The high school years are often challenging for students. They are attempting to find their own place in the world and may not know what they want to do after graduation. Some teens are able to hone in on activities which are interesting and make them happy through extracurricular opportunities. These may be after school sports or clubs. Most schools offer a wide variety of extracurricular activities ranging from writing for the newspaper, acting, art, robotics, foreign languages, and more. This is great for most teens, but what about those with special needs?
Let’s take a look specifically at deaf teens. Participating within the regular school day can be a challenge for them. Once you look at extracurricular activities, it can be even more difficult for them to join in. One problem for students who have a hearing deficit is that they may feel like clubs won’t work for them. While they may not be told they can’t join, it may be hard for them figure out how to fit in. Simply connecting to peers in the less structured sports and clubs may be harder for interactions without a way for them to communicate effectively.
Schools need to step up and make sure all students have opportunities that will help them in future endeavors. How do students who are hearing impaired participate in a way that will benefit them? Teachers who work with deaf students need to do interest inventories on types of activities that would be of interest to them. Then, this person needs to work with the head of the extracurricular activity on ways to help the child to feel welcome and an active participant. Schools can look to places like Camp Mark Seven in Old Forge, New York. They offer an immersive two-week camp for deaf students to learn about filmmaking. During their time at camp, they work on skills which will help them in the future for jobs and college. It also allows them to see if they may be interested in a certain major.
The key to developing a successful extracurricular program is to be able to include all students with opportunities. Special education teachers, therapists, and others within schools need to work together to come up with ways to make this possible. Thinking outside of the box together will make it easier to come up with ways to be inclusive and make sure all students learn skills while will be beneficial for their future.