The truth is that inclusion, as a system has gained nationwide attention in the last thirty years. Inclusion advocates, such as The Association of Persons with Severe Handicaps, argue that all disabled children should be “included.” The National Council on Disability recently stated that most students with sensory impairment should be taught in regular classrooms (Special Education Report, 1993).
At the very least deaf children education programs contemplating inclusion (IEP) must consider the following issues(U.S. Department of Education, 1992): communication needs and the child’s preferred mode of communication; linguistic needs; severity of hearing loss and potential for using residual hearing; academic level; social, emotional, and cultural needs, including opportunity for peer interactions and communication.
According to Irene Leigh, a deaf psychologist, the concept of inclusion is positive and useful for many children with disabilities, but a generalized application which does not take into consideration the special individual characteristics and needs mentioned above might have serious psychosocial repercussions for a considerable number of children and adolescents with hearing problems.(Leigh 73)
One of the benefits inclusion brings is the opportunity for the student who is deaf to live at home. Deaf students who attend a special school that is beyond commuting distance must live at the school during the week. Students in an inclusion placement in their local school are able to be with their families during the week and the proximity to the area where they live provides opportunities to develop neighborhood friends.
Daily association with hearing students in an inclusion setting also helps students who are deaf to develop their ability to communicate with hearing people, leading to skills they will need in later years. The study carried out by professor John Luckner, in the division of Special Education of the University of Northern Colorado, identified successful students who were deaf or hard of hearing and were receiving education in general education settings in order to examine the factors contributing to their success.
Students acknowledged five main factors: their own effort and perseverance, the support from their families, the high standards their school friends set for them, the use of a variety of equipment to socialize as well as to learn (FM systems, hearing aids, text telephones, computers and close captioning) and sports which were not only enjoyable from the socializing point of view but very useful as a way of learning life skills.
Dr. Ann T. Halvorsen, Professor of Special Education assures that “Inclusive settings provide far more variety in activities, and stimuli are not so easily controlled. The pace of a general education classroom is typically faster and more spontaneous. Ensuring that students have the opportunity to practice skills sufficiently in such a dynamic environment is critical” (100).
Inclusion also provides good opportunities for learning the standards of the hearing world. Students who are deaf and attend schools for children who hear may be able to master the norms of hearing society better than those who are immersed in the culture of a special school for students who are deaf. It’s important to take into account that the education of deaf children needs and benefits from the inclusion of deaf adults at all stages. In fact, some years ago, many children in integrated settings did not even realize adults existed.
Harris & Sterling wrote about some children who thought they would become hearing when they became adults, others thought they would die or just fade away somehow since they had never had an adult role model (cited in Stone 1994). The subject of the adult role model is a very important one. It is essential that the schools make every effort to attract adult people into the school system. But they must be careful not to employ them only as aides or assistants because children will notice
that the deaf person is always in a lower status position than the hearing teacher. It is really positive for children to see deaf and hearing professionals sharing power and making decisions together, this avoids the feeling that they will grow up to be forever told what to do by hearing people in the hearing world (Stone 66).
Another advantage of inclusion is the possibility deaf or hard of hearing students have to choose an academic or vocational program that suits them from a wider range of choices in their home school district than in their nearest special school. Although states differ in policy and practice, there is a model for broad programming that reaches beyond state borders.
The National Agenda for Moving Forward on Achieving Educational Equality for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students (2005) offers a set of priorities designed to narrow the gap between deaf and hearing students based on the belief that communication access is a fundamental human right and that every deaf and hard of hearing child must have full access to all educational services.
The goals of the National Agenda consider inclusion as a good option for deaf or hard of hearing students only when it constitutes the “least restrictive environment” for them, once each individual case has been evaluated and the best placement options have been considered.
Deaf and hard of hearing students should count on placement options that provide for their language and communication needs. What constitutes the “least restrictive environment” (LRE) for deaf and hard of hearing students must be determined by considering their communication and linguistic needs as well as their educational, social, emotional, cognitive, and physical abilities and needs. For some deaf and hard of
hearing children, a special school is truly “least restrictive,” just as for others a regular classroom is LRE. In either case, the child’s needs, not a generic concept of LRE, must
determine what is truly LRE for each individual child. According to the National Agenda, deaf and hard of hearing children are entitled to access the general curriculum. Too often the concept of “general curriculum” is confused with “least restrictive environment” or with placement in a regular classroom.
The two concepts are separate and distinct. Every deaf and hard of hearing child, whether in a regular classroom or a special school or program for the deaf, should have full access to the general curriculum as consistent with his or her needs. The National Agenda’s success in bringing attention to the need to achieve these goals has occurred as a result of the shared roles, responsibilities and commitments of professionals, parents, and consumers throughout the United States.
Inclusive education was initially seen as a special education service, but the focus is now on creating inclusive schools which unify resources and integrate programs in such a way that all students in the general education classroom are benefited.
Unlike integrated or mainstreamed students, students who receive inclusive education are members of the general education classroom community. According to Halvorsen & Neary :“the single most identifiable characteristic of inclusive education is membership. Students who happen to have disabilities are seen first as kids who are a natural part of the school and the age-appropriate general education classroom they attend”(3)
Acceptance that the deaf students have social and educational skills and motives similar to those of their hearing partners may greatly stimulate the hearing majority to develop a willingness to learn about deaf language and culture. Inclusion as equals can not be possible for deaf and hard of hearing students if it is only them who have to make all the accommodations (Connor 2006). The whole general education community as well as society will benefit from inclusion, if the concept is applied conscientiously.
Inclusion provides opportunities to experience diversity of society on a small scale in a classroom, develops an appreciation that everyone has unique characteristics and abilities, develops respect for others with diverse characteristics, develops sensitivity toward others’ limitations, develops empathetic skills, helps teachers recognize that all students have strengths, increases ways of creatively addressing challenges, develops teamwork and collaborative problem solving skills, promotes the civil rights of all individuals and supports the social value of equality.
The word inclusion for deaf and hard of hearing students cannot be seen simply as a placement decision. It must refer to a philosophy which maximizes the child’s abilities and potential, facilitates communication with others, permits the child to act as a full participant in his education and promotes the development of positive self-esteem. To be included, a child must feel included. Any program or school which calls itself inclusive must meet these criteria.
Connor, M.J. (2006) Mainstream Inclusion of Deaf Children and Young People.
Principles and Tensions. Retrieved March 2009 from
Halvorsen, A.T. & Neary, T. (2001). Building inclusive schools: Tools and strategies
for success. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 3
Leigh, I.W (1994) Psychosocial Implications of Full Inclusion for Deaf Children and
Adolescents. Implications and Complications for Deaf Students of the Full
Inclusion Movement, 94-2, 73 . Retrieved March 2009 from
The National Agenda Steering and Advisory Committees.(2005). The National Agenda
for Moving Forward on Achieving Educational Equality for Deaf and Hard of
Hearing Students. Retrieved March 2009 from
Nowell, R.& Innes, J. (1997) Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: