Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Social Outcomes of Students Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing in General Education Classrooms

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Social Outcomes of Students Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing in General Education Classrooms

Article excerpt

Social relationships add quality to one's life and contribute to one's ability to think and learn. A growing body of research indicates that having good social skills is critical for succeeding in society (Caprara, Barbaranelli, Pastorelli, Bandura, & Zimbardo, 2000; Malecki & Elliott, 2002), including success in the labor market (Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, 1991; Valdes, Williamson, & Wagner, 1990). Research also documents the negative impact of a lack of social skills. Elksnin and Elksnin (2006) indicated that individuals who lack social skills are often rejected by others and are at risk for developing mental health problems that persist during adulthood. Bullis, Nishioka, Fredericks, and Davis (1997) reported that 90% of job loss is related to social skills problems rather than an inability to do the job.

Children and youth with hearing loss (also described as deaf or hard of hearing, DHH) often have communication difficulties and consequently may not develop appropriate social skills and social relationships. Meadow (1980) suggested that communication and language difficulties resulted in experiential deficiencies that negatively influenced social development. Researchers and practitioners have been particularly concerned about the social outcomes of students with hearing loss who attend public school programs where their classmates are primarily hearing, because of problems with peer communication and interaction (Kluwin, Stinson, & Colarossi, 2002).


Social outcomes can be examined through several lenses including social interactions with hearing peers, peer relationships and friendships, and ratings of social skills and behavior.


Observation research on the peer interactions of elementary students who are DHH indicates that those who spend limited time in general education classes engage in infrequent interaction with hearing classmates (Antia, 1982; Keating & Mirus, 2003; McCauley, Bruininks, & Kennedy, 1976). However, adolescent self-reports of peer interactions are contradictory. English adolescents reported that they interacted equally or more frequently with hearing peers than with peers who were DHH (Stinson & Whitmire, 1991), whereas U.S. and Canadian adolescents reported the opposite (Stinson & Kluwin, 1996; Stinson, Whitmire, & Kluwin, 1996).


Students who are DHH in general education settings may have poorer social relationships than hearing students. Researchers have reported significantly lower likeability, social preference, and acceptance ratings for elementary students who are DHH when compared to hearing peers (Cappelli, Daniels, Durieux-Smith, McGrath, & Neuss, 1995); these low ratings did not change over time, despite opportunities for peer social interaction (Antia & Kreimeyer, 1996). Nunes and Pretzlik (2001) found that elementary students were as likely as their hearing peers to be popular or rejected, but were significantly less likely to have friends in their class. In contrast, Wauters and Knoors (2008) found no difference in social status between elementary Dutch students with or without hearing loss over a 2-year period. Adolescents with hearing loss in general education settings have reported higher emotional security with peers who were DHH than with peers who were not (Stinson & Whitmire, 1991; Stinson et al., 1996).


Social skills are usually measured through rating scales and interviews. Andersson, Rydell, and Larsen (2000) compared the social competence and behavioral problems of elementary-age Swedish students with hearing loss enrolled in general education programs and similar-age students without hearing loss. Neither parents nor teachers reported differences between the two groups in prosocial orientation, social competence, or externalizing and internalizing problems. …

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