When Geeta graduated from one of the few schools for Deaf students in India in which students were not punished for communicating with their peers using signs, she didn’t really know how fortunate she was. The benefit of having teachers who tried to communicate with her in Indian Sign Language became evident when she visited various literate schools with semi-literate Deaf children during her Bachelor’s program in Applied Sign Language and Linguistics. Today, Geeta strives to provide a strong language foundation (one that was denied to her) to Deaf children who enroll in the nation’s premier bilingual early ed program at Haryana Welfare Society for persons with Speech and Hearing Impairment. However, as a first-year teacher, she struggles to find the resources that she needs to support her students.
Young Achievers was invited to collaborate with the early ed teachers at the eight centers spread out across Haryana to figure out a sustainable in-service teacher training program. Over the course of 4 days in July 2018, we were able to equip the teachers with evidence-based practices that ensured that the language deprived Deaf toddlers who attended their classes were prepared to enter kindergarten. Teachers enjoyed taking on the roles of their students as they practiced signing stories using big picture books with their peers. “Watching a video of my storytelling session with my students and learning that I had managed to include so many strategies to maintain my students’ engagement was the highlight of the workshop. I wish I had these sessions every month!”, Geeta’s enthusiasm was contagious. During the workshop, Bilal and Arathy modeled story-telling strategies that were designed to provide opportunities for the children to develop age-appropriate visual communication and ISL milestones.
“I don’t want the next generation of Deaf kids to experience the language deprivation that I suffered in my childhood. I want to break the cycle.”, Ashok’s sentiments were echoed by the 35 teachers who attended the workshops. Arathy and Bilal’s commitment to continued support to the teachers by means of regular video chat is bearing fruit as Tina, the mother of a 3 year old enrolled in the program say, “Before I came to the early ed program, I was at the lowest point in my life worrying that my little one had no future. Today, seeing my daughter thrive around Deaf role models, I am proud to say that she is Deaf.”