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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Education in America: Voices of Children from Inclusion Settings

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Table 7.1 Characteristics of Deaf Student Participants


Age Grade Cochlear Implant Primary mode of communication Experienced both hearing schools and deaf schools
Zack 10 4   ASL X
Kyle 10 4   ASL X
Tyler 11 5 X ASL/Voice  
Kaitlyn 13 7   ASL/Voice  
Leslie 14 8 X Voice  
Jasmine 15 9   ASL X
Julie 15 9 X ASL X
Patrick 15 9   ASL/Voice  
Ashley 18 10   ASL  
Sam 18 10 X Voice  

It is important to note that these categorical references are based on the students’ preferred method of communicating, not on an enforced teaching philosophy. Also it is important to note that the speaking abilities of these speaking deaf students represent a wide range of intelligibility. Most of these speaking students vocalize with a “deaf voice,” which is markedly different from that of a hearing student’s voice. Also, all speaking deaf students know ASL and use it to some extent to communicate.

Four of the student participants have cochlear implants. However, the experience of having a cochlear implant did not seem to directly lead to a common communication strategy or perspective. One of the students with a cochlear implant uses only signs to communicate, and therefore is considered in the deaf signing group, while the others are considered speaking deaf students. Table 7.1 provides further information about the student participants.

Presentation of Themes From Deaf Student Interviews

The students’ responses have been organized by topics: After each topic, an interpretive section discusses the themes emerging within these responses. The final interpretive section presents a collective discussion of the major themes found throughout the deaf student interviews. In the presentation of the themes, the responses have been organized in the following manner: general feelings about school, about interpreters, and about building relationships in a hearing school, as well as unexpected findings.

Narrative Sketches of the Deaf Students

Zack: Zack loves to play tag and tell jokes. Though he is profoundly deaf, he often chooses to not wear hearing aids. Instead, he prefers to be identified with the deaf community and communicate solely through his native language of ASL. During the interview in his home, he seemed comfortable and relaxed but was anxious to resume his game of Nintendo. His mother shared that he had been placed in a deaf preschool program and then moved to an integrated school for first through fourth grade. This year, he chose to go back to the school for the deaf for fifth grade. His mother explained that while Zack was in preschool, he had been considered a leader, but after moving to an integrated classroom, he became quiet and withdrawn. In fact, the teachers often claimed that he “didn’t say a word.” This year, after he went back to the school for the deaf, Zack’s mother has seen a complete change in his personality. He is back to being talkative at school and home. Once again, he is a leader among his peers, and seems more self-confident.

Kyle: Kyle clearly enjoys playing with his friends at the school for the deaf. He was diagnosed at age 2 with a profound hearing loss in both ears and soon after began his education at an oral school for the deaf. He attended 4 years there before being enrolled in the public school system’s mainstream program. During the first year, Kyle learned sign language and was mainstreamed for two classes. In second and third grade, he was in the hearing classroom with an interpreter most of the day. Kyle lives with his grandmother, who describes him as a very social child and a leader. She explains that most of the time he is friendly and fun, though he can be manipulative and have a short temper. She also shares that he has a very low frustration level and a high energy level. Even though she encourages him to learn to use his voice, she also encourages him to learn sign language and to explore deaf culture. Overall, Kyle is a caring and loving child who has many interests. According to his grandmother, “He is basically a very happy little boy.”

Tyler: With self-confidence, Tyler approached the interview process with anticipation. His ability to easily interact with both deaf and hearing students makes him a popular friend among both groups. Tyler has a cochlear implant and is able to speak intelligibly. His parents learned sign language when Tyler was young, and they still use it at times for clarification.

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