“Total Communication” philosophy

Thank you Kris Raasch Polly and Barb Nagy for your recommendation letter on behalf of my nomination for the 2017 Oticon Focus on People Awards.

At age 3 Senthil joined the full-time preschool program for deaf and hard of hearing children in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The preschool program followed the “Total Communication” philosophy which was very popular at that time. This philosophy allowed for oral speech, auditory skill development, speech reading and sign language techniques to coexist within the same classroom, based on the needs of the child. This class of 10 children included those who were hard of hearing, profoundly deaf and 3 children with apraxia who were learning sign language to help them in communicating their ideas. This “Total Communication” philosophy probably contributed to Senthil’s acceptance of people with different communication styles and needs.

Even at a young age, the teacher noted that Senthil displayed unusual compassion, interest in what other children had to say, and a desire to include everyone. Always a polite and well mannered child, an unkind word from Senthil was never heard in the years she worked with him. He also developed an appreciation for the cultural differences among people. At home his family continued some traditions and customs from India, while at school he learned about American customs and values.

By third grade, Senthil was mainstreamed into a regular education classroom. He would continue to be educated with his hearing peers through his middle school and high school years. A resource room teacher and then an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing would consult with regular education staff to see that modifications such as appropriate seating and the use of an FM system to help him to hear the teacher’s voice and block out competing background noise were in place to help facilitate his success.

Senthil graduated and went to college. He became a graphic designer working with computers. As an adult he went on to develop a website for deaf and hard of hearing people, featuring a weekly chat night available internationally to share experiences and information. Given Senthil’s character, it is no surprise that he continues to find ways to help others and it has been our privilege and pleasure to have taught Senthil and be part of the process of referring him for this award.

Kris Raasch Polly and Barb Nagy, Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, School District of Waukesha, retired

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