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Popular Controversies in Special Education

This page contains the information about the Popular Controversies in Special Education.

Popular Controversies in Special Education of the Hearing Impaired

There are several controversies which are often discussed by parents, professionals, media and policy makers regarding special education of the hearing impaired. The two most important such controversies are as follows.

  1. Integrated and segregated type of schooling.
  2. Oral and manual mode of communication.

Integrated and segregated type of schooling

Segregated education is education in special schools designed especially to satisfy the needs of the hearing impaired students. This may include both specialized manpower and specialized infrastructure. Such schools have specially trained teachers who are supposed to use specialized techniques, methods, aids and appliances to teach. Such schools also include acoustic and architectural designs which are tuned to the needs of the hearing impaired.

On the other hand integrated education is education of a hearing impaired child in any school which is for non impaired children – popularly but quite incorrectly known as ‘normal schools’.

The controversy generally revolves around what is better for the hearing impaired children. Unfortunately, there are no ready made answers in terms of what is better and what is not. However, the following points helps one to form one's own opinions.

  • There are educational programmes available.
  • The educational programmes vary in many ways. Amount of integration and segregation is one of the ways.
  • Education in special school and in integration without resource unit are most common in India.
  • Education with resource unit is known to have certain advantages. Success of education without resource unit however, completely depends on the motivation and capacity of the parents.
  • Although research has shown a few merits of special schools (like children having better self esteem, confidence and social adjustment) in general integration with resource unit is considered as a better option for development of speech and language.
  • Government too is promoting and encouraging educational integration in a big way since it also appears to suit the socio-economic and infrastructural conditions in India.
  • Type of school has to be selected as per two things – NEEDS of the child and AVAILABILITY of the educational programmes.
  • The decision of selecting the school has to be taken by parents with the help of the professionals.

One does not have to select a particular type for a life time. There are children who go to special schools for foundations of education and then, more readily move on to integrated education. Most of the special schools too aim at integrating their students. On the other hand there can be students who try integration initially and shift to a special school.

Whichever type of school the parents select they have to be alert about some things.

  • If a special school is considered, check whether the teachers are professionally trained and the school has adequate aids and appliances.
  • It is advisable to avoid the set up where children with different types of impairment are placed together in one classroom.
  • If an integrated set up is being considered, then look for a school with resource unit. One has to be fortunate to find such a school in the close vicinity. If such a school is not within the reach, then at least the school has to be selected where school authorities and teachers are cooperative and are willing to try educational integration more positively.
  • In many states under the scheme of Integrated Education for the Disabled, orientation and training is provided to teachers and school authorities.
  • Persons with Disabilities Act (Equal Opportunities, Protection of rights and full participation, 1995) provided various concessions and facilities to the hearing impaired children so that these children can cope better in an integrated set up.

To conclude, both integrated and segregated set ups are required to deal with hearing impaired children with varying kinds of clinical and non clinical background. Education is a must for any child and the hearing impaired child is no exception. Whichever the type of education, it must smoothly lead the child to become a fully functioning individual – an individual whose potentials are developed fully and whose social interactions are fruitful. One cannot completely guarantee what will work with which child.

Oral and manual mode of communication

Normal hearing, non impaired children acquire the speech and language skills automatically, swiftly and quite early in life. With a hearing impaired child language development is not as easy as that. Since hearing capacity is directly and closely linked with speaking, problems in hearing inevitably lead to problems in speaking. Although there is nothing wrong with the hearing impaired child's speech organs, he/she is unable to acquire speech and language skills automatically. Because of this, it is common experience of all of us that most of the hearing impaired individuals we meet are unable to speak clearly. Hence the hearing impaired are incorrectly knows as ‘deaf & dumb’. Actually the deaf are not dumb – they can learn to speak if they are taught rigorously by parents and professionals. But, because of the inherent nature of the problem, the hearing impaired (at least who have profound hearing loss in both the ears, since birth) cannot acquire speaking and language ability EFFORTLESSLY.

What then is the solution of this problem? Different scholars have tried attacking the problems, differently. Hence the controversy – oral versus manual mode of communication. There are scholars who think that since speech CAN be developed it SHOULD be developed. Speech can be developed successfully only with a lot of preconditions like the child has to be tested very early in life below the one year age or even six months, it has to be fitted with hearing aid immediately after that, its rigorous training must begin by professionals and parents etc. Therefore, some scholars believe that rather than trying to develop speech, sign language can be introduced to the hearing impaired child. According to them LANGUAGE is important and the speech and hearing impaired individual can function fully well without speech. Sign language is like any other language (and not a mere collection of gestures) - Hindi, English or Marathi having its own grammar. Only, instead of speaking, manual mode (body movement – hand movement) is used.

A few basic facts about this controversy are given here:

  • In India almost all schools believe in oralism, that is they emphasize speech development in the hearing impaired and consider speech as primary mode of communication.
  • Because most of the pre condition for success of oralism are not fulfilled in most of the hearing impaired, oralism in general has not succeeded well in India.
  • In India very less experimenting has been done in the area of method of communication. There are minimal number of schools who have tried using signs instead of speech. Therefore any kind of judgment as to what can work better, cannot be arrived at.
  • Within manual mode, basically there are sign languages and sign systems which differ from each other greatly.
  • In general, professionals, parents and the hearing impaired individuals in India favour oralism to manual mode.
  • Any country needs to have both the types of educational programmes so that educational needs of students with various clinical and non clinical background are satisfied in the best possible way.

Source: Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped

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