Gallaudet University Press

Interview with the Author

Gina A. Oliva
Author, Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School

GUPress: What was the impetus behind “The Solitary Mainstream Project”?

Gina A. Oliva: Well, first, people need to understand that my own father had a hearing loss, but he remained “in the hearing world” his entire life. He had a loss similar to mine—it started out as a moderate loss in childhood and progressed to a profound loss by the mid-20s. How he dealt with (or did not deal with, actually) his own hearing loss, and how that affected his life and our family life, was the real impetus behind my desire to bring the “solitary” experience to light. So, I interviewed 60 hard of hearing and deaf adults who were mainstreamed “alone” as I was.

GUPress: How did you come up with the idea of writing Alone in the Mainstream from that research?

Gina A. Oliva: I wanted to publish something that would emphasize that people like my father (e.g., people who are deaf or hard of hearing but have nothing to do with the deaf community) are really ubiquitous. And, further, I am concerned that the children who are subject to “inclusion” are in danger of becoming isolated adults, like my father.

To be honest, the book in its final form is the result of recommendations from the GU Press (thank you!). My first manuscript was about 90% research report with about 10% of my own story. The Press suggested that I add more of my own story and reduce the large number of quotes from the 60 Solitary Mainstream Project participants. In the process of rewriting, I found my voice, so I came to really appreciate that recommendation.

GUPress: Do you think deaf children coming out of mainstreaming programs today have a sense of Deaf identity or Deaf culture?

Gina A. Oliva: My observation is that children who have little or no contact with other deaf/hard of hearing children or adults do not have a sense of Deaf identity or culture. However, once they meet others like themselves, they will and do develop that sense. A great majority of the Solitary Mainstream Project participants found the Deaf World (hurray!!) and that, in itself, says a whole lot.


7:5 Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Real Ideal

How Integrating Children With
Disabilities Originated

Since the enactment of PL 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, the United States has undergone a profound transformation in its efforts to provide a “free and appropriate education” for school-age individuals with disabilities. Robert L. Osgood’s The History of Inclusion in the United States attempts to understand more thoroughly and accurately what inclusion is, how it came to be, and where it might go.

Core issues in the inclusion debate are: efficacy; efficiency and economy; territory; community; legality; power and identity; and axiology. While distinct in many ways, these issues share three questions central to their exploration: Where shall such education take place? Who should be responsible for it? And what, if anything, is so truly special about special education that separate educational settings are necessary.

The History of Inclusion in the United States examines the ideal of authentic physical, educational, psychological, and interpersonal integration of children with disabilities in regular education settings: how it started, who has supported it and why, who has questioned it and why, and what our responses as a society have meant to the education of all students, whether formally identified as disabled or not.

Read chapter three, “1960-1968: Challenging Traditions in Special Education,” which covers the period where segregated special education grew steadily in size, scope, and power, and the role of the federal government increased dramatically. Order The History of Inclusion at a special savings of 20% off.

In Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School, the inaugural volume that launched the Deaf Lives series, author Gina A. Oliva combines her personal experiences with a survey of deaf and hard of hearing former public school students to describe what it was like to be the only deaf pupil in the school.

Her work did not go unnoticed. A review from About.com, a guide-based information portal, highly recommends this title: “Professionals working with mainstreamed programs would benefit by reading this book of collected memories to determine how to keep all the positive consequences of the mainstream experience intact while addressing the isolating experience that so many mainstreamed students speak of and experience.” In addition, Oliva’s research “succinctly describe mainstream children’s isolation from peers, support from their parents impacting education, and their self-awareness of who they are and what they are capable of today because of mainstreamed education.” Read the review in its entirety, and order Alone in the Mainstream.

Disability Studies Quarterly published an exceptional review of Gaillard in Deaf America: A Portrait of the Deaf Community, 1917, the third volume in the Gallaudet Classics in Deaf Studies series, stating: “Gaillard in Deaf America functions as an accessible historical text that provides an interesting account of early deaf communities in America, and should be a valuable resource for scholars of both Deaf Studies and Disability Studies. The editor’s introduction provides a solid framework for the purpose of Gaillard’s narrative and the historical importance of his work. For those in the field of rhetoric, the appendix also includes Edwin A. Hodgson’s speech, “Benefits of Education to the Deaf,” and for those interested in education and pedagogy in general, education of the deaf is a core element of Gaillard’s work.” The tome chronicles the travels of Henri Gaillard during his visit to America only a few weeks after the United States entered World War I. Order Gaillard in Deaf America today.

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