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Computer Learning for Deaf Children

by Andy Humphrey, studioD

Teachers use spoken and written communication to instruct their students, as do parents at home with their kids. Children with hearing impairments have difficulty with both types of communication so struggle to keep up with classes even with accommodation. As computers become more powerful and more prevalent, deaf children are getting access to tools that help their educations by meeting their specific communication needs.


Imagine if the only language you could speak was Japanese and the only language you could read was English. That's the literacy challenge children using sign language face. An 2007 article by Pieter Reitsma, Ph.D., appearing in the "Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education" explains that since there is no direct link between signed words and written words, children with hearing impairments struggle with literacy and have much lower average reading comprehension than their hearing peers. The study showed that computer-based tools can help deaf children improve their reading skills by using exercises designed to teach them to mentally "sound out" new words like hearing students do.

Speaking & Lip Reading

Cochlear implants can help some deaf children hear but these students then need to learn to speak. The surgeries are often done well after hearing children have started to speak so the children with hearing impairments need some extra help. An animated talking head named Baldi, developed by the Oregon Health and Science University OGI School of Science and Engineering, helps these children develop spoken language more quickly than other programs can. The software has also been used to help children who haven't received cochlear implants learn to read lips more accurately.

Incorporated ASL

Schools typically accommodate students with hearing impairments by assigning ASL interpreters. It can be difficult for the school to assign enough interpreters or to replace an interpreter who is absent on a given day. Some educational software, such as Mathsigner which was presented at the 2010 NTID International Symposium on Technology and Deaf Education, includes animated ASL so deaf students can not only learn the material but learn the associated signs. Another application uses multimedia tools to teach students specialized signs used in topics such as science or technology.

Information Presentation

The NTID symposium demonstrated a number of other computer technologies designed for hearing impaired students. One application used webcams to consolidate multiple sources of information, such as an ASL interpreter and a teacher writing on a chalkboard, onto a single screen on the student's laptop that can be recorded for later review. Speech-to-text applications allow a lecture to be closed captioned on the student's computer in real time. Another presenter showed how real-time captions on a tablet PC simplify the student's note-taking process.

About the Author

Andy Humphrey has been a professional writer for more than 10 years, covering projects from online articles to technical papers and software manuals. His broad background includes extensive knowledge of computer hardware and software, and experience raising a child with multiple disabilities. He holds a Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering.

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