What kind of school is best for deaf children?
What factors should we consider in deciding on a school program for a deaf child?
In this chapter we explore the continuum of educational alternatives available for deaf children and emphasize the need to consider a variety of factors in determining the best placement for a particular child. Although we focus on schooling, it is important to keep in mind that learning has strong social roots in interactions with adults and peers. The ability to profit from both formal and informal instruction at school requires that children have skills in areas such as attention, problem solving, turn taking, and memorizing and have a positive attitude toward learning. Children must also have a firm foundation in language to access information in the classroom and learn from it. Although a variety of nonverbal, social interaction strategies are available and useful for young deaf (and hearing) children when they enter school, it is through language that the give and take of education really occurs.
Parents often find the information available to them in making the school decision both confusing and contradictory. As we described in chapter 2, federal legislation has sought to make access to education easier for deaf children and their families, but the laws often are misinterpreted or overinterpreted by state, regional, and local authorities, making the results less than helpful for parents. Further, there is much disagreement about whether there is one educational setting or format that is best for deaf children, with the issue of residential (i.e., separate) schools versus mainstreaming being the most heated.