What are the education options for a Deaf child?
There are different options when it comes to education and the Deaf child. These include schooling in a Mainstream environment, Deaf Day School and Deaf Residential School. In the mainstream environment, there are often different situations for each child depending on their language capabilities. Typically in a mainstream (or hearing) school, the child will have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which will dictate how the child will be taught. The parent of the child has the final say on what they do and do not want included on this IEP. In most cases, the parent is not fully aware of their rights when it comes to the final decision for their child’s education with an IEP.
The IEP may include an interpreter. In this case, the child is typically in the same classes as their peers, with a sign language interpreter that goes to the different classes with them. There can be some confusion as to what the interpreter’s role is in the classroom between the teacher, parent and other staff. In most cases, the interpreter is there solely as language and communication access for the child. The interpreter will not teach or tutor the child, rather they will interpret everything that is said around them. Language access includes more than just what the teacher is saying. In most cases, if the hearing children in the classroom know about something because they heard it, the interpreter will interpret that into ASL. This varies with the age of the student and their language skills as well.
Another option on the IEP could be a “self-contained classroom”, which is a term used for a special education classroom. In this situation, the Deaf child may have an interpreter with them as well, but the interpreter will act more as a tutor and offer more learning assistance than in a regular classroom. In this case, the Deaf child will be in a class with children who have a range of mental, physical and learning disabilities, even if the child themselves does not have any of these issues aside from the inability to hear. This has the potential to cause further issues in a younger child as this may be their first experience in a school setting, and children will learn behaviors from those around them.
When it comes to a Deaf school, there are typically two options. Some of the Deaf schools will offer both options at the same location, and some will only offer one or the other. There is a day school situation where the child will go to school with other Deaf children during the day and come home at the end of the day to their family. This is a great option if the family has taken the time to learn ASL in order to communicate with their child. The other option is for the child to go to a Deaf Residential School, which in essence, is a boarding school for Deaf children starting in kindergarten. This is a good option for those whose families have not taken the time to learn ASL in order to communicate with their child.
In the Deaf Day School, the classes will typically consist of Deaf children with all ranges of hearing loss and equipment. Some may have hearing aids, some may have cochlear implants and some may have no hearing assistive devices at all. The child will be in school with children who come from Deaf families, as well as those who come from hearing families. Curriculum is typically taught in ASL, but they teach English classes as well for reading and writing. Children as young as 5 years old will enter classes and be fully immersed in a visual language and be able to learn from those around them. While a lot of the teachers in this setting are Deaf, not all of them are. At the end of the day, the child will go home to their family just as in a mainstream hearing school.
There seems to be a negative connotation in our society when it comes to the idea of a boarding school. Typically there is an assumption that if someone gets sent to a boarding school, it means that they did something wrong or were unable to complete school in a typical setting. It seems unnatural to send a kindergartener to a school where they will sleep in dorms. In a Residential School, this is the environment. Instead of being home with no one to communicate with though, they are surrounded by people who are able to communicate with them. Since a lot of children that come from Deaf families go to the Residential Schools, the child will be fully immersed in ASL and learn about Deaf culture Deaf History from their peers as well as their role models.