Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

An Educational Rationale for Deaf Students with Multiple Disabilities

Academic journal article American Annals of the Deaf

An Educational Rationale for Deaf Students with Multiple Disabilities

Article excerpt

DEAF STUDENTS WITH with multiple disabilities have a long history of limited opportunity, including limited access to educational opportunities available to their deaf peers. This article places the individual needs of deaf students with multiple disabiliin the context that guides much of deaf education-the importance of language acquisition. That emphasis provides a basis for placement and curriculum options for deaf students with multiple disabilities. The authors review the evolution of placement options, describe assumptions that should guide placement and curriculum decisions, and recommend practices for optimizing these students' education. Descriptions of three service delivery models-multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary-are provided, as well as an overview of the effectiveness of person-centered planning for deaf students with multiple disabilities. Disability-specific resources are highlighted that relate to mental retardation, autism, visual impairments, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, emotional disorders, medical issues, and general resources.

As long as deaf children have been in the world, many of them have had multiple disabilities. School programs recognise that disabilities such as mental retardation, autism, and learning disability in deaf students significantly complicate these children's education. Complexities related to specific disabilities in deaf children have largely stymied efforts to plan curriculum and place these children appropriately. Specifically, emphasizing categorical disabilities can sidetrack programs into overlooking individual needs and into teaching students with multiple disabilities on the basis of their disability labels. Such a categorical view of disabilities tends to emphasise characteristics of the group rather than individual needs. For example, Bunch (1987) recommended disability-focused placements for deaf students with multiple disabilities: programs for deaf students with mental retardation, and programs for deaf students with emotional disturbances.

Like placement, curriculum guides for deaf students with multiple disabilities historically have been based on specific disability categories (Cherow, 1985; Pickett & Duncan, 1988; Tweedie & Shroyer, 1982). While a categorical emphasis alone is not an adequate basis for educating children with multiple disabilities, category-specific resources do provide some helpful information for teachers (see Appendix, Disability-Specific Resources).

An emerging view on educating deaf students with multiple disabilities is noncategorical. For example, T. W. Jones and J. K. Jones (in press) suggest curriculum models and placements for students with multiple disabilities that emphasize individual needs rather than specific disability labels. Consequently, the models they propose are inclusive rather than exclusionary in nature.

Attention to individual needs provides a more valid rationale for curriculum and placement than a focus on categorical disabilities (T. W. Jones, 1984). In the present article, we place such individual needs in the context that guides much of deaf education-the importance of language acquisition. We demonstrate how that emphasis provides a basis for placement and curriculum options for deaf students with multiple disabilities. We review the evolution of placement options for these complex students, describe assumptions that should guide placement and curriculum decisions, and recommend practices for optimizing the education of deaf students with multiple disabilities.

Language Acquisition

In order for any child to become a fully functioning member of society, that child must have a means of connecting with other individuals. In all societies, language provides this connection. Whether spoken, written, or signed, language opens the door for a myriad of possibilities for all individuals. Linguistic competence is often the first of many thresholds that must be crossed if one is to become a full and successful member of society. …

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