The Learning Center's curriculum fosters knowledge and respect for both American Sign Language (ASL) and English, and for American Deaf and hearing cultures. The primary language of instruction and interaction throughout the Framingham campus is American Sign Language (ASL), the natural language of Deaf people and the most accessible language for our student population. Written English is presented as a second language and is heavily emphasized. Spoken English training and practice is provided in individual and/or group sessions when appropriate, as determined by student assessments, parental request and the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) team. Students with cochlear implants participate with equal emphasis on ASL as well as spoken and written English.
The goal of The Learning Center is to provide an environment for our students where they are able to build the skills and the self-respect necessary to be successful within any social or career situation. TLC graduates pursue a range of academic opportunities, vocational training and careers.
Based on student assessments and parental request, spoken English is provided in individual and/or group sessions. The frequency and duration of these sessions are determined at IEP (Individualized Education Plan) team meetings. Particular academic classes may also be conducted in spoken English, if appropriate for all members of the class.
We also focus on development of communication strategies so that students are aware that they have options for effective communication and are prepared to recognize and repair communication breakdowns.
We define speech as the articulation of individual sounds or blends. Speech is only one aspect of a spoken language. Other aspects include formal and informal vocabularies, dialogue skills, phrasing, and much more. At The Learning Center, our goal is for students to be able to use spoken English words, phrases, sentences and conversation for meaningful communication with hearing friends, family and members of the larger community. Thus, spoken English is a more inclusive and appropriate term.
Many TLC students wear personal hearing aids, either throughout their whole day or during the portions of the day when they feel amplification is beneficial. Our educational audiologist is available to assist students with the proper use and maintenance of their hearing aids. When a student and his/her parents agree that hearing aids are of minimal benefit, The Learning Center does not insist upon their use.
Many TLC students have cochlear implants. Classes for students with cochlear implants use ASL as well as spoken and written English, stressing strength and/or fluency in each as a complete language.
The Learning Center has classes in ASL throughout the school year, as well as during the summer. They are free of charge to families of TLC students. There are also other locations in Massachusetts where one can enroll in ASL classes. The TLC office staff can answer your questions about classes and the available alternatives.
Some parents and family members are concerned that their signing skills are "not good enough", that they will never be able to "use real ASL", or that their home environment (which includes non-signing hearing members) necessitates the use of Simultaneous Communication. While it is important for people to improve their ASL skills, the most important point to remember is that all family members need to feel included. No parent should feel that a communication method is "wrong" if it is providing quality interaction among family members.
The Learning Center's academic standards are very competitive, and the expectations of our teachers are high. In every classroom, from our youngest students through high school, the curriculum is comprehensive and challenging. Social studies and science courses parallel or surpass those of programs attended by our students' siblings. TLC's math program is nationally acclaimed. A mediated learning curriculum helps students of all ages with critical thinking and problem-solving skills. State-of-the-art computers are used extensively by students and staff throughout the school. High school students have a larger number of required courses than their local hearing counterparts. We are also very proud of our Advanced Placement (AP) classes as well as the extracurricular, elective and alternative courses which are provided during an age when many options have been omitted from so many school systems.
At The Learning Center, students are able to experience the same wide range of opportunities which are so important to the growth and development of their hearing peers in public school programs. Through a common primary language, they have complete and continuous access to information and to all incidental conversation. Both in the classrooms and throughout the campus, they are exposed to language models, peers and role models. Learning can take place naturally during a student's entire school day. Students also have access to every component of their education (such as sports teams, competitions and contests, committees and clubs), not just to that which is being presented by the classroom teacher and conveyed through an interpreter. This access is important to all students, whether hearing or Deaf. Due to linguistic differences and program logistics, Deaf children in public schools often miss out on many enriching opportunities. Graduates of The Learning Center, having flourished in a supportive and accessible environment, are often leaders within their communities and self-confident in their independent pursuits.