Creating opportunities for students who are deaf or hard of hearing

Dallas ISD’s Regional Day School Program for the Deaf is built on a foundation of connections and opportunities. The students and graduates the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services team has supported are in every field and industry, thriving as carpenters, culinary artists, cheerleaders, soccer players, nurses, construction workers, and more. September is Deaf Awareness Month.

“We want our students to know they can become anything they want to be,” said Tina Vaguine, manager for the RDSPD. “We want them to believe in themselves, and we want them and their families to know that they can do anything.” 

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services provides instructional services for students from birth up to 22 years old. The team is made up of about 80 members, including teachers, care professionals, sign language interpreters, communication facilitators, and licensed professional counselors. 

The team members do home visits to help families navigate diagnoses and early childhood care, provide instruction in the student’s mode of communication like cluster sites Mockingbird, where students who use sign language attend, and K.B. Polk, where students who use listening and spoken language attend. While some of their students require full-time specially designed instruction, Vaguine said they work to place students in the least restrictive environment possible. 

About half of their almost 600 students are in itinerant programs and may use hearing aids or only have hearing loss on one side. Those students are at their home campuses, and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services teams support them as needed, ranging from a few times a year to every week. 

“When we hire, we look for role models for our students,” Vaguine said. “We have several teachers who are deaf and hard of hearing themselves, and they are showing our students that they can go to college and get a career, while communicating with them and understanding their motives. We recently hired a new professional counselor who is also deaf and hard of hearing, so she can relate with the kids. It’s really good.”

Vaguine and her team are hard at work spreading awareness about these incredible students and team members throughout the district. September is Deaf Awareness Month, and Vaguine said they have been proud to shine a spotlight on their “exceptional program, talented students, and dedicated staff.”

Dallas ISD has been serving students through the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf for decades, and Vaguine said she hopes the community and district employees will join her team in gaining a deeper understanding of deaf culture and abilities, and come together to celebrate the outstanding achievements of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“Do not be afraid to approach these students and talk to them,” said Carol Harris, a member of Vaguine’s team. “They know they’re deaf, but they don’t act like they’re deaf. They act like children, and they talk to everyone. Whether you sign or not, they know they can utilize an interpreter or other resources to communicate and be successful.” 

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