Academic journal article The Volta Review

Facilitators and Barriers to the Integration of Orally Educated Children and Youth with Hearing Loss into Their Families and Communities

Academic journal article The Volta Review

Facilitators and Barriers to the Integration of Orally Educated Children and Youth with Hearing Loss into Their Families and Communities

Article excerpt

Family and community interactions provide important opportunities for facilitating the integration of children and youth with hearing loss, yet these environments have received little research attention. In this study, facilitators and barriers to integration associated with the social milieus of young people with hearing loss were identified. Facilitators and barriers associated with the family were related to parental roles and relationships between family members. Community facilitators and barriers were related to the inclusion of children in sports and social activities and to accommodations made by leaders and peers participating in these events. Challenges to the successful inclusion of children and youth with hearing loss into family and social environments were identified. Nevertheless, the participants retained positive attitudes toward the benefits of inclusion and the potential of individuals with hearing loss to become fully contributing members of their families, communities and society at large.

Introduction

The integration of orally educated children with hearing loss often is examined primarily from the perspective of inclusion within educational settings. Research on the inclusion of children with hearing loss has focused primarily on pedagogical practices and educational structures for supporting them as students in regular classrooms. The advantages of mainstreaming children with hearing loss within the school setting include (1) promotion of social interaction with the hearing world, (2) availability of normal linguistic and behavioral models provided by peers, (3) a stimulating and highly oral environment with rich linguistic input, (4) increased opportunity for learning and socialization opportunities and (5) education within the least restrictive environment (Brackett, 1993; Gresham, 1982; Ladd, Munson, & Miller, 1984; Maxon & Brackett, 1992; Nolan & Tucker, 1981; Northcott, 1984, 1990; Nowell & Innes, 1997; Ross, 1990). Clearly, such advantages exist not only within the environment of the classroom but also in the family and wider community as well. However, few studies to date have examined inclusive structures and practices that might facilitate the inclusion of orally educated children and youth with hearing loss into family, social and community environments.

Those few studies that have examined issues associated with the inclusion of individuals with hearing loss in environments other than school and the classroom have focused primarily on the perceptions and experiences of parents of preschool children (see, for example, Gregory [1995] and Meadow-Orlans, Mertens & Sass-Lehrer [2003]), whereas the stories of families of older children and young adults have been given far less consideration. Interesting exceptions include research by Green (1990) and Schwartz (1990), which both reflect some of the themes that emerged from the present study.

Green (1990) described the perceptions of three parents and three young adults with hearing loss who were asked to provide written responses to a series of questions about the social and educational advantages and disadvantages of inclusion. Parent respondents in the study discussed the importance of academic integration and the types of supports they felt were required for successful integration as well as the importance of parental advocacy in the school setting. They also described the difficulties their children experienced in establishing friendships and participating in social events and activities. The young adults with hearing loss themselves expressed the sense of self-worth and confidence they had developed through attending a mainstream school. Although all three of the young adult respondents with hearing loss mentioned periods of social isolation and difficulties with peers, they all agreed that the opportunities provided to them through the inclusive model resulted in high levels of educational achievement. …

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