some young children, methods of communication, other than speech, may be more appropriate and teachers involved with these children should be able to use and teach other methods of communication. To make an appropriate judgement on the application of other methods and be in a position to advise others requires considerable experience of working with hearing-impaired children.

Working in other people's homes, with pre-school children, is a public form of teaching, if teaching is not done to a high standard and parents lose confidence in their peripatetic teacher, then the reputation of the teaching profession in general may be adversely affected. Because Teachers of the Deaf are trained, experienced and have the necessary skills, they are in a better position than other teachers to minimise the possibility of loss of confidence occurring.

Hearing impairment is a minority handicap. In an effort to save expense it could be tempting for some LEAs to organise their special needs service in such a way that the Teachers of the Deaf to work with other needs in addition to hearing impairment and other teachers who are not Teachers of the Deaf to work with hearing-impaired children. Although those teachers may be under the guidance of the Teachers of the Deaf access to the hearing-impaired child, his/her parents and the mainstream teacher, by the Teacher of the Deaf would be through a third party, Advice offered by the special needs teacher would be degraded in comparison to a situation where the Teacher of the Deaf had regular direct access and could assess the situation directly.


The Teacher of the Deaf - AS ADVISOR

The 1981 Act caused more hearing-impaired children to be placed in mainstream schools where it is essential that, if placement is to be 'functionally' (Warnock) successful, a trained Teacher of the Deaf should contribute to the multidisciplinary assessment. The Teacher of the Deaf could only do this effectively if s/he has regular contact with the hearing-impaired child concerned, This could not happen effectively if a Special Needs service was organised as described above.

The implementation of the 1981 Education Act and the 1988 Education Reform Act has generated a greater need for support of mainstream teachers from appropriately trained and experienced teachers, The Teacher of the Deaf can provide this service because of his/her sound knowledge of the effects of hearing loss on learning. It is improbable that such knowledge could be acquired without training.

Advice offered to parents should be based on understanding and experience of managing the effect of hearing loss. Without this understanding and experience, it is possible that advice offered would not be appropriate to the situation.

The trained Teacher of the Deaf, therefore, is in the best position to ensure that realistic understandings of those consequences are established in parents and mainstream teachers.


The Teacher of the Deaf - AS COUNSELLOR

All adults who support hearing-impaired children experience times of self-doubt. Although not all Teachers of the Deaf are trained as counsellors, because they have an understanding of the effects of hearing loss on language and emotional development, they are often in a better position to help those adults. They will have experienced difficulties in the past and will be able to use that experience as they counsel. As hearing-impaired children mature from childhood into adolescence and beyond, they will also experience self-doubt. The trained Teacher of the Deaf has the experience to help them through these times. This is because the trained Teacher of the Deaf has an understanding of language development and the detrimental effects hearing loss has on that development.

Hearing-impaired children attending mainstream schools are more exposed to hearing social interactions than their peers who attend either schools for the deaf or units for partially hearing children. Therefore there is a greater opportunity for misunderstanding. Peripatetic Teachers of the Deaf, because of the training they have received, are able to explain social misunderstandings to hearing-impaired children. Peripatetic Teachers of the Deaf contribute significantly to the successful integration of hearing-impaired children into mainstream schools.


The Teacher of the Deaf - AS A DIPLOMAT

Working with other professionals in their establishments requires tact. It is important that the peripatetic Teacher of the Deaf should be aware of the constraints placed on mainstream teachers and be in a position to offer advice that can be applied successfully. It is also important that the advice offered by the Teacher of the Deaf is seen as legitimate in the eyes of the mainstream teacher. This is more likely to occur if the mainstream teacher knows that the individual advising them is trained and experienced.

Working within homes also requires tact, be it at the pre-school level or advising parents in the management of their school-aged children. Teachers of the Deaf often have tn make a judgement on the appropriateness of language experienced in the home so that they can offer appropriate advice. The peripatetic teacher has to know what advice to offer and when.


The Teacher of the Deaf - AS A LEARNER

It is important that the Teacher of the Deaf keeps abreast of current changes if s/he is to serve the needs of hearing-impaired chilren and young people. There is a danger that without appropriate training and experience of the learning needs of hearing-impaired children and young people innovations could be adopted in ways that are inappropriate. The Teacher of the Deaf as a learner can use his/her training and experience to evaluate and apply innovations to the benefit of the hearing-impaired child.

The Teacher of the Deaf, like all professionals, must constantly develop and evaluate his/her own practice. If the service for which the Teacher of the Deaf is working is organised on a generic basis and if the Teacher of the Deaf is working with needs other than hearing impairment, there is the danger that opportunities to develop their own specialist practice in managing the needs of the hearing-impaired will be inhibited. As a consequence there is the danger that the advice they will offer will not keep pace with current good practice and be degraded.


The Teacher of the Deaf - AS TECHNICIAN

Hearing-impaired children attending mainstream schools are often hearing aid users. Further, many of those hearing aid users will also be using Radio Aids and other ancillary equipment. If this equipment is to be of value to the hearing-impaired child it has to be appropriate and maintained to a high standard. To do this the teacher must have considerable technical knowledge that must be updated regularly. The ability to interpret audiological information is an essential requirement of the Teacher of the Deaf so that the child is enabled to use his/her residual hearing. Teachers of the Deaf also interpret audiometric information in order to evaluate the probable effectiveness of a new piece of audiological equipment. This skill is essential if inappropriate decisions are to be avoided. Teachers of the Deaf have the skill to guide parents and mainstream teachers so that their expectations of audiological equipment are realistic.


The need to have a Teacher of the Deaf - AS MANAGER of other Teachers of the Deaf

As the peripatetic Teacher of the Deaf's role is wide ranging and requires them to work independently it is essential they are trained and experienced as Teachers of the Deaf. It is also advisable that their line manager is also a Teacher of the Deaf.

In mainstream education the line managers will be experienced in the fields they manage. For example, the head of a first school should be an experienced teacher in that phase of education. Likewise it is unlikely that the head of a science department in a secondary school would be anything other than a teacher who has been trained and is experienced in teaching science. Heads of schools and heads of departments need to be experienced in their field so that they have the necessary knowledge to deploy their teaching force effectively. Teachers of the Deaf are no different from other teachers in this respect. The manager should be experienced in the variety end complexity of the needs of the hearing-impaired so that s/he can deploy staff effectively.

Where this is the case, parents. schools and Teachers of the Deaf will have greater confidence in the recommendations and decisions the manager makes. To go back to the analogy with the mainstream school, it is unlikely that a parent would have confidence in the recommendations of a teacher they knew not to be experienced in science teaching, about the needs of their child as s/he undertook his/her science GCSE course.

Like mainstream teachers, Teachers of the Deaf need a career structure. Teachers who have decided to become Teachers of the Deaf have undertaken training that represents a considerable commitment on their part. If peripatetic teachers are to be absorbed into Generic Services then any career structure that may exist within their specialism would disappear. If this should happen the probability of attracting Teachers of the Deaf to work as peripatetic teachers within Generic Services will be considerably diminished.

The 1981 Education Act placed more hearing-impaired children in mainstream schools. Hearing-impaired children should be entitled to have direct access to a trained Teacher of the Deaf. Likewise parents of hearing-impaired children and mainstream teachers are entitled to be guided by, and have regular and direct access to a trained Teacher of the Deaf. Without the appropriate recognition of their skills, Teachers of the Deaf are unlikely to be attracted into peripatetic work and the government's declared intention of improving the quality of education and equality of access for all may not be achieved.

The government lays great stress on training, yet there is the danger that for some hearing-impaired children attending mainstream schools their needs will be managed or mismanaged by a teacher who is not a trained Teacher of the Deaf. Such a situation must be contrary to the declared wish of the government that all individuals should receive training to fit them for work.


CONCLUSION

In this paper I have examined why peripatetic teachers working with hearing-impaired children should be qualified Teachers of the Deaf. In doing so I have illustrated those things that Teachers of the Deaf can offer that teachers of Special Educational Needs cannot. It has been an attempt to define the uniqueness of Teachers of the Deaf and the reasons that require LEAs to continue employing them in the role of peripatetic teachers thereby ensuring that the hearing-impaired child has regular and direct access to the Teacher of the Deaf.

Further, if the government genuinely cares for the education of minority handicaps, such as hearing impairment, it is hoped that they will take heed of the thoughts and observations in this paper and ensure that the mandatory qualification is extended to cover Teachers of the Deaf who work in places other than schools for the deaf and partially hearing units.


written by Gordon Edgar

first published in the BATOD Association Magazine September 1990