Deaf teacher uses sign language to teach students with special needs

By Sebastien Raybaud, with additional reporting by South China Morning Post

Teacher Anita Yu On-lam struggled herself as a student, and wants to use sigh language and creative teaching methods to motivate her students

By Sebastien Raybaud, with additional reporting by South China Morning Post |
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Anita Yu (right) also teaches sign language to the parents of deaf children.

Ip Kin-yuen, Hong Kong’s education lawmaker, praised the deaf teacher who uses sign language to teach primary school students with special needs. Anita Yu On-lam, 38, teaches young students at the Sign Bilingualism and Co-enrolment in Deaf Education programme. 

Born deaf, she struggled to learn as a young student because teachers did not use sign language during lessons. On Monday, Yu was among the first batch of 13 hearing-impaired individuals to graduate from Chinese University’s sign language teaching course.

There are 155,200 people with hearing difficulties in the city, according to a Census and Statistics Department study published in 2014. Of those, 1,300 people are below the age of 15, while 2,800 people are aged between 15 and 29 – together making 2.7 per cent of all hearing-impaired people.

Ip believes having a teacher like Yu will help students a lot. “She is deaf herself, therefore understands how to prepare and convey the message to deaf students’ needs,” he told Young Post.

He added that “those without hearing problems should also learn sign language so they can communicate with those in need”.

Yu said she has creative ways to teach her students and keep them motivated.

“Instead of just teaching them how to sign each word, I learned that I can let them know that ‘good’ and ‘yes’ both are signed with the thumbs up hand symbol, but they are differentiated using different facial expressions,” she said.

Yu combines sign language with other subjects. In maths lessons, for example, she hands out red packets containing different amounts of money and asks pupils to sign how much was in their red packet.

Professor Felix Sze Yim-binh , co-director at Chinese University’s Centre for Sign Linguistics and Deaf Studies, said there was currently only one special needs school for deaf children in the city, the Lutheran School For The Deaf in Kwai Fong.

Sze added that there should also be more resources devoted to grading sign language proficiency.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge

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