Tag Archive: mainstream


ASL hall sign

ASL hall sign (Photo credit: swenda)

This morning I read the article by Blogger Bitco David on Deaf In Prison  titled No Child Left Signing and the site Deaf Insight Blogger: Monica Hood titled Keep ASL in School Campaign. The two articles addressed great information along with the importance of keeping ASL in schools for a number of reasons. The value of ASL to both the hearing and deaf youth, the importance of students having language options and the awareness that having an ASL program in schools offers hearing and deaf youth.

In a discussion, I had a while ago with another ASL/Deaf educator she mentioned that sometimes hearing ASL students know more about the deaf community and language than deaf students. Which made sense to me, I don’t remember receiving in-depth lessons at home or school about my culture, language or history. To learn more I researched on my own and learned new information in college by taking certain classes. Deaf youth should have the same option as hearing youth when taking ASL or deaf culture courses. They need to understand the importance of their history, language and culture along with other experiences to  develop a positive self-identity. As well as deaf youth need to see how much their language is valued and appreciated that hearing students all over are passionate about learning it and making a difference in the community. This would also encourage deaf youth to get involved to make a difference as their parents and ancestors have to fight for equality and access.

For hearing students ASL is a great option, not only for foreign language requirements and it is different from Spanish but ASL opens doors to so much more. Students can get involved in the community and make a difference by advocating, educating and promoting an awareness of  ASL and the community. This can be accomplished as early as the first course they take and continued through higher education. Once students connect with this mission it can be carried over into employment especially in places where the door has been closed to the deaf community due to discrimination. They can bring to light the needs of the deaf community and how they can be met through equal access and deaf friendly approaches. This is what both of the communities need; support and purpose.

The thought of losing ASL in hearing, mainstream or deaf schools is saddening as it has been a door of opportunity in so many ways. As a teacher I hear the stories from hearing students sharing with me even after leaving my program. Uplifting stories of accomplishment and success, of how they made a difference with one simple act of kindness or education. Deaf students share  how they feel empowered and know how to educate for their rights because of experiences they or family members  had, understanding the value in who they are and their language because of learning something they did not know in an ASL class or from an ASL professional. I watch in awe my students signing with deaf individuals as I see the excitement on both people’s faces that a person took the time to learn my language and the other person happy their signs can be understood.

English: Community Center for the Deaf & Hard ...

English: Community Center for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The one experience I wish would grow is he number of deaf events in our areas and the number of deaf that attend the events we do have. Often, ASL students go to deaf events in droves looking to experience a deaf encounter:) and practice the skills they are learning but the opportunities are not always there. As a result, they go through the event signing with another hearing person which is great because they are signing but it is not the same as signing with a deaf person which is what they need. I support more events where ASL students support each other signing but I also support deaf events in which hearing and deaf connect. In hearing and deaf connections students are more likely to learn a wealth of information than what cannot be covered in class. Such as, community signs, social etiquette and facial expressions which seems to be one of the number one struggles for hearing people. We need to connect and continue to bridge the gap between the two communities which would convey the importance of having ASL in the schools, equal access in the business world and communities and deaf-friendly experiences wherever we go. It starts with this generation because they will carry the torch and make a difference.

In closing, be the difference you want to see, encourage others to make a difference and support keeping ASL in schools!

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Peace Corps Director Ronald Tschetter observes...

Peace Corps Director Ronald Tschetter observes deaf students on his visit to Kenya. The students are using role playing exercises, educational videos, and other visual aids that Peace Corps Volunteers have developed, including Kenya’s first uniform sign language poster, the “Easy to Learn Sign Language Poster.” Peace Corps Press Release. “Peace Corps Director Visits Kenya and Unique Deaf Education Program .” June 26, 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Academics in Deaf education have always been a highly discussed topic. The concern is rather residential schools (schools for the Deaf) truly prepare deaf students at the same rate as their hearing counterpart. The other side if that coin is rather or not public (hearing) schools put effort forth in educating the deaf that attend their schools through on campus deaf and hard of hearing cohort or mainstreamed programs. If you toss in an additional coin the other concern is should the focus of deaf education be on vocational and life skills training to ensure students are functioning in a hearing society. The last side of the coin is for everything else in between.
The benefits for Schools for the Deaf is the school is tailored to meet the needs of the students as a whole; socially, personally, academically and vocational. Students are taught in their primary language which enables a better foundation for learning and increase complex concepts that may be difficult to clarify in English. Teachers are knowledgeable and specialize in Deaf education and have the best strategies on how to teach the deaf. Students are able to see Deaf adults as role models like themselves which encourages them to not limit themselves. Students live with others like themselves who have the same method of communication and similar struggles, they can communicate to support each other through the challenges they face. Schools for the Deaf are great for helping a child identify with their “deafhood” and be proud to be Deaf with a Capitol “D”. The drawbacks of a school like this is it can be sheltering because students live in the deaf world on an ongoing basis. It can be biased in the methods and content taught. Some educators outside the deaf community think students are not being prepared for the real world or college academics because of the lack of information students receive.
The benefits of students attending a mainstreamed program in a hearing public school is they are learning the same content their hearing counterparts are learning. They have access to resources to support their learning such as an interpreter or a note taker. Most importantly to some is that they are learning to function in a hearing environment and are not sheltered in a small world that can help them to exist in a larger world. I have met parents who say they solely chose mainstream programs because they want their children to learn to function in a hearing world. The disability-the lack of hearing will inhibit them from getting jobs and pursuing higher academics if they don’t learn how to communicate with hearing individuals and they feel mainstreamed programs support that. The drawbacks of a mainstreamed program is if the program is not well established with knowledgable teachers, interpreters and administrators deaf students may fall through the cracks if they dn not have advocates putting place best practices and programs for them. Also, regular administrators, teachers and support staff have no idea of how best to help the student besides general concepts like an Assistive Listening device or sitting the student in front of the class room.
There are pros and cons to both environments but what it comes down to is, which is the best environment for the student with the family desires taking a back seat. Which environment will the student be inspired, educated and grow in? This is what a parent should be looking for. Education is a partnership between the parent and the school. In addition, parents should support the student inside school by learning information to advocate on behalf of their child and outside of school by learning sign language to communicate with their child. I believe it is best to have  a combination of both academic and vocational education in any setting students attend. Both of these components will help to build a healthy and succesful student who will become a healthy and successful adult.