Raising and Educating a Deaf Child

International experts answer your questions about the choices, controversies, and decisions faced by the parents and educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Question from K.B., Vermont

I am looking for guidelines for successful inclusion at the elementary level when there exists a large language and academic gap. I work in a very rural area where there are only a handful of hard of hearing and CI students whose parents and staff opt local placement in their small community school. Prior to this I worked many years at a large state School for the Deaf and I know the range of possibilities when students have access to communication and appropriate services. My experience and training tell me these rural, mainstreamed deaf/hh students have little chance for academic and social success WHEN (this is the important qualifier) their receptive/expressive (verbal) language and academic skills lag 1.5 years or greater behind their classmates. With these students, as an itinerant Consultant/TOD, I often advocate for Pull-Out services, including 1-1 direct instruction in academic areas and social communication skills in small groups. This meets strong resistance in small schools where staff and parents have no experience with Deaf/HH. I argue without intensive modifications, instruction, and supports, the hearing classroom is the most, not least, restricted environment because they cannot access the language and instruction with such a large gap. I really believe I am correct but have found very little data to back my recommendations.

Question from K.B., Vermont. Posted March 1, 2012.
Response from Terry Keegan - Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

While I am not able to provide any hard data on the issue, I can tell you that what you are advocating for is exactly what many of the Vermont Center’s consultants provide to the students on their caseloads.

The Vermont Center consultants  provide an array of specialized services to Deaf and Hard of Hearing students, three through age 21, their families and educational teams. The consultants work with the student’s team to identify needs and develop strategies to meet those needs . The services they provide may address instructional strategies, classroom accommodations, in-service training, curriculum development, audiological management and/or assistive technology or any combination thereof.  Service levels range from weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual visits and are provided as consultation and/or direct service.

While, as program coordinator, I would say we know of and we work with  90 to 95% of Vermont’s children with identified hearing loss, not all students in our state are referred to a Vermont Center consultant.  There are isolated school districts that employ their own staff, I assume your TOD for VT  is one of those.  You can get in touch with me or one of our consultants for some back up support for those recommendations.  Alternatively or in addition, that person could also be in touch with the consultant at the Vermont Department of Education who might also be a support in advocating for effective instructional strategies for this population.