Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Nature of the Social Experiences of Students with Deaf-Blindness Who Are Educated in Inclusive Settings

Academic journal article Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness

The Nature of the Social Experiences of Students with Deaf-Blindness Who Are Educated in Inclusive Settings

Article excerpt

Abstract: This qualitative case study investigated the nature of social experiences and opportunities for communication among students who are deaf-blind, their sighted peers with no hearing loss, and adults in inclusive settings. Strategies used by adults to promote interaction were also observed. Implications and suggestions for future research are provided.

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The education of individuals who are deaf-blind has gradually changed from medically driven, institution-based services to the most recent models that include "mainstreaming" and inclusion in general education settings. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) of 2004 (P.L. 108-446) serves as a statement of national policy in the United States to guarantee all students with disabilities a free and appropriate public education. Under the least-restrictive-environment (LRE) stipulation of IDEIA 2004, public agencies must ensure that students with disabilities are educated with students without disabilities to the maximum possible extent.

A growing body of empirical data in the field of special education reflects a fervent interest in the social competencies of and opportunities for students with multiple disabilities, including those with deaf-blindness, to communicate and interact socially with their nondisabled peers and with adults in general education settings (Downing & Peckham-Hardin, 2007; Hunt, Soto, Maier, Liboiron, & Bae, 2004). Although there are benefits and positive outcomes of inclusion, to provide children with multiple disabilities. including those who are deaf-blind, with the same opportunities for communication and socialization as their nondisabled peers, it is necessary to provide "substantive changes in the structure of the classroom, a different conceptualization of professional roles, and a continuous need for collaboration teaming" (Hunt, Soto, Maier, & Doering, 2003, p. 316). Researchers have also found that students with multiple disabilities are more likely to be closer to and to depend more on teachers for communication and are not likely to initiate interactions as often as their nondisabled peers; it seems that inclusion is successful when an intervention or modification model is implemented (Mar & Sall, 1995), as well as when members of the educational team are trained and willing to work with these students.

The number of students who are deaf-blind who are included in general education classrooms and attend school in general education settings is constantly increasing. The 24th Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of IDEA (U.S. Department of Education, 2002) indicated that in the United States, 1,320 students with deaf-blindness, aged 6-21, had received special education services during the 2000-01 school year. This report on the implementation of IDEA provided information on the number of children with disabilities in the school system for 2000-01 and information about the educational placements of these students from 1991 to 2000. Of all the students with deaf-blindness who received special education services under IDEA during the 1999-2000 school year, 39% received such services in general education settings less than 40% of the time, about 10% were served in general education settings 40%-79% of the time, and 15% were served in general education settings 79% of the time or more. "Overall, students with disabilities continue to be served in less restrictive environments, although variation in placement by age, race [or] ethnicity, and disability continues to occur" (U.S. Department of Education, 2002, p. III-47).

Deaf-blindness and inclusion

As is explained in the 2004 amendment to IDEA, deaf-blindness is a condition in which a combination of a visual impairment and a hearing impairment causes a severe communication need and other developmental and learning problems for a person. Because of these particular needs, the person with deaf-blindness cannot be educated in specialized educational programs that are intended exclusively for students with visual impairments, hearing impairments, or severe impairments. …

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