Deaf education

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Smiling teacher standing in front of eight older boys in Africa
Class for deaf students in Kayieye, Kenya

Deaf education is the education of students with any degree of hearing loss or deafness which addresses their differences and individual needs. This process involves individually-planned, systematically-monitored teaching methods, adaptive materials, accessible settings and other interventions designed to help students achieve a higher level of self-sufficiency and success in the school and community than they would achieve with a typical classroom education. A number of countries focus on training teachers to teach deaf students with a variety of approaches and have organizations to aid deaf students.

Identifying deaf students[edit]

Children may be identified as candidates for deaf education from their audiogram or medical history. Hearing loss is generally described as slight, mild, moderate, severe, or profound, depending upon how well a person can hear the intensities of frequencies.[1] Of the children identified as deaf, only 10% are born to deaf parents.[not in citation given] This percent of deaf students may have a linguistic advantage when entering the education system due to more extensive exposure to a first language.[2] Parents can start to notice differences in their kids hearing as soon as newborn to three months old. If a child doesn't respond to sudden loud sounds, this could be an indication. As the baby begins to age to around four to eight months, they should turn their head towards where the sound is coming from. Around a year to 16 months, if they don't pronounce words correctly, or don't speak at all, this could also be an indication.[3] All those are indications of cognitive hearing loss, which means the child was born this way.

A child can also acquire hearing loss at a young age due to a middle ear infection, a serious head injury, exposure to loud noises over a long period time, and many other ways. If this occurs, the same symptoms would occur as they do with cognitive hearing loss. If this happens when a child is older, around toddler or preschool age, there are more signs to look for. Signs could include a child not replying when their name is called. The child may pronounce words differently than the rest of their peers. If the child turns up the TV incredibly high or sits very close, this could also be an indication. One of the biggest indications that a child may have hearing loss is when they are having a conversation with someone, they intensely focus on the person's lips and facial expressions to understand what they are saying. [4] If a child has these signs, getting a screening for hearing loss would be the next step.

Individual needs[edit]

Deaf education programs must be customized to each student's needs, and deaf educators provide a continuum of services to deaf students based on individual needs.[5] For instance, if a student is in a regular class, a note taker or interpreter might be an accommodation provided in their education plan.[6] In the United States, Canada and the UK, education professionals use the acronym IEP when referring to a student’s individualized education plan.


Schools use a number of approaches to provide deaf-educational services to identified students. These may be grouped into four categories, according to whether (and how much) the deaf student has contact with non-deaf students (using North American terminology):

  • Inclusion: Deaf students spend all, or most, of the school day with non-deaf students. Since inclusion requires considerable curriculum modification, it is considered best practice only for mildly-to-moderately deaf students.[7][8] Specialized services may be provided inside or outside the regular classroom, and students may leave the regular classroom to attend smaller, intensive instructional sessions in a resource room or to receive other services requiring specialized equipment or which might be disruptive to the rest of the class (such as speech and language therapy).[9]
  • Mainstreaming refers to the education of deaf students in classes with non-deaf students for specified time periods, based on the deaf students' skills; deaf students learn in separate classes for the remainder of the school day.[10]
  • Segregation (in a separate classroom or school): In this model, deaf students spend no time in non-deaf classes or with non-deaf students. Segregated students may attend a school where non-deaf classes are provided, but spend their time in a separate classroom for students with special needs. If their special-needs class is in a mainstream school, they may have opportunities for social integration (for example, eating meals with non-deaf students);[11] alternatively, deaf students may attend a special school.[10]
  • Exclusion: A student unable to receive instruction in any school is excluded from school. Most deaf students have historically been excluded from school,[12] and exclusion may still occur where there is no legal mandate for special-education services (such as developing countries). It may also occur when a student is in hospital or housebound.[10] Excluded students may receive individual or group instruction, and students who have been suspended or expelled are not considered "excluded" in this sense.

The difference between mainstreaming and inclusion is not made explicit in the law, and use may vary from district to district.[13] Further, within the Deaf community, the term 'mainstreaming' often refers to any educational setting outside of a residential school.[14]

Bilingual-bicultural education[edit]

Front of two-story building with columns, with a flagpole in front
Alumni Hall, the middle and high schools at the Indiana School for the Deaf (a bilingual-bicultural school)

In this method, deafness is approached as a cultural, not a medical, issue.[15] In a bilingual-bicultural program, deaf children are recommended to learn sign language such as American Sign Language (ASL) as a first language, followed by a written or spoken language such as English as a second language.[15][16] Bilingual-bicultural programs consider spoken or written language and sign language equal languages, helping children develop age-appropriate fluency in both.[16] The bilingual-bicultural approach believes that since deaf children learn visually, rather than by ear,[15] classes should be conducted in a visual language. To avoid harming the students' accuracy and fluency in either language, sign language and spoken language are not used simultaneously, since they use different grammar, syntax, and vocabulary; sign language is usually used as the language of instruction, though some bilingual-bicultural schools use spoken language in some contexts with some students.[citation needed] Many bilingual-bicultural schools have dormitories; students may either commute to school or stay in a dormitory as part of a residential program (see boarding school), visiting their families on weekends, holidays and school vacations.

Auditory-oral and auditory-verbal education[edit]

Red-two-story building with spring-flowering tree in front
Hubbard Hall is the main building on the Northampton campus of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech, an oral school.

The auditory-oral and auditory-verbal methods, known collectively as listening and spoken language, are forms of oral education.[17] These methods are based on the belief that a deaf child can learn to listen and speak.[18][19] These methods, presented as communication options, rely on parental involvement.[18][19] Children using this option may be placed in a continuum of educational placement, including oral schools (such as the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech), classrooms for deaf students in public schools or mainstream classrooms with hearing students.[18][19][20]

Simultaneous or Total Communication[edit]

There is great variety in programs that label themselves as using simultaneous communication or total communication. Some programs consist of teachers and children speaking and signing at the same time, known as simultaneous communication.[21] In these programs, grammatically-correct English is available when speech is paired with Signing Exact English. This method is used in many programs in Texas and in the state of Washington at Northwest School for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children. In total communication programs, however, teachers emphasize learning language and utilizing all means of communication.[21] Most often these programs do not use a grammatically correct form of either English or American Sign Language. Rather, professionals use a mixture of oral languages and signed languages or systems, including natural gestures, fingerspelling, body language, and lip-reading—most often paired with some degree of listening and speaking practice.[22]

Mainstreaming and inclusion[edit]

Two seated sign-language interpreters, one male and one female
Two interpreters at a school

Using this educational method, a deaf child attends public school in regular classes for at least part of the school day.[23] Students may receive accommodation, such as itinerant teachers, interpreters, assistive technology, note-takers and aides.[24][25] The deaf/hard-of-hearing children that go to mainstream programs have daily interaction with hearing students and typically live at home; drawbacks include isolation and limited support.[24]


John Bulwer, an English physician, [26] wrote five works on bodily human communication (particularly gestures). He was the first person in England to propose educating deaf people, [27] outlining plans for an academy in Philocophus and The Dumbe mans academie.


Charles-Michel de l'Épée pioneered deaf education in France. He did charitable work for the poor, and on one trip into the Paris slums saw two young, deaf sisters who communicated with a sign language. Épée then decided to dedicate himself to the education of the deaf, and founded a school in 1760. In line with the philosophy of the time, Épée believed that deaf people were capable of language and developed a system of teaching French and religion. During the early 1760s his shelter became the Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris, the world's first public school for deaf children.[28]

Great Britain[edit]

The grandson of Sir John Popham, Alexander, was born in 1650. He was either deaf at birth, or became so before acquiring speech. Two eminent men came to his home at Littlecote House to teach him to talk: John Wallis, mathematician and cryptographer, and William Holder, music theorist.[29]

The first school for teaching the deaf to speak and read in Britain was Thomas Braidwood's Academy for the Deaf and Dumb in Edinburgh, established during the 1760s. The school moved to London in 1783.[citation needed] Braidwood used an early form of sign language: the combined system, forerunner of British Sign Language (recognized as a language in 2003). Under the management of Braidwood's nephew the school expanded, encouraging the establishment of an Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb in Edgbaston in 1814 and others in Liverpool, Edinburgh, Exeter, Manchester and Doncaster.[citation needed]

Britain's first free school for deaf pupils, the London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb, was set up in 1792[30] by three men: Henry Thornton, MP, abolitionist, and reformer; Rev John Townsend (died 1826), educator and independent minister; and Henry Cox Mason, rector of Bermondsey.[31]

In his ministerial relation, Mr. Townsend became acquainted with a lady, whose son was deaf and dumb, and who had been a pupil of Mr. Braidwood’s almost ten years. The youth evinced an intellectual capacity which caused delight and surprise to the good pastor, who was astonished at the facility and accuracy, with which ideas were received and communicated. Mrs. C, the lady referred to, sympathising with those mothers whose circumstances precluded their incurring the expense of 1500 £, (which was the sum paid by herself,) pleaded the cause of those afflicted and destitute outcasts of society, until Mr. T. entered into her feelings of commiseration, and decided with her on the necessity and practicability of having a charitable Institution for the deaf and dumb children of the poor. (Memoirs p.37-8).[30]

Braidwood's nephew Joseph Watson offered himself as tutor, and eventually became headmaster[32]; he wrote On the Education of the Deaf and Dumb (1809). The institute's name and location changed more than once, and for most of the nineteenth century it occupied a purpose-built boarding school on the Old Kent Road, Southwark in Inner London[33]; it became The Royal School for Deaf Children Margate, which closed in 2015.[34]

United States[edit]

Deaf education in the United States began during the early 1800s, when the Cobbs School (an oral school) was established by William Bolling and John Braidwood and the Connecticut Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb (a manual school) was established by Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and Laurent Clerc. When the Cobbs School closed in 1816, the manual method (which used American Sign Language) became common in deaf schools for most of the rest of the century. During the late 1800s schools began using the oral method, which only allowed the use of speech (in contrast to the manual method previously in place). The oral method was used for many years, until sign-language instruction gradually returned to deaf education.


Two general methods of deaf education are manualism and oralism. Manualism is instruction using sign language, and oralism uses spoken language. Although controversy has existed since the early eighteenth century about which method is more effective, many deaf-educational facilities attempt to integrate both approaches. The National Association of the Deaf advocates a bilingual approach, to best support deaf students in their education.[35]

National approaches[edit]

United States[edit]

Some deaf students receive an individualized education program (IEP) outlining how the school will meet the student's individual needs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students with special needs be provided with Free Appropriate Public Education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to the student's needs. Government-run schools provide deaf education in varying degrees, from the least-restrictive setting (full inclusion) to the most restrictive (segregation in a deaf school).[10] Education offered by the school must be appropriate to the student's individual needs; however, schools are not required to maximize the student's potential or provide the best possible services. Like most developed countries, American schools are required to provide medical services (such as speech therapy) if the student needs those services. As technology improves, more solutions become available in classrooms. Things such as FM systems have been put into many schools. An FM system has two parts: the first is a microphone that the teacher wears around their neck while teaching. There are two ways the system is set up for the child. First, the FM radio waves can be directly set up with the child's hearing aid or cochlear implant, so the sound is amplified only to the certain child. The second is called a sound field. The sound field uses special speakers put strategically throughout the classroom. This increases sound to a whole classroom instead of just one student.[36]


Deaf children in Nepal have the right to free, qualified education in line with provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). However, education in a school for the deaf is limited to 13 dedicated schools for the deaf and a slightly-higher number of deaf resource classes in regular schools. All schools and classes are bilingual, with Nepali Sign Language and written Nepali the media of instruction.

Teacher training[edit]

Deaf education majors and degree programs offer training and certification in the education of students with a variety of hearing abilities, addressing students' individual differences and needs. Deaf education also includes the study of special education, Deaf studies, education, sign language and Deaf culture (not all programs include the latter two).


United States[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

New Zealand[edit]

The Netherlands[edit]

Deaf education associations[edit]

United States
United Kingdom
  • British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Disabilities - Center for Parent Information and Resources".
  2. ^ Mitchell, Ross E.; Karchmer, Michael A. (2004-02-03). "Chasing the Mythical Ten Percent: Parental Hearing Status of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students in the United States". Sign Language Studies. 4 (2): 138–163. doi:10.1353/sls.2004.0005. ISSN 1533-6263.
  3. ^ "hearing problems".
  4. ^ "Hearing loss in children: Everything you need to know". Healthy Hearing. Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  5. ^ Goodman, Libby (1990). Time and learning in the special education classroom. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press. p. 122. ISBN 0-7914-0371-8. OCLC 20635959.
  6. ^ Anderson, Karen (August 2012). "Accommodations for Students with Hearing Loss". Supporting Success for Children with Hearing Loss.
  7. ^ Smith, P (October 2007). "Have we made any progress, including students with intellectual disabilities in regular education classrooms?". Intellect Dev Disabil. 45 (5): 297–309. doi:10.1352/0047-6765(2007)45[297:HWMAPI]2.0.CO;2. PMID 17887907.
  8. ^ James Q. Affleck; Sally Madge; Abby Adams; Sheila Lowenbraun (January 1988). "Integrated classroom versus resource model: academic viability and effectiveness". Exceptional Children: 2. Retrieved 2010-05-29.
  9. ^ Bowe, Frank (2004). Making Inclusion Work. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-017603-6. OCLC 54374653.[page needed]
  10. ^ a b c d Karen Zittleman; Sadker, David Miller (2006). Teachers, Schools and Society: A Brief Introduction to Education with Bind-in Online Learning Center Card with free Student Reader CD-ROM. McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages. pp. 48, 49, 108, G–12. ISBN 0-07-323007-3.
  11. ^ Warnock Report Archived January 11, 2013, at the Wayback Machine (1978). "Report of the Committee of Enquiry into the Education of Handicapped Children and Young People", London.
  12. ^ Wolffe, Jerry. (20 December 2010) What the law requires for disabled students Archived 2013-01-05 at The Oakland Press.
  13. ^ Yell, Mitchell L. (2012). The law and special education (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson. ISBN 978-0131376090.
  14. ^ Bat-Chava, Yael (11 July 2012). "Diversity of Deaf Identities". American Annals of the Deaf. 145 (5): 420–428. doi:10.1353/aad.2012.0176. ISSN 1543-0375.
  15. ^ a b c Baker, Sharon; Baker, Keith (August 1997). "Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Bilingual-Bicultural Education. ERIC Digest #E553". Education Resources Information Center. ERIC Clearinghouse on Handicapped and Gifted Children. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  16. ^ a b Marschark, Marc; Lang, Harry G; Albertini, John A. (2002). Educating Deaf Students. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 145.
  17. ^ Cole, Elizabeth B.; Flexer, Carol (2011). Children with Hearing Loss: Developing Listening and Talking (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing. p. 348. ISBN 978-1-59756-379-6. The two main Listening and Spoken Language approaches, historically, have been the Auditory-Verbal Approach (AV) and the Auditory-Oral Approach (A-O).
  18. ^ a b c Stone, Patrick (August 1997). "Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Auditory-Oral. ERIC Digest #E551". Education Resources Information Center. ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  19. ^ a b c Goldberg, Donald (August 1997). "Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Auditory-Verbal. ERIC Digest #E552". Education Resources Information Center. ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  20. ^ There's a new kid in school. Oral Deaf Education. Archived from the original (mov) on 15 August 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  21. ^ a b "Total Communication: Learning to Use Different Communication Methods". Raising Deaf Kids. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  22. ^ "Communication Considerations: Total Communication". Hands and Voices. Retrieved 2017-01-29.
  23. ^ Marschark, Marc; Lang, Harry G; Albertini, John A. (2002). Educating Deaf Students. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 143.
  24. ^ a b Nowell, Richard; Innes, Joseph (August 1997). "Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Inclusion. ERIC Digest #E557". Education Resources Information Center. ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. Retrieved 25 January 2011.
  25. ^ "School Placement Considerations for Students Who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing". Hands and Voices. 2005. Retrieved 23 January 2011.
  26. ^ Wollock, J (1996). John Bulwer and his Italian sources. In Mirko Tavoni (Ed.), Italia ed Europa nella linguisticadel Rinascimento, Atti del convegno internazionale, 20–24 March 1991, Ferrara, p.419
  27. ^ Dekesel, K. (1992) John Bulwer: The founding father of BSL research, Signpost, Winter 1992 & Spring 1993 P11-14 & p36- 46
  28. ^ "The national institute for the Deaf". Institut National de Jeunes Sourds de Paris. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
  29. ^ "Find could end 350-year science dispute". BBC. 26 July 2008. Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  30. ^ a b "Rev John Townsend (1757-1826), Founder of the London Asylum | UCL UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries". Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  31. ^ "Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 57.djvu/112 - Wikisource, the free online library". Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  32. ^ "Joseph Watson, Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb". Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  33. ^ "London Asylum for the Deaf and Dumb | UCL UCL Ear Institute & Action on Hearing Loss Libraries". Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  34. ^ "Closure of The Royal School for Deaf Children Margate". Retrieved 5 May 2018.
  35. ^ National Association of the Deaf, Dual Language Development and Use in the Educational Environment Position Statement Archived 2013-02-04 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ Center, Gallaudet University and Clerc. "Assistive Technologies for Individuals Who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing". Retrieved 2018-04-29.
  37. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-05-06. Retrieved 2013-05-15.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  38. ^ "Master of Education in Education of the Deaf | School of Education". Retrieved 2017-03-21.
  39. ^ "California State University website". Archived from the original on 2012-11-19. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  40. ^ "UCLAN - Deaf Studies". Archived from the original on 2013-01-30. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  41. ^ "Bristol University | Centre for Deaf Studies | Welcome to the Centre for Deaf Studies". Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  42. ^ [1][dead link]
  43. ^ "Deaf Studies". Victoria University of Wellington. Retrieved March 30, 2014.
  44. ^
  45. ^ "Welcome to CEASD - CEASD".

Further reading[edit]

  • Edwards. R.A.R. Words Made Flesh: Nineteenth-Century Deaf Education and the Growth of Deaf Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2012. [ online review
  • Gannon, Jack R. Deaf Heritage: A Narrative History of Deaf America (2012)
  • Greenwald, Brian H., and John Vickrey Van Cleve. A Fair Chance in the Race of Life: The Role of Gallaudet University in Deaf History (2008)

External links[edit]

  • A.A.P.T.S.D. The Association Review: 1906, Philadelphia, Penn.: American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf. Retrieved from the Internet Archive, June 7, 2012. Note: this annual review contains extensive material on deaf education worldwide. It has been inadvertently listed on the Internet Archive as The Association Review: 1899, although some metadata correctly identifies it as from the year 1906.