There was a time not that long ago when “deaf schools” were the only option for children that were hearing impaired. Today many children that are hearing impaired are sent to mainstream schools because either there is no local deaf school or their parents what them to assimilate into mainstream culture.
Deaf schools offer both pros and cons for children that are hearing impaired. There are both proponents and opponents of this type of learning environment for children that are hearing impaired. Many educators and advocates feel that it is important for a child that is hearing impaired to be able to assimilate into mainstream culture and there is no better way to get that assimilation under way then to attend a “hearing or mainstream” school.
Opponents feel that sending a deaf child to a mainstream school sets that child up for failure because not every teacher will know how to communicate with a child that is deaf or hearing impaired. Ultimately it is a very personal choice that should be made for the child by the child and the parents. Here is a look at the pros and cons of deaf schools.
The Pros of Deaf Schools
1. No Communication Barrier
In a deaf school every teacher and educator can communicate with a deaf child. This means that the child does not have to try to figure out what the teacher is saying nor do they have to deal with not only the learning curve of the material but the learning curve of communicating with the teacher.
2. Easier to Relate
In deaf schools all of the children are in the “same boat” so to speak they all know what it feels like to be deaf and they can all relate to each other. The child is not left out or ignored at a deaf school. The child does not have to explain what happened or why they are deaf. It is easier for them to make friends with likeminded individuals at a deaf school. They do not have to worry about being made fun of for being deaf or for talking differently. It takes a lot of stress out of the school day for them when they know that they are with children just like them.
3. More Individualized Approach to Deafness
Deaf schools specialize in the hearing impaired and they can custom fit curriculum to a child based on their abilities. In mainstream environments there is no distinguishing the level of abilities among deaf children. There is one program in place for deaf children that is not custom fit to the level of hearing loss or ability.
4. Deaf Adult Role Models
Many deaf schools employ deaf teachers and other deaf professionals. This gives the deaf child role models to look up to that are hearing challenged. In mainstream schools it is very rare to find a deaf teacher. It is also very rare to find teachers that are ASL certified.
The Cons of Deaf Schools
1. Limited Exposure to the Hearing World
A child that attends a deaf school has limited interaction in social situations with the hearing world. This can retard social growth and cause the child to withdraw from new experiences.
2. The Disability
The child may lose out on opportunities for a more vigorous and challenging education because of they are attending a “disabled” school where the curriculum may cater to the disability. Subjects like English and Math may not take precedence over teaching life skills and how to get a long in a hearing world.
3. It May Stall Their Personal Growth
The world is predominantly hearing and by isolating a child in a deaf school it can cause them to fear the hearing world and stunt their personal growth. Without enough exposure to the hearing world a child can learn to avoid the hearing world which can limit not only their personal experiences but professional opportunities down the line as well.
4. Communication Could Be Stunted
At a deaf school oral communication is not as important as signing but in the hearing world being able to speak is important. Since a deaf school may not require oral communication that ability may fall to the way side resulting in speech that is very difficult to understand later on in life in the hearing world. Practice does make perfect especially when it comes to speech.
Some parents send their children to deaf schools for part of their education and mainstream schools for the other part so that they can get a fair chance at doing well in both environments. Ultimately any education really depends on the student’s motivation and who much they want to learn in either environment. A loving home and a strong support system would sustain a child in either environment and help them to be successful at either type of school.