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Importance of Interpreters in Schools

By Yana Schottenstein

There are many options for education with regard to students who are deaf or hard of hearing. However, sometimes those options are limited because of where a person lives or how much they can afford. Sending a student who is deaf or hard of hearing to a public education system can seem like poor option, but don’t underestimate the value an interpreter can bring to that situation and make it a truly positive experience.

Communication Access Support

Interpreters in the education system can provide children who are deaf or hard of hearing with the benefits of communication access in regular school systems.. They do this by accurately representing the classroom instruction and making dialogue possible between a teacher and student. As well, they communicate relevant sound information in the mode of communication used in classroom.

Interpreters in the classroom are there to ensure that students can fully and effectively access any and all sound information they would otherwise not have access to without an interpreter. The interpreter can not only convert dialogue between the deaf or hard of hearing student, but also give them access to the sounds and conversations happening around them. This helps make them an active part of their school community.

An interpreter's role is even greater in the classroom because they are not only tasked with interpreting, but also educating in their own way. The interpreter must take into account the child's best interests considering taking into account the language level of the child, academic competence, social development, and interpersonal skills.

The interpreter is not a personal disciplinarian

It is important that an interpreter understand how important the relationship they have with their student is built on mutual respect and trust. Both the interpreter and the deaf or hard of hearing student must know each other's roles. Many time teachers view educational interpreters as the personal disciplinary, but this is a mistake.

If an interpreter becomes the disciplinary this can send a mixed message to the student who is deaf or hard of hearing. The student might realize they are being treated differently than the other kids. This kind of situation can lead to a potential misunderstanding of the roles between the interpreter and student. If a student feels like their interpreter is upset with their behavior they may not try to communicate when they don’t understand a teacher, for fear of upset their interpreter even more. Fall-out from this kind of situations can cause a breakdown in communication access and flow for the deaf or hard of hearing learner. This must be avoided by a proactive strategy to which all parties agree that the classroom teacher is the authoritarian and disciplinarian.

Beyond the education system

The interpreter’s role will always be changing as a student grows up and develops as his or her own person. An Interpreter in high school will require different tact than an interpreter in elementary school. The maturing process into adolescence and becoming a teenager, the educational interpreter can empower the student into self-advocacy. The goal is to encouraging a student to actively determining their needs and how to overcome them. The most important thing for deaf or hard of hearing student before graduating should be to know how to request an interpreter for whatever future needs will come up in their lives.

About the writer

Yana Schottenstein, the founder of Access 2 Interpreters, contributed this article. Yana is dedicated to providing equal opportunity and access to services for non-English speaking communities. Access 2 Interpreters is a leading translation and interpretation company in Columbus, Ohio, USA.

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