How to assess a deaf student

Having an assessment can be a daunting experience for a student, so it is important to think about how you can make this process as easy as possible for them.

Communication is something we can take for granted. Imagine being in a class full of students from many different backgrounds, and there is chatter amongst the group about where they might be heading after their lecture. Imagine how it feels to be left out of the conversation. Imagine how it feels not being able to keep up with the forever-changing topics during a lecture.

When assessing students to determine their communication needs, it is good to start by asking for some background information and to see what support they have had previously, if any.

Some students may not know what would be best for them, so to gain a real insight into what their needs will be, we’ve put together some questions you can ask during the assessment:

1: What is your preferred method of communication?

For some deaf people, this is going to be an easy one to answer. If this is a British Sign Language user, they will simply say, “I use BSL, so I need an Interpreter”. Suppose someone has had various methods of communication throughout primary school and secondary school. In that case, this might be more tricky, so we have added some additional questions that can help you to help the student discuss what their needs might be.

2. How do you communicate at home?

This is a really good question because it focuses on how communication happens in their everyday lives and how this works for them. This way of communicating can be something you then consider when figuring out what the students’ needs might be.

3. How have you accessed communication in education previously?

Here you can refer back and think about what they had in their primary and secondary education and look to try and replicate this or take this forward. As we’ve said, definitely consider that Communication Support Workers (CSWs) haven’t received interpreter training, so even if the student has received CSW support in the past, really, you’re going to be looking at providing them with a BSL Interpreter moving forwards.

4. Are you able to easily access and understand academic texts?

This leads to receiving the services of a Specialist Support Professional (SSP) specifically by asking if they can easily access and understand academic texts.

We would always suggest that deaf students have SSP. If they don’t use it, they don’t use it. It just needs to be on their DSA2 letter, and it’s available if they need it. Some of our students use it, and some don’t, but it just means it is there as a safety net in case it’s needed. Identifying whether the student will need this support directly is an excellent question.

These questions help to start the conversation and discuss the whole range of support options to identify what is most suitable for the deaf student.

Remember that they may use different communication support for different environments, and these questions are a good starting point to get to know the student’s individual needs.

We hope this is helpful! Did you know, we hold free deaf awareness training for DSA assessors? Contact us if this is something you are interested in.

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