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May 7, 2004

Children can talk without speaking...

From: Leeds Today, UK - May 7,2004


ACROSS some classrooms in Leeds children talk without speaking.

Sign language is the desk order of the day.

Shakespeare School in Burmantofts makes special provision for deaf nursery children aged three and four. In the morning, they take part in specialist sessions, such as improving listening skills by using music, before joining their mainstream classmates.

"The children have full access to the same opportunities as the mainstream children," said Wendy Hepburn, teacher of the deaf and Shakespeare's special resources manager.

"We feel the hearing impaired children benefit enormously from their interaction with their mainstream peers, but it's also a two-way process.

"The mainstream children learn how to use sign language."

The school also hosts a mothers and toddlers group, with babies as young as nine months with hearing problems joining in daily sessions.

Right across the education board, schooling for deaf children needs a radical overhaul, according to a Yorkshire-based charity for people with hearing difficulties.

Deaf Ex-Mainstreamers Group, based in Wakefield, has called for more regionally-coordinated programmes and wider use of bilingualism.

The charity, which was set up 10 years ago has published a country-wide review, called Deaf Toolkit, to coincide with Deaf Awareness Week.

"While there is agreement that deaf children should be fully integrated into schools," says the report, "we witnesses a large number of deaf children being excluded from learning."

It adds: "Sign bilingualism is an effective method that improves the deaf child's level of reading, writing and language acquisition and strengthens their sense of deaf identity and self esteem."

One idea suggested by the report is using dedicated deaf schools, such as St John's in Boston Spa, as a base to co-ordinate education for deaf children. There should also be a dual approach of using sign language and speech, which is already being used in Leeds's three mainstream state schools with specialist resources: Cottingley Primary, Horsforth West End and Shakespeare in Burmantofts.

07 May 2004

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