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Mainstreaming: Deaf/Hard of Hearing Children in Public Schools

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children in Public Schools
By Meagan McDonough

Being a future public school teacher, I may have the wonderful opportunity to have deaf students in my classroom. I thought that by researching the experiences of deaf and hard of hearing children in public schools, it could help me to better cope if and when I come across a deaf student.

It seems that going into a public school can be very nerve racking for deaf students, and understandably so. To deaf children "Public schools are mysterious places structured by rules that are learned best after breaking them. I never wanted to break school rules, but at the same time, I was never good at figuring them out" (Ramsey). I would hope that interpreters would help to remedy this situation, but it does not seem that this is always the case.

There are two methods of dealing with educating deaf students in public schools. Mainstreaming, the first method, is a situation where the children are placed in regular classrooms and go to some special education classes/resource classes taught by more qualified and specially trained people. "In the mainstreaming classroom they were defined as children who merely needed their civil right to educational access ensured but in the self-contained classroom, they were regarded as children who needed specific kind of teaching because they were deaf" (Ramsey). Inclusion, also known as the center based approach, may involve an assortment of services including interpreters, note takers, teacher aides, teachers of students who are deaf, and consultants, but these services are provided within the context of the regular classroom. Center-based/inclusion programs function like a regional educational program for the deaf, bringing together deaf students from all over a geographical area. This creates an opportunity to have some allies that are in similar situations and understand the troubles they are facing. To save money, instead of offering specialized services at neighborhood schools, school districts provide these services at selected schools and bus the children to those schools (Berke).

It seems to me that inclusion is the better method for educating deaf children in public schools because instructions, subjects, and communication is clearer and less confusing for teachers and the child's fellow students. "In a dual environment, social integration comes into play. Children that are not a part of the classroom for a significant portion of the day have difficulty becoming integrated with their peers" (Deaf Education...). Research suggests, however, that public school may not always be the best environment for educating deaf children. "Deaf children are as diverse as any other group of children. Their different individual needs suggest that they will be best served by a variety of settings, including the opportunity to attend inclusive schools when appropriate. But the full-inclusion, one-size-fits-all approach, even with its promises of support services, is naive at best and irreparably harmful at worst" (Deaf Education). Although public schools might not be the ideal circumstances, the children I am likely to stumble upon in my professional career will have already been placed in this setting, and all teachers should prepare themselves for the challenges they will meet when having a deaf student in their classroom.


Berke, Jamie. "Mainstreaming and Center Programs: District-Wide Education of the Deaf." 2 Dec. 2007. The New York Times Company. 27 Nov. 2008

Cohen, Oscar. "Deaf persons and experts speak out against Inclusion." Deaf Info--Everything You Wanted to Know About Deafness. 20 Apr. 1994. 9 Nov. 2008

"Deaf Education Options Guide." Deaf 1998. 9 Nov. 2008

Ramsey, Claire L. "Deaf Children in Public Schools." Google Book Search. 9 Nov. 2008 .

Also see: "The Debate on Mainstreaming"

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