Hi everyone:

If you haven’t visited National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Website, yet. Their CEO Howard A. Rosenblum write an article about the New York Times in response to the debate on “Do States Need Schools for the Deaf”? (http://nyti.ms/o3Qhhj) The debate seems to becoming hot in New York State since the 4201 School protect last year.


Copy of the article can be found below:

Submitted By Admin On Wed, 08/31/2011 – 15:50

The National Association of the Deaf Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Howard A. Rosenblum sent the following op-ed response to The New York Times in response to the debate on “Do States Need Schools for the Deaf”. Despite constant requests from the NAD and its membership to publish our article, The New York Times has not published our op-ed response. We urge media outlets such as The New York Times to include the NAD and the deaf and hard of hearing community whenever discussing issues that directly impact our quailty of life.

State Schools for the Deaf Are Critically Needed Language acquisition is the essence of education. Yet, language acquisition is the biggest challenge for every deaf child simply because the American system is focused on education through auditory means. Even though research proves that visual means of language acquisition benefits every child, so much of the debate regarding education of deaf children has been focused on how to get them to “mainstream” and to learn like everyone else. This is the educational equivalent of pushing a square peg into a round hole.

The New York Times debate has largely ignored the input of the deaf community, including experts of deaf education, as well as organizations of, by, and for deaf individuals such as the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). By ignoring this valuable input, the debate has veered off course. The debate has been wrongly framed to focus solely on the cost and effectiveness of state schools for the deaf. Mainstreaming has not been cheap nor has it been effective for many deaf children, and the focus should instead be on what can be done to bolster the education of deaf children.

The law requires a continuum of placement options, which must include the availability of programs, including state schools, that provide a forum for deaf children to receive direct instruction from teachers and peers with whom they can communicate. This is truly the least restrictive environment for many deaf students. Closure of state schools would improperly narrow the continuum in contravention of federal law, and would eliminate a critically needed option for a large percentage of deaf children. Cochlear implants have been misrepresented as an educational magic bullet. Many deaf children with cochlear implants also benefit greatly from visual acquisition of language. It is inconceivable that visual acquisition of language is being denied to so many children. The debate has failed to note one very important point – the fact that many deaf children end up at state schools after they have failed to receive an appropriate education in the mainstreamed setting. In addition, no state has even close to enough qualified personnel such as interpreters and speech/language therapists to fulfill the needs of deaf children if each of them were educated in their respective home school districts.

Legally, morally, and practically, state schools are the answer for thousands of deaf children across the country. Closing such state schools for financial or ideological reasons will result in a repeat of history with another generation of deaf students doomed to failure. In the 1964 Babbidge Report, Congress deemed oral education of the deaf a “dismal failure.” Nearly a half-century later, the debate dangerously suggests a return to this failed approach.

In many parts of the world including the United States, children learn to be multilingual. Yet, with deaf children, language instruction has often been viewed as an either/or approach – auditory learning of English or visual learning of American Sign Language (ASL). Yet, proponents of ASL, including the NAD, have long pushed for giving deaf children the chance to learn both ASL and English. There is no reason to deny children every means of learning available to them. Even the United Nations recognizes this as a basic human right as it now encourages all countries to adopt this educational and linguistic concept in the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Get the debate back on track. Keep state schools for the deaf open. Focus instead on how to ensure that deaf children gain, from birth, full access to language acquisition, including ASL, and thereby become multilingual productive citizens.

Thank you,

Dean DeRusso
Deaf Systems Advocate
Regional Center for Independent Living (RCIL)
Advocacy and Independent Living Services for Individuals
497 State Street
Rochester, NY 14608

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *