You have just found out that you will be teaching a deaf student and you may – or may not – have been told before the first class. You may feel uncertain about what you need to know or what you may need to consider in relation to the deaf student’s learning needs. Most likely you have a lot of questions!

You are not alone; we are here to assist you and, be assured, you are not the first to have a deaf student.  Click on the clip below to hear one TAFE teacher talking about her experience:

Below you will find some of the most commonly asked questions with information addressing these. The depth to which you explore the question or issue is up to you – there is a brief response with an opportunity to then drill deeper into the topic. If you do not see information that addresses your immediate need, do not despair! We are just a phone call (or email) away.

What are the essentials I need to know?

There are some things that will be different when teaching a deaf student.

These include:

  • a student who can only look at one thing at a time … see more
  • a student who may use an interpreter, notetaker or both in class … see more
  • a student who may have challenges relating to reading and writing English … see more
  • a student who may need you to provide copies of your notes or PowerPoint presentations
  • a student who may need prompting to ensure they use protective eye wear in some learning environments … see more
What do I need to do differently?

You may need to:

  • change your style of delivery [show, tell, show again not a straight “chalk and talk”] … see more
  • manage classroom interaction to ensure effective turn-taking … see more
  • support student learning by being more visual and/or by providing the deaf student with copies of your PowerPoint presentations or overhead slides … see more
  • select videos and DVDs that are captioned ... see more
  • not to use auto-caption options as available on YouTube … see more
  • ensure you gain the deaf student’s attention before you begin speaking … see more
  • consider changing how you interact with the class; that is, only speak to the entire class from the front of the classroom … see more
  • work with interpreters and notetakers – what is different … see more
What could I do differently?

You could:

  • develop additional, visual resources that support your teaching … see more
  • if possible, make yourself available during out-of-class time to provide reinforcement of new concepts
  • brief the regular interpreter and/or notetaker on the content for the day as well as on forthcoming topics … see more
  • read more about deafness, Auslan and the Deaf community and its culture … see more
How does my student communicate?

In essence, there are five possible ways that a deaf student who has done their compulsory education in Australia may communicate.

These are:

It is also possible that your deaf student will use a combination of these.

How do I communicate with my student?

To communicate with your deaf student, you will need to know something about him or her as well as how s/he communicates. How you communicate with the student will be determined by this.

So, is the student:

  • “oral” (uses lipreading and speech) … see more
  • using a signed language (Auslan, Signed English) … see more

After you know this information, ask the student how s/he want you to communicate with him or her.

Possibilities include:

  • through an interpreter … see more
  • in a quiet setting without distractions … see more
  • through notes … see more
  • via email … see more
  • via text messaging (sms) … see more
  • via interactive messaging (e.g. MSN, FaceTime, etc.) … see more
  • through the National Relay Service … see more
Managing specific study areas …

The management of content delivery as well as the learning environment varies from course to course as well as subject to subject.

Some of these are:

Important tip: in labs, workshops and some outdoor settings, it is crucial that protective gear is worn (i.e. eye and ear protection – see “What do deaf people hear?” for more information).

How deaf? Deafness explained …

Deafness and its implications – especially for learning – is a multi-layered set of circumstances resulting in a wide-range of needs; in other words, no two deaf people are alike.

Factors that influence the impact of deafness on the individual include:

  • age of onset (when did the deafness occur?)… see more
  • degree of deafness (how severe is it?) … see more
  • the communication used … see more
What do deaf people hear?

It is a common notion that people who are deaf live in a world of silence. This can be true for some deaf people, but not all.

For a simulation of deafness, click here

Topics to help you to understand what and how people hear include:

  • how the ear works … see more
  • how hearing tests are done … see more
  • understanding an audiogram and how we hear sounds and speech (pitch and loudness) … see more
  • why hearing something doesn’t necessarily mean a person can make use of or understand what is heard … see more
  • Tinnitus – what it is and how it interferes with hearing … see more
  • why protecting residual hearing is important … see more
My deaf student wears a cochlear implant and/or a hearing aid – that means they hear everything, right?

It is a common belief that either a hearing aid or a cochlear implant (CI) mean that the person hears everything the same as you or I do. People’s frame of reference for this is glasses, but this analogous conclusion is incorrect.

The major difference between glasses and hearing aids/CIs is that glasses correct vision whereas hearing aids and cochlear implants do not correct what is heard. They only make sound more accessible.

  • How do hearing aids work … see more
  • How do cochlear implants work … see more
  • Why are glasses different … see more
What technology may help?

There are different types of technology that can assist deaf people. Essentially, the available technology assists a deaf person in one of two ways. They either assist the person to hear something or they create access either visually or tactilely.

Examples of these include:

  • flashing lights … see more
  • vibrating alarms … see more
  • volume amplification … see more
  • technology to eliminate background noise (e.g. FM units) … see more

Located in Melbourne, Word of Mouth Technology offers a range of devices as well as assistance and advice.

Why is eye protection so crucial for deaf students?

In science labs, workshops and some outdoor settings, protective eye wear is available and important for all students. However, for a deaf student, it is even more crucial that they be prompted to wear protective eye wear.

Somewhat obviously, this is because their eyesight is a crucial component of their ability to communicate, regardless of how they do communicate (e.g. lip reading, sign language, etc.) ... see more

Who can support me?

You have a range of options available to you for assistance and support.

These are:


As you may have begun to realise, the area of deafness is vast and complex. The needs of the individual vary greatly and creating an all-encompassing list of resources presents a challenge, so the following should not be considered an exhaustive list.

Nonetheless, possible resources include:

  • information about the Education Standards and creating an inclusive classroom ... see more
  • report about the Education Standards - "What Standards?" … see more
  • information about the Disability Discrimination Act and the Education Standards … see more
  • report - Connecting the Dots … see more
  • a quick reference guide for teachers … more to come
  • FAQs about teaching deaf students … see more
  • what does having interpreters and notetakers in your classroom mean ... see more
  • working with interpreters ... see more
  • video - How do I work with an Interpreter? ... see more
  • working with notetakers … see more
  • a terminology glossary … see more
  • career and employment options for deaf students … more to come
  • links for Registered Training Organisations to related websites … see more

For further information, contact us on (03) 9269 8306 or email us by filling out the form here.

We would also really value your feedback on this pilot online resource so please take the time to complete the following short survey: