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Deaf education


Deaf education is the education of students with any manner of hearing impairment 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.

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.

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. 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):

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

The auditory-oral and auditory-verbal methods, known collectively as listening and spoken language, are forms of oral education. These methods are based on the belief that a deaf child can learn to listen and speak so that their family does not need to learn sign language or cued speech. These methods, presented as communication options, rely on parental involvement. 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.



  • 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. 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).
  • 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.
  • 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); alternatively, deaf students may attend a special school.
  • Exclusion: A student unable to receive instruction in any school is excluded from school. Most deaf students have historically been excluded from school, 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. Excluded students may receive individual or group instruction, and students who have been suspended or expelled are not considered "excluded" in this sense.
  • British Association of Teachers of the Deaf (BATOD)
  • 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.
  • R.A.R. Edwards, Words Made Flesh: Nineteenth-Century Deaf Education and the Growth of Deaf Culture. New York: New York University Press, 2012.
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