Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Education, Employment, and Independent Living of Young Adults Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

Education, Employment, and Independent Living of Young Adults Who Are Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Article excerpt

LITTLE INFORMATION is available on the education, employment, and independent living status of young deaf and hard of hearing adults who have transitioned from high school. The present article reports postsecondary outcomes of 46 young adults who had attended for at least 4 years a non-public agency school in the northwestern United States specializing in deaf education. School administrators had developed a specific philosophy and operationalized it in an academic and literacy-based curriculum incorporating a grammatically accurate signing system. The researchers found that most or all participants had finished high school, had earned a college degree, were employed, and were living independently. Findings are discussed in terms of the available literature and the study's contribution to a limited body of recent research on young postsecondary deaf and hard of hearing adults.

Keywords: postsecondary education, academic achievement, deaf education, independent living, Signing Exact English

An extensive review of the current research literature on the education levels, employment status, and independence levels of deaf and hard and hearing who have completed high school revealed a paucity of information. Given the findings reported in studies of postsecondary youth with special needs in general (C. Johnson et al., 2011; D. Johnson, McGrew, Bloomberg, Bruininks, & Lin, 1997; Wagner et al., 2003; Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Garza, & Levine, 2005; Wagner, Newman, Cameto, & Levine, 2005, 2006; Wagner, Newman, Cameto, Levine, & Garza, 2006), as well as those concerning "the large and growing number of deaf and hard of hearing young adults who are 'low-functioning'" (Bowe, 2003, p. 485), it would be unexpected that these youth would exit high school prepared for adult life. Youth who are deaf and hard of hearing and who are transitioning into adulthood today were born before newborn infant screening laws took effect in most states, and if they received cochlear implants or high-powered digital hearing aids, they did not have this equipment as infants and toddlers, at the most critical time for language and speech development. When they were young children the legal minimum age for implantation was 3 years, and, because the surgical procedure was a new one, few parents agreed to have their child receive an implant.

As would be anticipated, students with all degrees of hearing loss continue to lag behind their same-age hearing peers in reading and mathematics when assessed by means of standardized measures applied to high school graduates of two residential schools in the southeastern United States, as reported by Lollis and LaSasso (2008). These researchers characteri2ed this situation as having been a "consistent finding" for the past 90 years (p. 77). Students who are deaf and hard of hearing have been found to graduate from high school with sixth-grade computation abilities and fifth-grade problem-solving abilities (Traxler, 2000); this finding is based on the national norming data and performance standards for the Stanford Achievement Test (ninth edition) as derived from a population of students with a hearing loss distribution of 51% profound, 21% severe, and 28% less than severe. Deaf students' math levels lag behind those of hearing peers by about 3 years (Nunes, 2004) when deaf students are in college, even though they display normal nonverbal intelligence (see literature review by Vernon, 2005). The degree of hearing loss of the participants who were deaf and hard of hearing in the study by Nunes (2004) was not specified. Kelly (2003) contended that the math ability of individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing influences future employment and earnings to a greater extent than reading ability.

It seems logical that low levels of both reading and math ability prevent students who are deaf and hard of hearing from finishing high school and earning a high school diploma, as the majority of their hearing peers do. …

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