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American Annals of the Deaf

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Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School

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a neighborhood school or local education system to develop the conditions by which a single deaf or hard of hearing child would be truly included in all of her or his K-12 classrooms could take so long that the child will have grown up and graduated before it happened. Further, whether or not ample help and support could result in a truly inclusive experience for a solitary deaf or hard of hearing child is still an open question today. Many Deaf (and hearing) adults are skeptical about this possibility.

Public schools are not likely to understand the need for a community of Deaf people; public schools with mainstreamed deaf children are often only minimally connected to the surrounding community of Deaf people. The result of these changes [towards more mainstreaming of deaf children] is that there are many young deaf children who . . . have never met a Deaf person and have never seen American Sign Language. . . . The new social order of “mainstreaming,” instead of introducing new worlds to deaf children, may well lead them to a new kind of isolation.3

My investigation of recent scholarly works suggests that the policy of inclusion has yet to result in better educational experiences, on a broad scale, for deaf and hard of hearing children. Yet ideals are meant to be pursued. How can we hasten environmental and social conditions that do allow effective inclusion for deaf and hard of hearing children and adults? And, what resources or methods should we use to find the answer to this question?

Finding the Answers

How should we answer such questions? How can we effect positive change for each solitaire, and for his parents and teachers? Those parents and teachers may also feel alone in this task. For many of them, this deaf child may be the first deaf person they have ever met.

And perhaps therein lies the crux of the matter. Deaf people have for too long been in the closets, the back rooms, out of sight and out of mind. For this reason, I embarked on an effort to include a large number of other adults who had been solitaires in my effort to provide information to parents and other people concerned with the young solitaires of today. It is my hope that this book will inform readers of a perspective that must always be sought by schools, parents, neighbors, and classmates when a deaf or hard of hearing child is “included” in their midst: the perspective of deaf and hard of hearing adults.

I believe that an adult’s reflection of his or her K-12 years as the only deaf student is crucially the most powerful “voice” in studying and understanding “the solitary mainstream experience” of deaf individuals. They, like myself, are truly the ones that went through the experience and need to be allowed to speak of their experience. They must be involved with the parents’ decision on how to meet their deaf children’s social and academic needs in a K-12 setting.   M 894

As a deaf person who grew up with limited contact to other deaf people, but who was very successfully mainstreamed, I feel like I have great insight into the problems faced by solitary mainstreamed students, as well as into ways to deal with those problems. I think I can provide encouragement for those who are in similar situations right now. Maybe they will shed fewer tears than I did if they know more about what to expect and how to approach various issues.   F 93

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