Communication practices of integrated hearing-impaired students in the Northern Territory

  • Geoffrey Brian Wilmshurst

    Student thesis: Masters by Research - CDU


    This study was an initial investigation to document information on the demographic features and communication practices of hearing impaired children in mainstream placements within the Northern Territory. It dealt with children within Darwin, the largest urban population area in the Northern Territory. Students and teachers from primary and secondary government school settings were surveyed. No information of this type was available within the Northern Territory prior to this study. Rumsey (1984) undertook a similar study with secondary-age students within New South Wales schools and discussion on her findings was included.

    The present study attempted to determine the current communications methods employed by integrated hearing-impaired students. Information about primary school pupils was supplied by their teachers; secondary school students provided information themselves. A high response rate was evident for information from both school - age groups even though the study population size was small (n= 11 and n=8 respectively). The teaching staff however, had a poor return rate with only six of a possible 29 teachers replying. On the basis of this it was therefore very difficult to determine any trends or generalise findings to a larger group.

    The current study group involved only children with a significant sensorineural hearing loss (>40dB ISO loss).

    The present research study was conducted with a view to establishing the type and mode of communication favoured in differing settings and with different people by integrated students. Consequently it was found that within the primary school age range there was a preference by the child for signing and a combination of signing and speech across a range of settings and persons. This was not the case however, in the secondary age group. This group was found to use oral language for the most part across all settings; particularly where the students were interacting with hearing people. Teaching staff (all hearing), it was found, regularly used oral language as their primary mode of communication in secondary.

    No teachers in the current study group had a hearing loss; although it is entirely possible that some teachers in the Northern Territory work force are hearing-impaired, it was conjectured there may be many teachers in the mainstream, teaching hearing-impaired students who do have an equivalent hearing loss or indeed a hearing loss. From the results derived it was suggested that further research be undertaken in the area of communication practices, specifically to investigate the issue of speech intelligibility and communication. Rumsey (1984) found this to be a significant factor in the communication practices observed in her study group.

    This area was not covered by this current study. However, it may be a significant factor in the development of effective communication skills by hearing-impaired students. From the limited information available from the teaching staff surveyed, it was determined that in service education in the area of integration and communication programming were high priority needs.

    Information transfer and dissemination appeared to be spasmodic and therefore there was a perceived need to streamline and coordinate roles and responsibilities in regard to integration. At present from the information supplied in this survey, the educational ability of the integrated students surveyed is perceived by their teachers to be average or below average relative to their hearing peers.

    Current research literature supports the view that a causal link between the degree of hearing loss and poor expected academic ability is neither justified nor supportable and hearing loss is merely a contributing factor; the lack of communication skills is seen to be a more significant factor. From this current study it has been found that the current communication modes in use with integrated hearing-impaired students do not appear to be as effective as they could be, and there is a consequent urgent need for further research into communication practices used by mainstreamed hearing impaired students and their teachers. However, the small size of the current study necessitates further work being undertaken with larger groups.

    It was found that although secondary-age children used oral language across all settings as often as possible, they were very supportive of the idea of signing. They were supportive of hearing people in general learning to sign. However, they did not think that was appropriate that teachers should learn to sign. This is an interesting anomaly. It was found that teachers involved in these settings did in fact use communication modes that were not congruent with their hearing-impaired students. Raising the point that perhaps this is an area worthy of further study in the future.
    Date of AwardNov 1994
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBrian Devlin (Supervisor)

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