ERIC Identifier: ED414675
Publication Date: 1997-08-00
Author: Nowell, Richard - Innes, Joseph
Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Inclusion.
ERIC Digest #E557.
The "inclusion" of students who are deaf refers to their being educated
within a classroom of students with normal hearing. Inclusion differs from
"mainstreaming" in that mainstreaming may refer to a variety of degrees of
contact with hearing students, whereas in inclusion, the student who is deaf is
actually placed in a classroom with hearing students. Inclusion may involve an
assortment of services including interpreters, notetakers, teacher aides,
teachers of students who are deaf, and consultants, but these services are
provided within the context of the regular classroom.
Before 1975, although there had been attempts to educate students who were
deaf in regular schools, about 80% of students who were deaf in the United
States were being served in special schools (Cohen, 1995). This changed with the
passage that year of PL 94-142. The "Education of All Handicapped Children" act
called for all children to be educated as appropriate in the "least restrictive
environment" (LRE), which meant to the greatest extent possible with their
"non-handicapped" peers. Although the law resulted in some students who were
deaf being educated in the regular classroom, many students with hearing losses
were put in self-contained classrooms or resource rooms within regular schools
and had contact with hearing students only during non- academic activities. In
1995, more than 60% of students who were deaf were educated in the regular
public schools (Cohen, 1995), although it is not clear how many were in being
served in a true "inclusion" model.
Inclusion emerged from the Regular Education Initiative (REI) of the 1970s
and 1980s and the modification of PL 94-142, the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act (IDEA) of 1990. The application of inclusion to the student who is
deaf has been a source of ongoing debate, particularly as to how to interpret
"least restrictive environment."
Two general positions have emerged from the debate on inclusion. One position
is that all students with disabilities have the right to go to school with their
non-disabled peers. The other position is usually labeled "full inclusion" and
is stronger in its position that all students with disabilities should go to
regular schools. The first position is consistent with the range of placements
which emerged from PL 94-142 and IDEA, while the latter position is generally
consistent with the eradication of all "special education," including the
closing of special schools for students who are deaf.
WHO CAN CHOOSE AN INCLUSION OPTION?
Should parents wish
their deaf child to be in an inclusion program, they would indicate their
preference during discussions with their school district and/or special
education intermediate unit concerning their child's recommended assignment and
individualized education program (IEP). Some school districts or intermediate
units may indicate that an inclusion option is not available for deaf children
in their area or that inclusion is not appropriate for that parent's deaf child.
Nothing in existing laws supports excluding children who are deaf from an
On the other hand, the absence of such regulations does not mean that
inclusion is appropriate for all children with hearing losses. Parents should
make the decision based upon an informed consideration of all options and
discussions with various educational professionals. If the local education
agency (LEA) does not agree to an inclusion placement and parents continue to
believe that inclusion is right for their deaf child, they have the right to due
process to challenge the LEA's decision. The LEA may recommend inclusion, even
though the parents do not think inclusion is appropriate. Once again, if the
parties involved cannot reach agreement, the decision for placement would go to
WHAT ARE SOME POSSIBLE BENEFITS OF INCLUSION?
Opportunity for the student who is deaf to live at home.
Those students who are deaf who attend a special school that is
beyond commuting distance must live at the school during the
week. Students in an inclusion placement in their local school
are able to be with their families during the week.
Opportunity for communication with the hearing world.
Daily association with hearing students in an inclusion setting
might help students who are deaf to better develop their ability to
communicate with hearing people, leading to skills they will
need in later years.
Opportunity for learning the standards of the hearing world.
Students who are deaf and attend schools for children who
hear may be able to master the norms of hearing society better
than those who are immersed in the culture of a special school
for students who are deaf.
Availability of academic or vocational programs. Students
who are deaf may find a wider range of academic or vocational
programs in their home school district than in their nearest
WHAT ARE SOME LIMITATIONS OF INCLUSION?
Potential for isolation from teachers, peers, and other
members of the school community. Inclusive environments
may not comprise individuals adept at communicating in deaf
individuals' preferred language and mode of communication.
Opportunities for direct instruction are limited. Inclusion
of deaf individuals often means receiving translated or
transliterated messages through an interpreter or transliterator.
Opportunities for direct and independent interaction and
communication with peers and the professional support staff
are limited. Deaf individuals may constantly require an
interpreter to communicate effectively with peers and
professionals. School counselors, medical personnel, and
administrators often are not able to communicate directly with
a student who is deaf, which limits their access to support
services that are readily available to other students.
Availability and quality of support staff. There may not be
an adequate supply of qualified interpreters or other support
staff in the local school district to provide a desirable level of
communication access to the educational process.
WHAT ARE SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE CHOOSING THIS
The first question a parent, professional, or other individual needs
to ask when considering inclusion for a deaf child is whether this environment
will provide the intellectual, social, and emotional development the student who
is deaf needs and to which he or she is entitled?
To answer this important and multifaceted question adequately, several other
related questions need to be addressed, including: What is the individual's
hearing level and ability to use residual hearing? What is the individual's
preferred mode of communication, and is it practiced in the environment? Will
the individual have access to captioning services, notetakers, hearing aid
services, TTYs, and the use of other assistive devices? What is the individual's
academic level? What is the level of direct communication that will occur in the
environment between the individual, teacher(s), and peers? Will the individual's
language abilities and needs be adequately addressed? Are there a sufficient
number of other children who are deaf of similar age and level with which the
individual can socialize? Is the school staffed by certified and qualified
personnel who are trained to work with the student who is deaf? Does the school
provide a full range of assessment instruments and techniques designed for use
with students who are deaf? Are there personnel trained to conduct such
assessments in the individual's preferred language and mode of communication?
What level of access will the individual have to curricular and extracurricular
offerings? Will there be deaf role models in the environment? Are there any
teachers or administrators in the environment who are hard of hearing or deaf
who may serve as role models?
The most important issues, when contemplating inclusion for a deaf
individual, are related to language and communication. At the very least an
individualized education program (IEP) for a child who is deaf must consider the
following (U.S. Department of Education, 1992):
*Communication needs and the child's preferred mode of
*Severity of hearing loss and potential for using residual
hearing; academic level
*Social, emotional, and cultural needs, including opportunity for
peer interactions and communication.
A local education agency (LEA) or state education agency (SEA) cannot presume
that inclusion is appropriate for a child who is deaf without incorporating the
above issues in its IEP process. Likewise an LEA or SEA cannot presume that a
deaf child belongs in a center or residential school for deaf children.
Cohen, O. P. (1995). Perspectives on the full
inclusion movement in the education of deaf children. In B. Snider (Ed.),
Conference proceedings: Inclusion? Defining quality education for deaf and
hard-of-hearing students. College of Continuing Education, Gallaudet University,
800 Florida Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002.
Easterbrooks, S., & Baker-Hawkins, S. (Eds.). (1994). Deaf and
hard-of-hearing students: Educational service guidelines. National Association
of State Directors of Special Education, King Street Station, 1800 Diagonal
Road, Suite 320, Alexandria, VA 22314.
Johnson, R. C., & Cohen, O. P. (Eds.). (1994). Implications and
complications for student who is deaf of the full inclusion movement. Research
Institute, Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002.
National Information Center on Deafness, Gallaudet University, 800 Florida
Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002.
Snider, B. D. (Ed.). (1995). Conference proceedings: Inclusion? Defining
quality education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. College of Continuing
Education, Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20002.
United States Department of Education. (October 30, 1992) Federal Register,