by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A hard of hearing college student was having trouble hearing certain students in classroom discussions. Since the college did not have real-time captioning available, she wrote:
The only option I can think of is to use a hand signal to indicate when I’m having trouble understanding a student and need the instructor to paraphrase their comments. This way she doesn’t have to paraphrase every single comment.
I suggested a more novel, yet free and effective, strategy–that the student make up some “paddles” with the exact message she needed printed in bold letters. Then when she needed the instructor to repeat something, she could just hold the paddle up just enough to catch the teacher’s eye.
(Of course, you arrange this ahead of time with the instructor.)
There are three advantages to using these paddles rather than using hand signals.
First, you can tell the teacher exactly what you need her to do. Hand signals are not as intuitive as plainly lettered English–especially if the instructor is busy thinking about what she is saying, and thus forgets what a given hand signal means.
Paddles make it easy for the teacher to know what to do. For example, you might have one paddle that says “Speak louder.” Another paddle might say, “Repeat question.” A third paddle could say, “Speak slower.”
There is no end to what you could put on a paddle to fit your unique communication needs, without overloading the teacher with the need to memorize myriads of hand signals.
Second, with clearly-printed messages, you don’t have to interrupt the instructor and cause her to lose her train of thought in order to tell her what you need. Just hold up the paddle with the appropriate message.
Third, you can influence the teacher to want to cooperate with you by showing your appreciation each time she does what you ask. How? On the back of each of your paddles, you have a big “Thank You” printed.
When you hold up a paddle that says, “Repeat question” and the instructor does so, you just flip it around so she can see the big “Thank You.”
I made up a set of 3 paddles out of yellow-colored card stock. Next, I glued them together with a paint “stir stick” sandwiched between them for a handle. (I cut the stir sticks down to about 8.5 inches in length.)
My paddles are oval shaped–about 7.5 inches wide and 5 inches high. The handle sticks down about 4.5 inches below the bottom of the oval.
Incidentally, I got this idea from Dr. Sam Trychin a few years ago. Thanks for the idea Sam.