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Mainstream Deaf Education:

By Maggie Leppert


Mainstream Deaf Education

            Since the foundation of the first school for the Deaf, Deaf Education has evolved in many ways. In 1975, education for deaf and hard-of-hearing children was dramatically altered with the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which states that "all children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living" ("Individuals with Disabilities Education Act" 1). Since then, more and more deaf students have enrolled in public schools. Currently, about of deaf or hard-of hearing students are mainstreamed in public schools. Of these students, half spend most of the day in an inclusive classroom, while others are in a separate special education classroom (Antia 1). For a parent of a Deaf child, it can be very difficult to decide whether or not to mainstream their child. When making this decision, parents must be aware of the legal, social, and academic aspects of mainstream Deaf Education.

            The legal aspects of special education are covered under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). IDEA states that every person with a disability between the ages 3 and 21 is entitled to free public education (inclusive if possible), evaluations and an IEP (Individualized Education Program). If the public school cannot properly educate the student in an inclusive environment, the district must pay for the student to be educated elsewhere. Under IDEA, all families are also entitled to an IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan) to help plan their child's education. If a district follows all these guidelines, the federal government will provide financial support to its special education program. ("Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 3). The opinions of the parents and child must be considered when creating the education plan; if the parents feel the school is not addressing their child's needs, they are free to challenge their schooling legally. Only the parent can know what is best for their child and should always be active in their education.

Specialized and mainstream schooling both offer unique social benefits for their students. Though socializing may be more difficult for deaf children in an inclusive school, inclusive schooling can prepare them for the real world more so than specialized schooling. It goes without saying that Deaf and hard-of-hearing people face many challenges communicating and socializing with hearing people.  If a deaf or hard-of-hearing child is educated in an inclusive environment, they can develop skills that will enable them to work and socialize with hearing people. "Mainstreaming can have a positive impact on social skills," says one special education teacher. "It gives them real world repeated practice of skills that cannot always be generalized from direct instruction in the classroom" (Mintz 2).  Although many parents fear that deaf children may be the target of bullying in mainstream schools, in reality, children with hearing loss are no more likely to be bullied than hearing children. An assessment comparing deaf and hearing children found "no difference in loneliness or sense of belonging in the school" (Kreimeyer 7). A special education teacher at Montgomery High School notes, "We have seen and experienced that an overwhelming number of students focus on the positives and commonalities rather than the differences" (Mintz 1). Alternatively, children who are mainstreamed may feel isolated from the Deaf community, while learning in a specialized school among other deaf children can be comforting. In a study by Stinson and Whitmire, it was found that children with some form of hearing loss felt more emotionally secure among other children with similar challenges (Kreimeyer 3). If a child is mainstreamed, efforts should be made to involve the student in the Deaf community outside of school by educating the child on Deaf history and engaging in social opportunities with other Deaf children in the community. Additionally, parents of deaf children in an inclusive school should always be encouraging and supportive, as a deaf child may learn at a slower pace than hearing students. Counseling may also help a deaf student cope with the frustration and self-esteem issues that come with inclusive schooling (Britton 3).

            It is very possible for a Deaf student to succeed academically in an inclusive school when given the proper resources and attention. The success of the student depends mostly on the willingness and financial ability of the district to address to their specific needs. When a disabled child is enrolled in a public school, their needed adaptations are outlined in a personalized program called an Individual Education Program (IEP). This is created by an IEP team after evaluating the student's academic, cultural, social, and emotional needs and assigning appropriate adaptations. (Britton 3). Children with IEPs can be in a separate classroom for some or most of the day or be in a fully inclusive classroom all day. (Mintz 1). IEPs, when executed fully and correctly, can solve many of the challenges deaf children face. Note takers and voice technology can be provided during lectures. Translators can work with the teacher to decide the appropriate type of signing to use in the classroom (Britton 2). . Amy Mintz, teacher at Montgomery High School, writes "Most teachers and or TIA s are trained in sign or augmented communication systems if that's what the student uses. We also have personal amplification systems for students with hearing impairments." (Mintz 4) If the student instead uses hearing aids, ambient noise can pose a large problem, as hearing aids amplify ALL noise. However, this problem can be solved with carpeting, curtains, and seating arrangements. (Britton 2) Communication barriers between teachers and students can be overcome in many ways, with the help of the teacher and administration.

            Although all the problems deaf children face in an inclusive classroom can be solved, that doesn't mean they always are, unfortunately. The amount of problems that are actually solved by the administration depends on the amount of money that the school is able and willing to allot to the special education program. In some schools, the special education program is well-funded. For example, special education teachers at Montgomery High School speak highly of the administration, writing, "If there is something we need, we have never been denied" (Mintz 6). However, other schools do not see special education programs as a priority. Especially as large budget cuts begin to affect schools nationwide, the special education program is often the victim of the most severe losses (Pappas 1). When faced with budget cuts, many districts have refused to pay the tuition for students in specialized schools, instead bringing them back in district, whether or not it is the right place for the child. As a parent, it is important to know that all parents have a right to challenge the schools ability to do so. Unfortunately, legal efforts of parents to regain tuition payments from the school are risky and expensive and most parents are faced with the decision to either mainstream their child or pay tuition for specialized schools themselves.

            If you are a parent deciding whether to mainstream your child, it is important that you know your child and know your district. Mainstreaming is not for everyone, nor is a specialized school. Special education teacher Amy Mintz advises "do your research, see what's available, start intervention as early as possible, stay involved, ask for help, be your child's voice, and advocate with knowledge" (Mintz 9). Additionally, you should constantly re-assess your child's progress and be flexible (Britton 3). In the end, you know your child best and with your support and encouragement, they can succeed.


Works Cited

Antia, Shirin, Dr. "Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students in the Mainstream." Raising and Educating Deaf Children. N.p., 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 31 July 2014.

Britton, Joshua E. "Deaf Mainstreaming in America." Deaf Mainstreaming in America. N.p., 04 Nov. 2010. Web. 31 July 2014

"Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)." Http:// American Psychological Association, 2014. Web. 30 July 2014.

Kreimeyer, Kathryn et al. "Social Outcomes of Students Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing in General Education Classrooms." Exceptional Children. Council for Exceptional Children, 22 June 2011. Web. 31 July 2014.

Mintz, Amy. "Mainstreaming in Montgomery High School." E-mail interview. 21 July 2014.

Pappas, Blake, Dr. "How Budget Cuts Affect Special Education Programs." Fighting for a U.S. Federal Budget That Works for All Americans. National Priorities Project, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 July 2014.


Also see: "Mainstreaming"



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