Classroom Interpreting

Administrators - A Student's Need for an Educational Interpreter

The classroom is a complex communication environment. Students must integrate communication from a variety of speakers, often while many people are participating at the same time. For a student with hearing loss, a typical classroom environment can be quite challenging.

Both deaf and hard of hearing students may need an interpreter in order to access classroom communication and peer interaction. Decisions about interpreter necessity should be made on an individual basis, regardless of whether the student meets a certain a level of hearing loss.

The U.S. Department of Education’s document on Policy Guidance directs the educational team to consider social, emotional, and cultural needs, as well as linguistic and academic needs when considering whether a student needs an educational interpreter. The deaf or hard of hearing student must be able to access all aspects of the classroom curriculum, not just the teacher’s lecture. This includes peer interaction which is important for social development.

Even students who can communicate easily using speech may need an interpreter. Often hard of hearing students can interact on their own in quiet environments with a limited number of speakers. However, it may be more difficult for those same students to interact in classroom settings with multiple speakers and in lessons containing new concepts and vocabulary. Students that are hard of hearing may understand some teachers without an interpreter, but it may be more difficult to understand other teachers because of their speech and language styles.

The need for an educational interpreter should be determined by the student’s ability to access classroom communication, not by his or her ability to speak on a one-on-one basis.

Some deaf and hard of hearing students may have language and vocabulary skills that are delayed compared to their hearing peers. An educational interpreter can also help implement language and learning goals, such as interpreting in a manner that may facilitate vocabulary learning.