The Early Intervention class in the Mid West School for the Deaf caters for Deaf and hard of hearing pupils from ages 3-5 years old. Although diagnosis of hearing loss is thankfully happening a lot earlier now, usually at birth thanks to newborn hearing screening, Deaf and hard of hearing children still experience a delay in language development. The Early Intervention programme seeks to combat this with intensive exposure to spoken and signed language from a young age.
We engage with the Aistear curriculum and despite the intensive focus on language, all learning occurs through play and exploration with a lively emphasis on communication. In this nurturing environment, the children become confident hearing aid/cochlear implant wearers and grow to understand and be proud of their Deaf/hard of hearing identity.
Thematic planning is used with an overall theme of the month (eg. food) broken down into weekly themes. (eg. preparing food, shopping for food, the restaurant, healthy eating) Real life experiences are important and can involve both in-school and out of school practical learning. (eg. preparing their own morning snack or visiting the local café). These kinds of experiences promote the social and emotional development of the child and increase independence and self-motivation.
The Early Intervention school day starts at 9.10am and finishes at 1.50pm. The children join the rest of the school for break and lunch times in the yard and this allows them to benefit from the modelling of play, language and social interaction by the older students. Many of our Early Intervention pupils continue on to attend our primary school and this transition is very smooth as a result of the familiarity the pupils already have with the older students and the school building and facilities. A transition to mainstream school, however, is also supported with communication between teachers and assisted visits.
Transport to our Early Intervention setting is available through the Department of Education’s school transport scheme and as many of our pupils travel some distance to attend the school, this can be extremely helpful. Bus escorts are employed where necessary and the Early Intervention class itself is staffed by a qualified teacher of the Deaf and a Special Needs Assistant with fluent Irish Sign Language.