THE IMPORTANCE OF SPECIALIZED EDUCATION
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires that states place deaf children in special schools that best serve their needs. Under this requirement, it is necessary that deaf and hard of hearing children have access to deaf schools where they can interact with others and learn curriculum in language most accessible to them.
Because 90% of deaf and hard of hearing children are born to hearing families who often have no knowledge of signed languages or Deaf culture, most of a deaf child’s linguistic development takes place at school. Without exposure to ASL from family, deaf students rely on an ASL-rich environment at school in order to get adequate language input in order to achieve fluency.
Not only are deaf schools the most efficient and immersive places to learn ASL, but the people deaf students are surrounded by—other deaf peers and deaf and hard of hearing role models, teachers, and mentors—help them to feel included in a community that otherwise might not be available to them. Rather than feeling isolated, their experiences are normalized and they have adult figures they can look up to and aspire to imitate. This experience is nearly impossible when a deaf child is placed in a mainstream hearing school.
The benefits of deaf schools for deaf children are even further stressed in the cases of children who are DeafBlind. A DeafBlind child needs even more specialized education since every DeafBlind child will have a different combination of hearing ability, sight ability, English understanding, and ASL understanding when they attend school for the first time.
Because language deprivation is such a threat to a deaf person’s wellbeing, the Deaf community has long spoken of the importance of specialized education and ASL-focused deaf schools. This way, even if a deaf child is born to a non-signing family that is not willing to learn sign, the child can still access a first language.