Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Improving Practices for Students with Hearing Impairments

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Improving Practices for Students with Hearing Impairments

Article excerpt

Just talked to an old friend yesterday and she has a 12-year old son who started classes at the local middle school last week. Unfortunately, since there are only two deaf students there, the school feels they don't need to provide services and so he doesn't have a teacher.... Also, my friend is frustrated because her son has very low reading levels and the school won't do anything about it because they say he's "normal for deaf students." What can my friend do to get a better education for her son short of moving out of state?

Students who are deaf and hard of hearing form a widely heterogeneous group. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 1975, terminology associated with this group follows:

* Deaf. A hearing impairment which is so severe that a child is impaired in processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without amplification, which adversely affects educational performance.

* Hard of hearing: A hearing impairment, whether permanent or fluctuating, which adversely affects a child's educational performance, but which is not included under the definition of "deaf." (IDEA)

Students who are deaf must generally rely on additional support to learn systems for communication development and use. The term "deaf" with a lower case "d" refers to students' audiological status. The term "Deaf" with a capital "D" refers to those who identify themselves with the Deaf Culture and their deafness as a cultural phenomenon rather than a medical condition. Students who are hard of hearing rely on their residual hearing for communication development and use, although amplification and educational support is still needed. The term "hearing impairment" refers to a medical condition and is never used to describe an individual.

In 1964 the federal government commissioned a report on the status of services to students who are deaf and hard of hearing in America. Known as the Babbidge Committee Report (Babbidge, 1965), it pointed out the dearth of services to children who were deaf or hard of hearing, such as that reported in the opening vignette. Data from this report, among others, were used to influence the passage of Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Hope was high that this law would change the less than optimal circumstances of students with hearing losses. In 1988 the government commissioned a second report on the progress of education of deaf and hard of hearing students post-P.L. 94-142. Commonly referred to as the "COED Report" of the Commission on Education of the Deaf (Bowe, 1988), the findings of this more recent commission pointed out that "[t]he present status of education for persons who are deaf in the United States, is unsatisfactory. Unacceptably so. This is the primary and inescapable conclusion of the Commission on Education of the Deaf" (p. viii). Now, a decade after the COED Report, 28 years after the passage of P.L. 94-142, and 34 years after the Babbidge Committee Report, the situation is still grave. The plea for assistance in the opening vignette was not written 2 or 3 decades ago but was sent electronically to members of the Internet-based EDUDEAF listserv during the fall of 1998! Clearly the field is still in crisis.

The opening description points out some of the challenges facing deaf education. Most students who are deaf or hard of hearing are educated in their local schools (Holden-Pitt & Diaz, 1998), and many are in areas of this country where there are small numbers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Schools with few students may not have a variety of employees with sufficiently broad bases of specialization to advise the system. Lack of information may cause some schools to make judgments about the needs of deaf students based on conventional wisdom rather than fact (e.g., they read well enough "for a deaf child"), which may result in failure to provide the basic requirements of the law, such as teachers, interpreters, or adequate remedial services. …

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