And the mask It is already a torment, as uncomfortable, for children who spend so many hours at school with it on, in those students with hearing problems For those who lip reading means “everything” to feel connected to the world, it implies a hell.
Pay attention to the explanations of a professor with the face is covered up to the nose, it hides all the information it tries to explain from them. It is true that in most of these classrooms there is an interpreter or person of reference who, through sign language, transmits to them at all times what is taught in the classroom, but “it is not the same”, as Marta indicates de la Torre, general director of the Gaudem concerted school.
Ensures that “Lip reading is very important for the proper transmission of the message ”and that sign language“ relies heavily on the gesture of the mouth ”and facial expressions and grimaces. «For example, to indicate the augmentative of a word, a certain movement of the mouth is made, in the same way as if we refer to the action temporal of a verb. We also need to bring the hand to the nose or to the side of the lips to give meaning to certain words that, with the mask on, children they do not perceive it exactly. Learning is undoubtedly impaired and makes these students unequal opportunities with respect to their peers ».
Concha Díaz, president of the CNSE (State Confederation of Deaf People), explains that, by law, administrations must provide deaf students with the adaptations they need, and at the same time, ensure the necessary conditions to safeguard their health and that of the people around them. «The administrations and centers themselves are responsible for minimizing the difficulties that may arise from these health measures. This year, to the communication problems posed by the necessary use of masks, many other deficiencies are added that do nothing to guarantee access to education for these students.
The families of these children, how can it be otherwise, want solutions. They want them now. “We must not forget that what is at stake is the present and the future of people, and in this case, of their children. Seeing that your child suffers when going to school, that he is afraid, that he cannot sleep …, it is tremendous for parents. Very hard”.
Isolated on the playground
And the problem is not limited to what happens within a class, but extends outside the classroom. «The socialization of these children is greatly impaired, which affects them in their group relationship with others, but also in their self-esteem as people – assures Ines Nogales, head of the Guidance Department of Colegio Gaumen—. When they go out for recess, all of his friends wear the mask and therefore cannot read his lips. In addition, they must keep their distance, which makes their bond much more difficult and, unfortunately, there is no support person to help them feel in communication with the other children. This situation is very frustrating; the patio should be a space for laughter, games and talks ».
Parents are very concerned that their children do not learn the same and tend to be more isolated. During the confinement they already suffered inability to communicate as equals with peers. «If socialization at school is important for any child, it is much more important for deaf people because the rest of the classmates have other circles and areas in which they can relate without problems, but for the deaf, the school is, in most cases, their only meeting point with other children, ”explains Marta de la Torre. Here no one observes them, neither looks strange nor treats them in a special way. If they go to a park, from the minute one they usually perceive their difference. They don’t feel as integrated.
One of the first “solutions” presented for these cases is the use of transparent masks. “We have tried all of them,” says the director of Colegio Gaumen, “but the truth is that most of them are not homologated and tarnish. Those that are approved cost 30 euros. As a teacher, I can have this type of mask, but not all the teachers – who are fifty in this school – nor the schoolmates of these children. There is a lack of aid to finance this type of mask ».
The president of the CNSE points out that it is essential that the products meet the necessary requirements to be sanitary, safe, useful, accessible and affordable and this has been transferred to both Health and Consumer Affairs. “We consider that It is the Administration itself that must assume this task, in such a way that the suitability of the masks that are acquired is guaranteed because, under no circumstances, can anyone’s health be put at stake. In this sense – he qualifies – we urge administrations, private entities and social, educational and cultural agents to adopt a proactive and cooperative attitude that, in the long run, benefits not only deaf people, but the whole of society.
Marta de la Torre also insists that in the classroom it is necessary, in addition to the teacher, another reference support teacher, and not just an interpreter who only transmits each word of the teacher and that when her time is up, she leaves. «The reality of a hearing child is very different from that of a deaf one. Support staff should know each child and have knowledge of the context of the subject being explained. The Administration knows it, but does not support it financially. We suffer great neglect».
Faced with a new confinement
Online education can be the most inaccessible scenario for deaf students if their needs and characteristics are not taken into account when planning the course. For a sample, the deficiencies and lack of support that were detected in the organization and methodology that was used to continue classes during confinement.
The possible return to this scene is restless. And a lot. It would be essential to maintain the contracts for the services of specialist sign language consultants and interpreters, ensuring their presence at all school stages and school hours, as well as non-teaching personnel such as speech therapists. Likewise, the teaching material should be accessible in sign language and with subtitles.
Another important aspect, given the lack of presence, would be to avoid the communicative isolation of these students, promoting interactions with their classmates, as well as establishing an effective communication channel with families, which would be accessible if they are parents. deaf.
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