Commenter #1 from Wisconsin about not getting an interpreter: My fiancee went to a mainstream school that refused to provide interpreters because they thought she wasn't "deaf enough". Then it was because they thought she couldn't sign well enough. Pure BS if you ask me. How about that! For a mainstreaming school to use this absurd reason not providing terps is lame! What is the world coming to? Commenter #2 from Ohio battling on getting an interpreter for his son in elementary program: From the very beginning, it was a constant fight to get them to keep an interpreter in class for him. The school system used the same old excuse of lack of funding, which is just a bunch of BS! The money for interpreters does not come directly from the local school system. Because it is based on federal law, the local system is reimbursed by the State Dept. of Ed. and they are reimbursed by the federal government. That is the excuse they use to try to get parents to sign off on an IEP that only provides services that are convenient for the school system.The school my son was mainstreamed and did not have a separate program for deaf. This commenter has to battle to get his son in a school for the deaf and to use LRE as an argument: He was the only deaf student in the elementary school, and it just wasn't a good situation. I finally ended up relocating so he could go to St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnati as a day student. But I had to take the home school district to due process before an administrative law judge before they would agree to send him.They kept arguing that the Least Restrictive Environment was a mainstream school. I argued that it was most restrictive, because he could not communicate effectively with his teachers or the other students. If his interpreter was sick and didn't show up, he lost a day of classroom instruction. Fortunately, the law judge saw it my way, and ordered the school system to pay his tuition to the deaf school. Quality of education in mainstreaming vs. deaf schools: I have heard all of the old arguments that students in deaf schools do not receive as good an education as students in mainstream schools for years. I personally don't buy it. I sat in on classes before my son was enrolled, and the material was equal to the material being taught in hearing schools. Identity issues: School is about more than just sitting in a classroom and studying from a book. It is about interacting with peers, and learning to form relationships. It's about socialization. It's about discovering your identity. In a mainstream school, that was impossible for my son. He couldn't interact because he couldn't communicate in a natural way with the hearing students. His identity would have always been "That deaf kid." At St. Rita, he wasn't "that deaf kid". He was just P.J. He wasn't defined by his deafness. Differences between mainstream teachers and deaf school teachers: My son originally thought that the teachers in deaf school were meaner, too. But that wasn't it. The mainstream teachers just didn't expect much from him because he was deaf. At the deaf school, teachers said, "You can too do it. Don't try that, "I'm deaf" stuff here! We're deaf, too. Might work on your hearing teachers, but not here!" They expected his best, and he had to give his best. And that's a good thing. Commenter #2 fought her reason to have her son placed in a school for the deaf using this excellent point when combating the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) issue. This parent learned how wrong she was to send her son to mainstreaming program then fought to transfer him to the school for the deaf. Commenter #3 (unknown location): According to my hearing school experience,it was not that great but I had a good time learning from my neighbor friends more than from hearing school itself ! I had no real identity there. People usually asked me how did I have no fear at the front audience. They were very surprised that I had all the confidence without any fear at the front audience learning from my former Deaf school !! Many thanks to my Deaf school where they encouraged me to join and travel with them going to civic clubs and spoke with these people in a private roomfull of philanthropists & donors smoking cigars.I mean my Deaf school already knew my strengthness and weaknesses so I was able to contribute one of my best strengths. So this deaf school experience allowed her self-esteem to boost. Deaf students gain more confidence in enriched ASL environment where they are able to get feedback on their public speaking skills. Here is my outline of myths and misconceptions of mainstreaming programs and deaf schools but there is a lot more to it. Perhaps you can help fill in the blanks based on your experience by commenting below and I can re-post this outline that we may use this information to share with lawmakers in our states. This is a framework in progress :-) I. Interpreters A. Qualifications 1. Most terps are not certified; reception skills tend not to be sufficient ( oftenly asking to repeat fingerspelling ) 2. Oftenly students' messages are not relayed accurately B. Not-so-perfect attendance; short-term subs are usually unavailable 1. Missing out invaluable instructional time C. Lack of funding by the district (may defend for not funding due to labeling students "not deaf enough") 1. An example of cuts made from Elgin School District U46's decision to end its contract for hearing-impaired services through Northwestern Illinois Association II. Solitaire Experience A. Isolation 1. Feeling inferior and alone 2. No opportunity for authentic social growth B. No sense of identity/belonging with similar peers 1. May be a part of a small group or hook up with several hearing friends but thorough, meaningful conversation is least likely C. No dialogue in sign language with peers III. Myths and Stigma of Deaf Schools A. Myth: The academic quality at a school for the deaf is perceived as unequal to hearing schools FACTS: 1. Most schools for the deaf have teachers who specialize in deaf education have the background to teach with more impact. 2. Most schools for the deaf are obliged to follow the state standards and to prep the students for assessments. 3. Most mainstreamed teachers have lower expectations for deaf students especially to those who are not capable of hearing or not fluent in English. B. Myth: ASL will throw off a balance when learning English and speech FACTS: 1. Research has shown the greater benefits using ASL as an instructional tool to bridge English 2. Students graduating from mainstreaming schools not receiving bi-bi instruction still have an average of 4th grade reading level 3. The more a deaf student comprehend ASL/English languages, the more likely that speech will be intelligible. This outline is based on samples of experiences from deaf individuals who have gone to both types of educational programs. While researching, I have found a relatively few number of deaf students advocating for mainstreaming programs but overwhelming opponents of mainstreaming programs. Why is it that the numbers continue to rise in "alone-in-the-mainstreaming" programs? Why is it that they are not exposed to sign language and culture at an earlier age? Is it because of parents' ignorance that they are misled by so-called medical experts chuting deaf children to pathological path? Have we, the deaf, done enough to reach out and touch parents the first in line when they discovered that their child is deaf? Based on my observation, if there were a class of deaf students at the same age functioning at a similar level in a mainstreaming program with qualified educational interpreters and deaf role models, they would have better support to succeed academically and socially. Alone in the mainstream remains a big question whether or not LRE is best suited a deaf child. Research shows that students learn better when they have full of communication access in the classroom where information is shared, discussions take place and opportunities to debate the topics are available. When reading the article, " Living successful lives" written by Amy Rigard from The Beaufort Gazette, Beaufort, South Carolina, on Sunday, January 14, 2007, several parents made comments on how they have seen their deaf children blossomed when placing them in a school for the deaf. No deaf child should be left behind! Note: Most of the research information came from Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Gently down the mainstream?
While surfing on the Net that has ushered me to this website when seeking for information about children who have gone to both mainstreaming program and deaf schools, the comments caught my eyes. These were made by deaf individuals who themselves and/or their deaf children had experienced both type of schools. Their comments were filled with frequent frustrations with a very few positive statements about mainstreaming programs. I am going to share you some stories you may be interested to hear.