The One for One Rule
Colorado continues to rank as one of the highest states for inclusion of all of its special education students and is second highest in inclusion for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The most recent Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) report indicates that in 2003, 66.5% of students in Colorado with hearing disabilities received the majority of their education (more than 80% of the time) in the general education classroom. However, this practice is not necessarily the right or best placement for all DHH students. While our goal should be achievement equivalency between hearing and deaf/hard of hearing students, getting there is the problem. As we continue to struggle through the differences between least restrictive environment and language rich environment, we should keep in mind that the child's progress, or lack thereof, should help guide the decision between the different placement and/or service options. Without the basic prerequisite skills and ongoing support, the inclusion model fails too many children.
Furthermore, students should not be considered for inclusion if their language skills are not at least within two years of the instructional level of the classroom. The difficulty experienced by a DHH student when s/he must frequently fill in gaps for incomplete reception of information is exacerbated when their vocabulary and language reserve is limited. This difficulty is multiplied by the rapid pace of instruction, especially in the upper levels.
At a minimum, every child who is deaf or hard of hearing, given no additional learning or language issues, should be making, on average, one year's growth in a one year period of time. Now I recognize that some children have growth spurts and plateaus at different times, but this rule of thumb should hold over time. If the student is not making that rate of progress, the services, including the placement, the instruction and the accommodations, must be questioned, evaluated and, when necessary, adjusted. At a minimum IEP services should be constructed to support this rate of growth. Providing a program that promotes the "One for One" rule represents basic services, not a "Cadillac" or optimal model.
Included in this article is a reprint of a response to a letter by Ruth Mathers, a former deaf education teacher from Denver Public Schools. She identifies her top four strategies for supporting students who are deaf and hard of hearing to be more successful in their education program. I think you will find my thoughts reinforced by her words of wisdom.
My Top Four Tips for Teaching Deaf/Hard of Hearing Students
Ruth Mathers, St. Joseph 's School for the Deaf
Dear A. H.:
Leeanne Seaver (Hands & Voices) asked if I would respond to your email. I am most willing to share with you some of my experiences that seem similar to those you described.
First, let me give you some of my background. A few years ago I was asked to facilitate a program for oral deaf children at the middle school level. Most of these children had cochlear implants. The interesting thing about our situation was the location - the class and I were placed in a public school that held a center program for children with hearing loss. The center program was largely composed of children who utilized sign language for their communication mode. The program was fairly large - having about 30 students functioning at skill levels ranging from 1st to 7th grade. My job was to insure appropriate services were provided for the oral students and also to insure their skill levels continued to progress as per their IEP's. In addition to teaching this group of very oral students, I also functioned over three years at the school as an oral interpreter, sign interpreter, teacher of students who used language, and a Computer Assisted Notetaking operator. As I read your email, I was instantly reminded of those years in middle school and could fully relate to your frustration. My recommendations are below:
MAINSTREAM SPARINGLY AND WITH CAUTION
Public schools are always encouraging the inclusion of children with hearing loss in the regular education classroom. The fact is, when the child's language delays (or math skills) are more than 1.5 years behind his hearing peers, his ability to successfully mainstream is severely jeopardized. Mainstream placement without appropriate support will increase delays, rather than close the gaps. The key phrase here is obviously "appropriate supports." Simply putting a delayed child with hearing loss in a mainstream setting and adding a sign interpreter as a support is NOT appropriate. I believe that children with hearing loss should have all the advantages of a regular education, so I strongly feel that limited mainstreaming with thorough pre-teaching in a social studies class should be the first academic mainstream experience (I stress the words "pre-teaching" and "academic"). Math should be the very last subject to consider for mainstreaming when there are significant delays because, as you know, it is impossible to jump to beginning algebra if you still can't do long division. Math is too sequential to miss any of the learning steps. It has been successfully argued that full-inclusion is not a reflection of LRE for all disabled children. I believe those professionals who make a strong attempt to initiate limited mainstreaming with a plan to slowly increase the experience, can prove to a district good things are happening for children and professionals are doing their job - educating students to succeed. More importantly, it is imperative to create a mainstreaming situation for the student that will allow them to experience true success - the kind that empowers them to compete on an equal basis with hearing peers. Nothing will motivate the student more than this.
KILL TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE....TEACH READING WHILE YOU TEACH OTHER SUBJECTS
The subject of Social Studies lends itself to this concept. Science works well, too. There are many resources available that are interesting to middle-schoolers but are suitable for lower language levels. Time is precious (you're already in middle school!) so make every minute count for double or triple input.
JUMP START THE CHILDREN'S READING LEVEL AND CONSEQUENTLY THE LANGUAGE LEVEL
This can only be done intensively in a self-contained class and it requires great effort and commitment on the deaf educator's part. In an effort to ready students for the mainstream by high school, the teacher of the deaf can collaborate with the mainstream teacher on literature that is being taught in the mainstream. Initially for my students, I rewrote entire novels, chapter by chapter, and taught my rewrites in parallel with the novel. Then I wised-up and realized there is a lot of information on the internet that I could copy and reproduce with some tweaking to fit the individual needs of my class. On www.Google.com, you can type in the name of the book (e.g. Lord of the Flies) and search the links to get vocabulary definitions and chapter summaries. At the beginning, however, it was necessary to rewrite the material to have complete control over the language I wanted to teach. This is a fool-proof method that works equally well with oral or signing students. There are very few teachers in the field who still do this. But all who do it consistently experience great success with super-charging a student's reading skills.
DETERMINE THE BOTTOM LINE OF WHAT THE CHILD MUST LEARN.....THEN FOCUS YOUR TEACHING ON IT
State and Federal governments are asking public schools to teach more and more information. Technology is pushing us in new areas for young children that were not even thought of 10 years ago. Parents are much more involved with their childrens' education than in previous generations and as a result are making more demands on professionals. As educators, we feel pulled in so many directions. The primary question becomes not, "What should I teach?" but rather it becomes, "What information should I let go because there are only so many minutes in the day to teach everything?" I found the best way to determine the bottom line of what to teach was to closely collaborate with the regular educator who was teaching the same grade level I was. That person was a HUGE resource for me to know what a student must absolutely know when they leave 6th, 7th, or 8th grade. (Not what a child with hearing loss needs to know because his/her IEP calls for it, but more importantly, what a hearing peer must know to move on to the next grade level. Expectations for student performance must be kept to a high standard.)
There are more strategies to use but these are my top 4. You may already know and use most of them. Don't despair. It is possible to help students with hearing loss to progress more than one year for every year of school. It just requires a great deal of effort and a focused approach to accomplish that goal. I wish you best of luck in your situation.
Ruth Mathers, Director
St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf - Kansas City