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Thursday, November 02, 2006

De-institutionalizing Deaf students?

Read this article about de-institutionalizing disabled people and it did not say anything about Deaf people. What came to my mind was does this article classify Deaf people as disabled people? It talks about de-institutionalizing disabled people, mostly for those who live in institutional homes and did not see anything about educational institutions.

First thing that came to mind was I grew up attending the London School for the Deaf (Robarts School for the Deaf) - which could be considered an educational institution for the Deaf that is funded by the Government of Ontario. There are other Deaf education institutions across Canada and when I look back to my elementary and high school times, I am grateful I attended LSD. It helped me develop my self-awareness of who I am, made me appreciate who I am and most of all, made me very proud of being Deaf.

Right now, I see talk about LSD slowly shutting down, forcing Deaf students to attend mainstream schools or move and attend the Milton School for the Deaf (Ernest C. Drury School for the Deaf). The same thing is happening to the Belleville School for the Deaf (Sir. James Whitney School for the Deaf). The enrollment numbers are down for these Deaf schools.

My concern about this article is that it could further reinforce the Deaf-Impaired concept that isolating Deaf children in the Deaf-Impaired world will make life better for them? I hope not! I have many friends who grew up going to Deaf schools and they have no regrets and are glad they were not isolated with Deaf-Impaired students.

If this article only focuses on de-institutionalizing disabled people (including Deaf people) from institutional homes, I would support that because Deaf people (as long as they are not corkies) are capable of living independently, but this article makes it look like ALL institutions should be removed.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

People with disabilities is a very broad term...it could mean anything and the article doesn't specify those included.

In the "deaf-impaired" world, this could include deaf, like you said, since they would see deafness as a disability.

This feels like bullshit political and media filler. The article was poorly written since it doesn’t go into specifics, but then what do you expect from a society that doesn’t care about those specifics.

Anonymous said...

Right, people with disabilities is a very broad term... In a world where there is sign language, people who are clueless about the language are disabled. Every person has experienced being disabled, temporarily or permanent.

Institution is also a broad word.

"Institutions are structures and mechanisms of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of two or more individuals. Institutions are identified with a social purpose and permanence, transcending individual human lives and intentions, and with the making and enforcing of rules governing cooperative human behavior." (Wikipedia)

Before reading the definition above regarding the term, institution, it bothered me that the term is being looked on negatively (by me) and schools for the Deaf are often signed "DEAF INSTITUTE". The sign seems natural but to think of it in English, to me, it looks like a stigmatizing term for Deaf in English's perspective.

I thought I better check the official definition of the term, which is more objective preferably than the typical subjective view on the term. The definition of the term, institution, above seems positive. Social order is clearly created by which language is being used by human beings. I don't look at it as a grade level, such as high class or low class but a type of language used.

Behavior, once again, is often used negatively but as a term itself, is neutral so I try to put it this way: behaviour in a social group of people using sign language is they way they interact individually or socially in a group.

The second sentence of the definition above… Institutions are being identified with a social purpose. The social purpose in a group of Deaf people would be to converse and interact in a language that is natural; thus fulfilling the contextual environment with global knowledge. That is what transcends human lives and intentions and with the understanding of the context they live in, they are all on the same page (cooperative human behavior).

Therefore, what it is in the school for the Deaf is just as similar to what it is in a public school. They both have social orders and both schools consist of objectives that come with a social purpose. I shall say that institutions do not only apply to the schools for the Deaf but also to the public schools, to the work places and even in your own home.

So Mike, when you say that this article makes it look like ALL institutions should be removed, I say the community at large would be demolished, not just the school for the Deaf but the town, the country, the province.

It’s not that I don’t support integration of Deaf and hearing groups in school environment. I do, in many ways but I find that the roots for Deaf people need to be fortified with their kind of calcium and that is, their natural language and a full, continuing access to contextual environment in every footstep they make. Integration does not guarantee a quality contextual environment for them.

I definitely have no regrets where I came from, too! : )

Anonymous said...

Gee, that was a lengthy response I just did. I just had to spill my thoughts at the moment.

natech said...

Well, it all comes to money and numbers. The less deaf students there are, the more money are spent on each, so the government either keeps putting deaf schools into one school or simply "de-institutionalize" them (the easier way). ADA has been a double-edged sword for us. We want equal opportunity in employment but it forces Deaf-impaired schools to accept deaf kids and parents want their kids close to home instead of sending them off to some far far away deaf institution.

Someone told me that Florida has a state policy that any babies or kids with a hearing loss is automatically required to get a screening test at FSDB and at the same time, parents get a campus tour to see what the school is like.

Parents will have an opportunity to tour the campus and actually get advice from REAL people who have a direct experience working with deaf students instead of simply being told/pushed by families/friends/doctors that deaf schools are no-no or get a cochlear implant immediately without ever hearing about deaf schools, let alone the visit there.

In the end, they can make a decision, whether to send their kids to FSDB or keep them close home. They would have gotten advice from both sides than being dominated on one side of Deaf-impaired people.

I think that's a GREAT policy and I wish to see this implemented all over the world. Not too long, people will begin to see the REAL benefits of sending their deaf kids to deaf schools. Also, deaf schools should have at least 50% of deaf teachers, administrators, and staff. This ensures that kids will have exposure to deaf role models.

*this dream being immediately zapped by stupid Deaf-impaired know-nothing people*

Anonymous said...

Tammy - That was a good post.

Nate - Public Law 94-142, in 1975, which called for “free, appropriate public school education in the least restrictive environment” is what forces the schools to accepted into mainstream programs, not the ADA.

But you're right the ADA is a double edged sword. You want SSI? You want a hearing dog? You want discounted tutition? Free interpreters? Then you have to accept the government's label that you are disabled. That's where I see the double edged sword.

I think that policy by FSDB is a real good one. Unfortunaly the very first person of authority the parents see are the doctors who carry a medical perspective on deafness.

So right from birth before the parents are even considering schooling, there is the doctor advocating CI.

Hopefully more and more exposure to deafness will create open minded parents who will explore other options and actually KNOW they have options.

oneninefive said...

Wow! Enjoyed reading your comments after getting back from my ODSA volleyball weekend.

I agree with you all about the broad definition of disability/disabilities. I wrote this post assuming they were including Deaf people.

Basically I was just thinking that this article may give Deaf-impaired people the wrong idea that it is better to de-institutionalize Deaf schools.

I know the argument on how to best educate Deaf people and in the end, Deaf people will strongly believe that Deaf institutions are the best way while Deaf-impaired people will think isolating Deaf children in mainstream schools are better.

I guess the word "de-institutionalizing" further reinforced my overall view on the future of Deaf schools. Just feel like whacking the heads of Deaf-impaired people and tell them to listen to what Deaf people think is the best for them.

Proudpetite - I was aware that disabilities and institution were very broad words. Never really put in the effort to get the full picture of these terms. Thanks for the details.

Thinking over this again - maybe I am more concerned about the development of Deaf people's identity and feel that Deaf schools are the best opportunity for Deaf students to develop a sense of self awareness of their identity than they would in mainstream society.

Buzzair - you seem to already know a lot about the law after your experience with Jasper! Thinking about Law School as your next move after getting your MSSE degree? :)

Nate - I like what that policy in Florida, but agree with Buzzair about the first "professional" contact the parents have play a big role with deciding where their Deaf child goes to school (and how they try to include them in the Deaf-impaired world) too.

All this thinking may have made me confused, hopefully what I said makes sense.