Inclusion and Exclusion: Global Challenges Within Deaf Education

Inclusion and Exclusion: Global Challenges Within Deaf Education

Jessica Armytage Scott (Georgia State University, USA), Hannah M. Dostal (University of Connecticut, USA) and Tisha N. Ewen-Smith (Jamaica Association for the Deaf, Jamaica)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7703-4.ch008
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In this chapter, the authors explore the practice of inclusion as it relates to the education of deaf and hard of hearing (d/hh) students. Using the current situation in Jamaica as a microcosm, it is argued that for this specific population of students it may be necessary to reframe and redefine the notion of inclusion more broadly. For example, the authors argue that as a result of the specific cultural, linguistic, and academic needs of d/hh students, a more traditional approach to inclusion may in fact result in isolation and less access to content and skills. Inclusion that considers how deaf education classrooms may include accessible language, the Deaf community, families of d/hh children, and Deaf role models may be more appropriate for this population.
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Though inclusive education is increasingly the preferred model for special education in many developed countries, the education of deaf and hard of hearing (d/hh) children presents unique challenges for the inclusive approach. The literal definition of inclusive education is the incorporation of students with disabilities into the general education setting with appropriate accommodations, though the intentions of inclusivity are not limited to simply the physical addition of children with disabilities to the classroom. Instead, the intentions are to meaningfully including children both academically and socially in the classroom environment (see Komesaroff & McLean, 2006, for a discussion of the inadequacies of inclusion experiences for d/hh students that do not account for linguistic, cultural, and social needs). Research has shown positive outcomes in many instances for both students with disabilities and those without as the result of inclusive approaches to education (Freeman & Alkin, 2000; Peterson & Hittie, 2010).

As a result of the changes in instructional service delivery and educational placement, many students with a hearing loss are more frequently integrated into general education school learning communities, taught the same curriculum as their hearing peers by general education teachers, and receive special education services from an itinerant teacher. This is in contrast to going to a resource room, being placed in a self-contained deaf education classroom, or attending a special school for students who are deaf1 (Anderson & Arnoldi, 2011; Antia, Jones, Reed, & Kreimeyer, 2009; Antia, Kreimeyer, & Reed, 2010; Bullard, 2003; Foster & Cue, 2009; Hyde & Power, 2003; Luckner, 2010; Reed, Antia, & Kreimeyer, 2008). Similar changes in service delivery options for d/hh students have occurred in Canada (Akamatsu, Mayer, & Hardy-Braz, 2008), the United Kingdom (Powers, 2002), and Australia (Power & Leigh, 1998). As explained by Miller (2008), “the itinerant model [of deaf education] is the predominant model nationally, even internationally” (p. 211). However, d/hh students may not have the same positive experiences in inclusive settings compared to their hearing peers with disabilities.

The inclusive education of d/hh students in general education settings is complex because it often requires students to work across differences in language, culture, and disability. D/hh children who are placed into a general education environment may find themselves the only d/hh child in the class, with no peers who know how to successfully communicate with them. This may be especially true for d/hh children who communicate primarily using a sign language. First, there is the difficulty of locating skilled interpreters who have sufficient background knowledge in the content areas for which they are interpreting. This is especially important in classes conveying advanced academic concepts. In addition, there is also the social and academic impact on communication in the classroom between the d/hh children and their peers and teacher, when neither the teacher nor classroom peers know sign language and the interpreter may have insufficient skills to ensure clear and consistent communication between all parties (Schick, Williams, & Kupermintz, 2005). Without a direct line of communication between the children and their teachers and peers, misunderstandings and complications may arise.

Issues of language and culture may be the most salient, but they are certainly not the only barriers to providing a meaningful inclusive educational experience for d/hh children. From an international perspective, some cultures have entrenched beliefs about disability that may limit the social inclusion of students physically included in mainstream general education classrooms (Danseco, 1997; UNICEF, 2013). As a result, in some cases inclusive education for d/hh children may meet the literal requirements for inclusion but not the underlying intention.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Itinerant Teacher of the Deaf: A teacher who travels between schools that have small numbers of d/hh students in inclusive settings to both provide support for the general education teacher as well as direct instructional services to the d/hh students.

Deaf Culture: The notion that Deaf people who use a signed language are members of a cultural minority group with norms and traditions.

Self-Contained Deaf Education Classroom: A K-12 educational setting wherein d/hh children remain in a specialized classroom that is frequently located within a larger public school with hearing children with d/hh peers and a teacher of the deaf for the majority of the day.

Educational Interpreter: A position in an inclusive education setting with a signing d/hh child which supports communication and language access by providing signed language interpretations of spoken classroom discussion and allowing the d/hh child to participate by translating their signed responses into spoken language.

Bilingual/Bicultural Deaf Education: An approach to teaching d/hh children that promotes bilingualism (the national signed language as the first language and the national spoken/written language as the second language) and biculturalism (understanding and fluency in both Deaf culture and hearing mainstream culture).

Natural Language: A language that develops naturally through exposure in the earliest years of life. For many deaf children, a signed language is considered a more “natural” language due to the ease with which it can be acquired.

Medical Model of Deafness: The perspective on deafness that prioritizing restoration of hearing and approaches to teaching and learning that use speech, speech-reading, residual hearing, and/or hearing amplification.

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