Many deaf children were once educated in special schools, which catered specifically to students with hearing loss. According to Loes Wauters of the Institute of Signs, Language and Deaf Studies, "Nowadays, most deaf children are educated in mainstream settings where social integration is one of the major challenges for these children." Studies have shown that deaf children struggle with feeling isolated from their peers and are generally not as socially competent as the other students, according to Wauters, in a study published on the website of the College of Education at Michigan State University.
Creating Allies in the Classroom
One of the most helpful ways in which a deaf child can feel more a part of an inclusive classroom is to make an effort to educate the other students on what it means to be deaf, according to KidsHealth. If the other students can understand and sympathize with the deaf child's struggles, then they are more likely to feel connected to the child and more willing to help them in the classroom. A good activity to introduce children to the concept of hearing loss is to get ear plugs for each person in the class. As the class discusses something non-academic, possibly what they did over the summer, each child can take a few minutes to experience the discussion with the ear plugs in their ears. Just a few moments of losing that sense can help the children to understand and empathize with the deaf student.
If the teacher has explained the deaf child's disability to the class, and the child is still being bullied or left behind in activities, parents can encourage the child to go to their teacher for help. Still, deaf children often deal with feelings of isolation and loneliness in an inclusive classroom. To build up their self-confidence and help them to reduce stress, it's helpful for the whole family to engage in activities with other families who have a member with hearing loss. They can give each other advice on handling tricky social circumstances in an inclusive classroom, and provide the deaf child with a friend they can identify with.
Deaf children might need to have social objectives included in an individual education plan, if this is an issue that hinders their performance in school. Some possible goals could include starting a conversation with a new friend or working successfully on a group project. Brenda Schick, a researcher and professor from the University of Colorado, underscores the value of children learning how to work in peer groups, "With peers, children can argue, negotiate, and figure it all out. Some researchers have speculated that these life skills come more from peer interactions than through interactions with adults. And those language skills are absolutely essential."
Studies have shown that a co-enrollment classroom can help deaf children to feel more included with their peers, according to Wauters. Peer acceptance is rated higher in these classrooms. In a co-enrollment setting, all the children are taught by both a regular teacher and a special needs teacher. Deaf children have a better attitude about their social standing in a co-enrollment classroom, which can help with their confidence.