Academic journal article The Volta Review

Facilitators and Barriers to the Inclusion of Orally Educated Children and Youth with Hearing Loss in Schools: Promoting Partnerships to Support Inclusion

Academic journal article The Volta Review

Facilitators and Barriers to the Inclusion of Orally Educated Children and Youth with Hearing Loss in Schools: Promoting Partnerships to Support Inclusion

Article excerpt

The majority of orally educated children with hearing loss are receiving their schooling in inclusive settings. Nevertheless, there is little recent research examining their integration experiences. A series of 10 focus groups with young people with hearing loss, their parents and itinerant teachers of deaf and hard of hearing students were used to identify facilitators and barriers to school inclusion. These facilitators and barriers were found to be associated with teachers and administrators, parents, peers and students with hearing loss. The findings emphasize the importance of examining factors external to individual children and youth with hearing loss in preparing for their inclusion in a standard classroom and support the notion that successful inclusion requires commitment from numerous sources and respectful partnerships among key stakeholders. The findings of the study have implications for the identification of variables to promote the successful integration of children and youth with hearing loss as well as other forms of communication difficulties.

Introduction

Inclusion is an educational option where children with disabilities pursue all or part of their education within a standard school program with their peers who are not disabled. In this model, support is provided to both students and teachers in order to facilitate optimal access to learning in the classroom. An equivalent term, mainstreaming, implies similar educational processes and has traditionally been used by educators of children with hearing loss in order to refer to the education of these children in classrooms with hearing peers (Antia & Stinson, 1999). Inclusion focuses on the acceptance rather than exclusion of children with various types of disabilities in the classroom, school and wider social community. The inclusive model also supports and promotes the growth of the child within these environments. Inclusion is seen as having overall beneficial effects and has been reported as a desirable option by parents, educators and integrated students with a variety of disablities (Andrews & Lupart, 2000; Biklen, 1992; Bunch, Lupart, & Brown, 1997; Goodlad & Lovitt, 1993; Green, 1990; Lipsky & Gartner, 1989; Lombardi, Nuzzo, Kennedy & Foshay, 1994; Northcott, 1973; Stoker & Spear, 1984; Winzer, 2002).

Studies examining the academic achievement of children and youth with disabilities in inclusive programs have demonstrated that these children consistently outperform students with similar disabilities educated in segregated special education settings (Alien, 1986, 1999; Alien & Osborn, 1984; Geers, 1990; Jensema, 1975; Kluwin & Moores; 1985, 1989; Wang & Baker, 1985-86). These children have disabilities such as intellectual handicap, developmental delay, learning disabilities and hearing loss. Other advantages of inclusion consist of attending a neighborhood school, increased involvement in extracurricular activities with neighborhood peers and greater parental involvement in the education of their children (Bodner-Johnson, 1986; Northern & Downs, 2002). Students without disabilities are exposed from an early age to students with differing ability levels, leading to greater understanding and acceptance of difference among all children. Inclusion is thus seen as a means of eliminating the deleterious effects of segregation and the stigma often attached to the student with a disability (Bunch et al., 1997; Gartner & Lipsky, 1989; Guralnick, 1986; Guralnick & Groom, 1986; Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2000; Stainback & Stainback, 1990).

Hearing loss present at birth or occurring in early childhood often represents a significant barrier to the natural acquisition, development and use of spoken language. The degree of hearing loss as well as any delay in fitting the child with appropriate amplification are two important factors that impact directly on spoken language acquisition. The resulting language delay often found in children with hearing loss has been seen as an underlying cause of reduced academic performance (Moores, 1987,1996; Maxon & Brackett, 1992). …

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