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"The Debate on Mainstreaming"


By Aubrey Orne-Adams
4/5/2012

The Debate on Mainstreaming
 

For many parents of young children deciding where to send them to school is a difficult process. For most children this can be decided by their location or their parentsí religious affiliation. For parents of a Deaf child the decision of which school to send their child to becomes even more of a challenge. Deaf children have two main choices for schooling. They can attend regular or special education classes in a public school with the aid of an interpreter or they can attend specialized Deaf schools with other Deaf students and teachers who are fluent in sign language. There are arguments for and against both of these educational experiences.

 

Many advocates of placing Deaf children in public schools (or mainstreaming) believe that putting them in Deaf schools is limiting. They argue that it is best for Deaf children to be exposed to Hearing children at an early age so they can hone their lip reading, and oral speech skills. These skills are ones they can use to communicate with ease in a world that is predominantly made up of Hearing people.

 

In public schools certain accommodations are required to be made for Deaf children. Most Deaf children will have an interpreter with them at all times to translate what is being said by the teacher and other students. Deaf students are often enrolled in special education classes if they are in a public school. These classes are usually used to assist the Deaf children with the learning delay they often experience in speech, reading, and language comprehension. Advocates of a public school education may point out that being with a diverse group of students, most of which are hearing, will simulate the conditions that these children will face in recreational and professional situations later on in life. It will teach them to advocate for their needs in many situations as well as allowing them to adjust to oral communication.

 

For advocates of Deaf children attending Deaf schools the main argument involves Deaf Culture. Deaf culture is a very involved and colorful culture with a rich history, just like any other subgroup of society. Not all people who are Deaf are involved with Deaf culture. In general to be considered a full part of the Deaf culture you must not only be Deaf or hard of hearing but you must attend a Deaf school and use sign language as your primary means of communication. Therefore, people who are involved in Deaf culture may see sending their children to a Deaf school as an issue of Deaf Pride. It allows them to learn in an environment that uses the historical language they are used to, and exposes them to other students who are living under the same conditions they are. For many people who would advocate for this type of schooling deafness is not considered a disability but instead it is an attribute of that particular personís character.

 

               One of the arguments advocates of Deaf schools have against having public schooling is the isolation Deaf students may feel. These students are often enrolled in special education classes alone or along with regular education. There have been some complaints of students in these classes feeling isolated and ignored. Special education classes often include students with a wide variety of needs and severity of these needs. If the Deaf child is cognitively proficient than their needs as a student may be pushed aside in a classroom full of students whose cognitive proficiency is much lower. Advocates of a public school education may point out that being with a diverse group of students, most of which are Hearing, will simulate the conditions that these children will face in recreational and professional situations later on in life. It will teach them to advocate for their needs in many situations as well as allowing them to adjust to oral communication.

 

               The argument often comes down to a familyís individual background and preferences. Often the families who advocate for public schooling are families that have at least one Hearing parent. Their interest in mainstreaming could be due to the Hearing parentís experience in Hearing culture. Similarly, the preference to send a child to a Deaf school is generally by families in which one or more of the parents or other children are Deaf. These families are more likely to be participants in Deaf Culture, which is one of the main reasons families advocate for a Deaf education. Neither option is flawless and the option better suited for the individual child depends almost exclusively on their individual needs and their familyís background with deafness.

 

References:

 

1) Friend, Marilyn. (2011) Special Education, Contemporary Perspectives for School Professionals, Third Edition.  Boston, MA, Pearson, Allyn and Bacon.


2) Davis, Maia. "Dilemmas of the Deaf : School Choices Complex for the Hearing-Impaired." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 23 May 1994. Web. 06 Apr. 2012. <http://articles.latimes.com/1994-05-23/local/me-61234_1_deaf-child/2>.


3) "Deaf & HOH Students: To Mainstream Or Not | The Hearing Aid Teacher." The Hearing Aid Teacher. Web. 06 Apr. 2012. <http://www.ehwhathuh.com/2011/02/deaf-hoh-students-to-mainstream-or-not.html>.


4) Lehmann, Brian. "Chapter 11: Students With Deafness and Hearing Loss." Education 230: Exceptional Learner. Iowa, Mount Vernon. 10 Nov. 2011. Lecture.
 

Sample citation for this article:

Orne-Adams, A. (2012, April 05). The debate on mainstreaming. ASL University: Lifeprint Library. Retrieved from http://lifeprint.com/asl101/topics/mainstreaming02.htm
 


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