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Deaf Education in America: Voices of Children from Inclusion
Kaitlyn: Kaitlyn loves to go shopping. Though she is quiet and somewhat withdrawn in school, she is friendly and bouncy when at home or with deaf friends. Kaitlyn uses her voice to communicate both at school and at home. Her speech is fairly intelligible, especially for those who know her well.
Leslie: Leslie functions very much like a hearing student. Her increasing ability to identify sounds through her cochlear implant has led her to being able to use the phone and to speak clearly. Though others may think of her as “hearing” or perhaps “hard of hearing,” she again and again refers to herself as “deaf.” Leslie has grown up in mainstream programs and now requires very little assistance to succeed in the classroom. Leslie is exuberant, confident, and friendly, and she seems to enjoy being involved in school and interacting with her friends. Leslie used her voice to respond to questions in the interview. While doing so, she gives an interesting view of what it is like to be considered a successful cochlear implant recipient in a hearing school.
Jasmine: Jasmine is a high-school freshman at a school for the deaf. Her delicate and pretty features are in contrast to the strong views and emotion that she portrays. Jasmine’s deaf education began at a school for the deaf, where she was educated from age 5 to age 7. She then was transferred to an integrated school, where she completed first through eighth grade. This year was her first year back in a school for the deaf. Her mother talked of the loneliness that Jasmine faced while being educated in a mainstream program growing until she was nearly suicidal. During her years in mainstream classes, Jasmine often wrote stories and poems with themes of isolation, alienation, and death. By the eighth grade, not only were her parents worried about her mental stability, but they also saw a nosedive in her motivation to learn. As a last resort, they sent her back to a school for the deaf. Her mother reports that in the past few months, Jasmine has transformed into a motivated student, a social butterfly, and a girl that is in love with life. “She makes us laugh every day. It is good to see her smile.”
Julie: Julie was interviewed in her home, where she was open and friendly. She seemed to look forward to the interview and had thought of several ideas she wanted to share. According to her mother, Julie is very outgoing and has a take-charge attitude. Her athletic success in soccer has earned her a great deal of respect from the student body. During the interview, Julie seemed confident and relaxed while giving a very poignant view of life as the only deaf student in a regular education high school. Julie attended a school for the deaf for first grade, but moved to an integrated program for second through fifth grade. In sixth grade, she again tried the school for the deaf but felt that she had become the subject of harassment by the other deaf students. She again transferred back into a public school for middle school and high school. At the time of this interview, she was the only deaf student in a very large high school. Julie chose to have a cochlear implant when she was 13, and she now says that she loves it. She explains that she mostly likes the fact that it helps her to hear environmental sounds, such as the phone ringing, the bell at school, and a car coming down the street. But recently, she has started to enjoy music and is able to differentiate between voices of people she knows.
Patrick: Patrick is well known for his friendly personality and his sparkling sense of humor. Patrick’s positive outlook is noted throughout the interview as he frames difficult issues in a positive light and follows them with a quick smile. Patrick communicates through a combined approach of speech and signing. Patrick lives with his mother who has learned to sign and is active in advocating for the rights of deaf children in the community. Patrick has grown up in the mainstream setting of a large suburban school district. He seems content with his educational environment. Patrick is fully mainstreamed in a high school where two other deaf students also attend.
Sam: Sam is anxiously awaiting her high school graduation, which is scheduled to take place 5 days after her interview. Sam seems independent and highly confident and is excited about her plans to attend a state university in the fall. Her hopes are to succeed in the medical program and become a nurse, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother. Although Sam was born profoundly deaf, she had a cochlear implant at the age of 3 years. She explained that the cochlear implant failed at age 8, but she recently had another cochlear implant. She has grown up identifying herself as a hard of hearing individual. Sam’s speech is intelligible, and she feels this has helped her to succeed in the hearing world.
Ashley: Ashley is the only deaf student in a large suburban high school. She prefers to use American Sign Language to communicate, but she is also fluent in cued speech. She describes her independent streak as being expressed by living on her own. It seems the pierced tongue may also be an extension of this independence. Her demeanor is confident and friendly, and she stops several times during the interview to chat with friends who are frequently calling her on her Sidekick pager. Ashley has been in an integrated public school from kindergarten through twelfth grade, but she mentions that she has moved from school to school, particularly in her younger years.