Your deaf student is unique and unlike any other student that you have ever taught.  This relates specifically to the fact that your deaf student must be looking at you (if the student is lipreading) or at the interpreter (if the student is using Auslan) in order to “hear” you.  Elsewhere on this site [see more] you will find information about the implications of this in the learning environment as well as strategies to assist you in addressing the implications in your teaching practice.

What this difference means to you is that you must gain the attention of your deaf student before you begin to speak.  Always.  Without exception.

How you do this can be approached in a number of ways and depends, to some extent, on how much residual hearing [see more] your student has.

Typically, strategies used to attract the attention of a deaf person include:

  • waving your hand
  • if you are close by, tapping on the shoulder or upper arm of the deaf person
  • if you are not close by, asking a person nearby to tap on the shoulder or upper arm of the deaf person
  • flashing the lights in the room
  • if your deaf student does use his or her residual hearing, call out his or her name (proximity required will vary, depending on the student)

To unpack these suggestions a bit further, you may feel that flashing the lights is disruptive or not appropriate for your classroom.  That is fine, simply exclude that option.

You may also feel that touching the deaf student – or asking a nearby student to do so – feels uncomfortable or inappropriate.  It is important to note that as long as it is the shoulder or upper arm, it is culturally appropriate within Deaf culture to touch to gain attention.

It is important that you choose options for gaining attention that are appropriate for you.  So, if you are uncomfortable about tapping your deaf student or asking another to do so, then don’t.  Another option is to tap the deaf student’s desk or – as noted above – waving your hand.  This would usually be done in the deaf student’s peripheral vision.

How you gain the deaf student’s attention is much less important than ensuring that you do have his or her full attention before you begin to speak.  You can readily assess this; once s/he has established eye contact with either yourself or with the interpreter working with you, you can begin to speak.


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