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Education Options for Children Who Are Deaf

by Sara Jane Fair

Deciding on which school to send your child is not easy, but what about when the child is Deaf. As a parent, you may have many choices of where you could send your child to get the best education.

But where do you start?

I’m a child of Deaf parents, and I’m Deaf myself.

My dad went to the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD), and my mom attended a Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) program then transferred to California School for the Deaf in Fremont (CSDF). I went to the same D/HH program as my mother at CSDF with the exception of mainstreaming with an interpreter for one year of elementary school. During my time at CSDF, I mainstreamed half of the day with the local middle school for English courses, but I stopped once I entered high school to stay with my friends.

Deaf vs. deaf

This was my experience in a nutshell, but there are several options for schools for your child. Let me take a moment to explain that when I capitalize the word “Deaf” I’m referring to someone who is a part of the Deaf community and not just hard of hearing or without hearing. When a person is a part of the Deaf community, they typically attend schools specifically for those who are Deaf and use sign language as their primary communication method. If a person isn’t immersed in the Deaf community, or one doesn’t label themselves as a person who is deaf, I’ll lowercase “deaf.”

It’s Not One Size Fits All

There are several educational options for children who are Deaf or hard of hearing. Here are the most common choices:

  • a residential Deaf school, or
  • a mainstream school, or
  • a mixed approach in which you mainstream your child for a part of their schooling and then send them to a residential Deaf school for the remainder (or the other way around), or
  • half-days split between a mainstream school and a residential Deaf school.

There is no one “right” decision; only what you determine is right for your child. Each child has different needs and preferences. My number one suggestion would be to listen to your child. I told my parents I wanted to mainstream for English classes, but I still wanted to be with my Deaf friends in middle school, so that’s what I did.

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