THE ROLE OF THE PERIPATETIC TEACHER OF THE DEAF
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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