School integrates kids with visual and hearing impairments

The goal is to have each child function autonomously within the educational system.

At first glance, École Saint-Enfant-Jésus seems just like any local elementary school. Its classrooms are filled with young students sitting at desks, engaged in the process of learning. But look a little closer and you discover that this public school, part of the Commission Scolaire de Montreal (CSDM), reaches out to two specific groups: children with hearing deficiencies and those with visual impairments.

So, it’s not unusual to see a student tapping away at a computer with a Braille keyboard or to see teachers wearing headsets that connect to ones worn by students with hearing impairments so they can hear more clearly.

The school, located in the Plateau-area of Montreal, has been providing specialized services to children with hearing and visual impairments since 1969. Students come from all over Montreal and, depending on their needs, might receive all their elementary schooling at École Saint-Enfant-Jésus. Other students will be re-integrated back into their local school with training and services provided by specialists from École Saint-Enfant-Jésus.

Doris Mousseau, who runs the program for hearing-impaired children, says the goal is have each child be able to function autonomously within the educational system, make friends and be happy. Currently, there are 47 hearing-impaired students attending the school. Many of them have had cochlear implants, a surgical process that can restore some hearing.

Classrooms in the school have a transmission system — similar to a walky-talky — that amplifies and transmits sounds to the implants, thus helping a child hear more clearly what is being said. As well, hearing-impaired students receive a DVD of their lessons to work with at home.

Depending on the severity of the child’s impairment, he or she might be placed in a classroom with other hearing-impaired children or integrated into a classroom with support from specially-trained teachers.

The school also works with students from across Montreal who have visual impairments. For example, a student will learn to use Braille on a computer and will receive textbooks translated into Braille. (In fact, the school is responsible for creating all Braille texts for the CSDM.)

Staff members say that the students who attend the school can look forward to a welcoming environment. The school’s long history of helping others, and the fact that all classrooms have been adapted to meet special needs, means that visual and hearing impairments are not seen by most students as something out of the ordinary. As well, the gym classes, recess and lunchtime are fully-integrated, so everyone has a chance to meet and befriend students with special needs.

This fall, the school was awarded a spot in Today’s Parent magazine’s “Top 20 Schools in Canada” (which recognizes outstanding schools in this country), for its work with visually and hearing impaired children.

École Saint-Enfant-Jésus
75 Villeneuve St. East
(514) 350-8846
www2.csdm.qc.ca/st-enfant-jesus/nos_partenaires.htm