Educating Deaf Students:
What factors are most important in the development and education of deaf students?
What role does research play in informing us of the best educational practices to follow in educating deaf students?
Consider this passage from a letter written by Robert H. Weitbrecht, a physicist who was born deaf and went on to change the lives of deaf people throughout the world:
Perhaps I was more fortunate than the average deaf child. My family had upheavals during my teens— my father passed away and we had difficult circumstances. My mother had faith in me and saw to it that I was given the best possible chance during these times. (Weitbrecht to Srnka, 1966)
As a young boy, Weitbrecht had difficulties learning to speak. His parents and teachers were not sure about his potential to acquire a normal education. Weitbrecht was teased by his peers because of his deafness. He did not have very positive self-esteem, and he was not happy in school. Despite the doubts and challenges, he went on to earn several academic degrees. In 1964, Weitbrecht developed a modem (“acoustic coupler”) which enabled deaf people to use the telephone via a teletypewriter (TTY). Weitbrecht's modem was a major breakthrough in the lives of deaf and hard-of-hearing people, who had waited more than 90 years since the invention of the voice telephone by Alexander Graham Bell. It brought to them both access and independence with regard to long-distance communication.