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Opportunities for communication in integrated settings: young deaf children

Authors
Publication Date
Keywords
  • Bf Psychology
  • Lc Special Aspects Of Education
Disciplines
  • Communication
  • Education

Abstract

The integration of deaf children into mainstream schools was heralded by the 1981 Education Act, but has been dogged by conflict about the appropriateness of two dominant approaches to communication. The oral/aural approach, most often followed, is concerned with teaching deaf children to learn to listen and listen to learn. The emphasis has been on the need to 'normalize' deaf children in order to promote their learning and development. The manual/visual approach has focused on sign usage to promote a child's development as a communicator and learner and can be tailored to the child's prospective membership of Deaf/deaf and hearing cultures. The aim of this study is to explore both the oral/aural and the manual/visual approach in relation to young deaf children's experiences of integration. Rather than focusing on modality specific aspects of communication, this study examines the wide range of both resources and strategies deaf children have for interaction in a variety of educational environments, using modality independent tools. This permits a broader examination of deaf children's opportunities for communication in integrated settings than has previously been undertaken. The research involved detailed analysis of direct observation data collected in nursery and reception classes over a period of eighteen months, during which time the experiences of a group of deaf children and matched hearing peers were compared and contrasted. It is argued that the preoccupations of professionals, and their purposes in promoting particular approaches to language and communication need to be challenged if deaf children are not to be disabled by oppressive practices in the name of integration. It is recommended that further research should aim to advance inclusive and empowering education for deaf children through more adequately recognizing the contribution of Deaf/deaf people to processes of enquiry.

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