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 ¾ 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.
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://www.apa.org.
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
Also see: "Mainstreaming"
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