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(Note: This is a continuing series of articles about Special Needs Deaf (SND) — Deaf people who need special teaching methods.)

  1. Do not Assume They Understand – Examples
    Bible Stories – Some SND do not know the simplest Bible stories. Be sure they know the story before continuing to teach them. One time, I saw a deaf man teaching a class about Jonah. He had a picture of the story. He signed, “Here story Jonah. I not know who Jonah. Jonah on boat. You pay attention in church and learn Bible. You not bored.” He continued that way for 30 minutes. He did not know about Jonah. When he was finished, I told the story of Jonah. The teacher himself was happy to learn the story. Do not assume they know. Ask questions and find out what they do and do not know.

    Bible Words – I have seen teachers and interpreters skip over hard words. They either spell the word or find a fancy sign for it. However, the deaf do not understand it. This is also true for signs the deaf may give you for a word. I have seen people ask the sign for “intercession. What does it mean? I do not know the meaning. I only know the sign.” Be sure they know. Do not assume they know.

    One time I was in a deaf class. The teacher was teaching about miracles. When she signed “miracles,” all deaf asked her, “Mean miracles?” She just kept signing. I stopped her and told her the deaf did not know what miracles meant. She was surprised they did not understand “miracles.” Be sure they know the words you use. Take time to explain any words they may not understand.

    Places – When teaching the Bible, the deaf often do not know Biblical places. Also, they may not understand other places in the world. Use a Bible map or a modern map to show these places.

    History – Sometimes, the preacher may mention famous historical people. These could be famous secular people or famous Christians. It is almost certain the deaf may not know many of these people. Teach them a simple history of these people who might show up in future lessons or sermons. Also, famous events may not be known to the deaf. I have explained many historical events to the deaf. I have explained the American Civil war, World War 2, and even the history of the Philippines. Be sure they understand any events that sermons or lessons might include.

    Editor Note: The principle of “do not assume” is important for all interpreting and teaching! Never assume someone understands your signs. Look for visual clues of understanding. Ask questions and confirm understanding is happening. – More Next Time

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