Endeavor Fall 2013

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Shine a Light on Public School Programs by Asking These Questions By Rachel Zemach Today the majority of deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students attend local public schools. Public schools may have self-contained classrooms, general education classrooms where DHH students are with hearing peers, resource rooms where DHH students are given additional support in specific courses, or a combination of all three. A DHH student may also be mainstreamed in a general education classroom for one or more subjects. Mainstreaming can be successful or a waste of time. Many DHH adults who were mainstreamed have expressed concerns about inadequate opportunities to develop their academic, linguistic and social skills. Gina Oliva’s 2004 book, Alone in the Mainstream, A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School, reflects such experiences. As a Deaf person (and also a parent) who has taught DHH students in the public school system for 10 years, I’ve learned that mainstreaming can be positive and successful when done carefully, or detrimental when done haphazardly. You, as the parent, need the advocacy tools to ensure your child thrives in a mainstreamed setting. 20

Inclusion If a DHH child sits all day in a large class, copying from classmates’ papers or from the board while struggling to figure out what is going on through minimal cues, straining to hear the auditory reading of the weekly story, is this inclusion? What if there is an interpreter who diligently signs all day but whom the child doesn’t look at, doesn’t get along with, and/or doesn’t understand? What if the child is so young that she or he doesn’t understand why the interpreter is signing or why no other student has an interpreter? What if the child fakes understanding or simply survives from task to task in a rote, cooperative, survivalbased manner without comprehending the material or genuinely participating in classroom discussion or activi-