January 31, 2011

You Have to Learn the Rules of the Game

I really like this quote by Albert Einstein:

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” 

My high school art teacher once gave me very good advice:

"Before you can paint whatever you like in however fashion you like, you must first learn the basics and the traditional rules of art."

So, this is where the idea of mainstreaming comes in. One of the goals of mainstreaming is to give students with special needs the chance to integrate with the general population while receiving the same type of education. Many hope that with mainstreaming, the students with special needs will effectively learn the rules of the game played by the general population.

I do agree with the notion that by being surrounded by the general population you will pick up naturally how to socialize and interact with others appropriately. For example, I think it is a terrible idea to place a student with behavioral issues into a class where everyone else has behavioral issues. How is this child supposed to learn how to behave appropriately or learn what is supposed to be typical behavior?

When it comes to the deaf or hard of hearing child it is different.

I feel that some deaf and hard of hearing children with the inability to communicate with others naturally is going to have a hard time in a mainstreamed environment. Perhaps there are ways to help these certain students, but throwing them into a general education classroom and leaving them without much support and equal access to information and communication is most likely not the answer.

How are some deaf and hard of hearing students supposed to learn the rules of the game if they do not have equal access to the information they need to know? How are they supposed to learn the rules of the game if they are emotionally or socially stunted due to a lack of natural communication with their peers? How are these students supposed to learn if their family members are reluctant to make the effort to interact and communicate with them at home?

What about the deaf or hard of hearing child who will regularly miss what is being said in side conversations, in jokes being told, within a group of people socializing, from the radio, or from non-captioned videos or television programs being shown in class or at home?

What about the student with the interpreter by her side at all times, making it awkward for her to interact with some students?

What about the student who is always behind in class because he or she regularly misses what is being said because the teacher is going too fast or because of constant background noises?

Most people learn the rules of the game through school, social interactions, casual conversations, watching television, watching movies, and listening to the radio.

How do we provide mainstreamed deaf and hard of hearing students equal access to all of these things that typically hearing students take for granted?

Mainstreaming is not perfect, but I believe we can make it work. There has to be a way to make it work.

It is important that we look at and try to understand the difficult issues some mainstreamed deaf and hard of hearing students may face before we can make the necessary changes. If we truly want them to be mainstreamed or part of the general population we must make it easier for them to access the information they need in order to learn how to be productive members of general society.