ASL University ►

Hurting or Helping: Interpreting in the Classroom

Rebecca Johnson


Hurting or Helping: Interpreting In the Classroom

As human beings interaction is an essential part of a person's development. "Throughout childhood and adolescence peer interaction is essential for language, cognitive, and social development" (Grassmeyer and McEvoy 3). Children need to develop and practice their social skills if they want to become productive members of society as they get older and go out into the world. Without well developed social skills people hold themselves back from many opportunities they could easily obtain. Something many young Deaf people and parents of a young Deaf person face is making the decision of how to educate that person. They must decide if bringing in an interpreter would either help or hinder the student.

As children get older, the need for social skills becomes more prominent. "Social success is critical for broader success [] Social skills are complex and multi-faceted" (Mental Health Foundation of Australia). When children are young they learn how to act around others from their parents. These children take this general knowledge with them to school, where they develop these skills even more. The young adults learn that not every toy can be theirs and they must interact with other people they might not always get along with. These are the basic skills that every child has to develop to become an effective person in the world. However, the only way to develop these skills is by interacting with other people. Someone who is hard of hearing or Deaf, even a child, may find it hard to communicate with others thus hindering their development of said skills due to language barriers.

Just as an American feels lost when they go to a different country and does not speak the countries language, the same thing happens for a Deaf or hard of hearing child in the classroom. Trying to communicate can be difficult because there is nothing in common to go on. This obstacle to interact with others could lead to a lack of social skills." Social inability can be a lifelong problem. Therefore it is imperative that social skill deficits be identified early and addressed in much the same way as we identify and address children's learning problems" (Lawson). This can become an issue because as the child gets older, he or she may not have progressed the in the same ways as his or her peers. Not developing the same as those around them would only lead to being ostracized more. However, even if one did develop normally and was not excluded, getting an interpreter may still not be the best option. "Socially, any Deaf or hard of hearing student who is constantly accompanied by an interpreter may experience difficulty fitting into or identifying a group of hearing peers" (Parents). Not only could an interpreter hinder the young adult's ability to make friends, but the interpreter could also become a crutch because he or she is the only person with whom the Deaf person can fully communicate with.

For some Deaf and hard of hearing children getting a Cochlear Implant or using a speech to text type system, such C-print, may be better options than using an interpreter.  On the other hand if the young adult or child chooses an interpreter, it can have many benefits. Interpreters also help the client to understand everything that is going on around, not just the educator. The risk of being ostracized still exists, but it is ultimately up to the student regarding how to react and up to the faculty about how they want to handle the situation if presented.

No matter the decision the family of a Deaf person makes, it's a personal choice. What works for one person may not work for another. "Peer interaction serves as the foundation for many important aspects of emotional development such as the development of self-concept, selfesteem and identity" (Grassmeyer and McEvoy 1).  Parents should make the choice that will allow for the most communication and comprehension.

1. Christine Grassmeyer and Teresa McEvoy. "Classroom Interpreters - Interpreters and Children
- Fostering Social Interaction". Classroom Interpreting. EIPA Diagnostic Center. July 6, 2012

2. Social skills. Mental Health Foundation of Australia. June 14, 2007.

3. Christine Grassmeyer and Teresa McEvoy. "Parents - Considerations for an interpreted
Education." Classroom Interpreting. EIPA Diagnostic Center. July 8, 2012.

4. Cindy Lawson. "Social Skills and School." Center for Development and Learning. Louisiana
Children's Research Center for Development and Learning. July 9, 2012. <


You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University
ASL resources by    Dr. William Vicars

Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy DONATE (Thanks!)
(You don't need a PayPal account. Just look for the credit card logos and click continue.)

Another way to help is to buy something from the ASLU "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)   CHECK IT OUT >

Bandwidth slow?  Check out "" (a free mirror of less traffic, fast access)   VISIT >


back.gif (1674 bytes)