To address some of those key questions, we put together an overview of the wide variety of schools and classrooms to help you make the best school choice for your child. Educators’ goals are to help place your child in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) in a school. Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) considerations must include a discussion of all the placement options for your child across the full continuum of services. The more you know about the options available, the better informed you will be to work with your school team while placing your child in the correct classroom. Options may include your home school with varying degrees of support, a local deaf program or cluster site, or a state deaf school.
Your child’s hearing levels as well as their language and communication needs should be considered when making placement decisions. For example, children with a slight to mild hearing level may be placed in the general classroom and provided support through a speech and language pathologist, hearing itinerant services, or resource services. On the other hand, children with moderate to profound hearing levels may need more specialized or intensive support and appropriately placed in other school programs that address their individual needs.
Once it is determined your child qualifies for individualized education support and services through your local school district, they must discuss what those supports and services entail and where they will be delivered.
Placement Options: The best place for your child to be most successful may not be the same as another child’s. Placement is solely dependant on your child’s needs and there is no one size fits all, nor one “best” learning environment
Illinois provides a comprehensive educational and residential program for students who are deaf and hard of hearing between the ages of 3 through 21 at the Illinois School for the Deaf in Jacksonville. The primary mode of communication at the School for the Deaf is ASL. The school curricula offer a wide variety of options and follow educational standards prescribed for a typical elementary through high school program. Modifications are made as necessary to meet individual needs of students.
Students have opportunities for a full range of related services, which includes mainstreaming in local public schools – as appropriate to their IEPs.
Within Illinois, there are private schools, Child’s Voice Oral Deaf School in Woodale and some classrooms within schools, such as Children of Peace / Trinity Deaf and Hard of Hearing program, that provide specialized educational programming, including those using a bilingual, oral, or cued language approach with students who are deaf or hard of hearing. The goals of specialized schools are to give students the necessary language skills to support potential mainstreaming in a general education classroom and to use those skills to excel academically. Students often receive intense instruction in language development and learn how to work with their hearing levels to succeed. Teachers and staff in specialized schools are often specially trained in techniques to support language development within the specialized approach.
Co-op sites like NSSEO provide services to students who are deaf or hard of hearing. These programs typically maintain a population of at least 40-50 students. With this large number of DHH students, co-op sites are able to provide a variety of curricular and extracurricular options which meet the unique communication, language, and social needs of a DHH child. Professional staff who work with these children are required to provide services in the language and communication mode of the student. This offers the child options in both oral and total communication. Students have opportunities to participate in mainstream school life, both in classes and extracurricular activities. Students who attend Co-Op based schools can develop close social contacts with their peers who are deaf. On-site supervision of co-op programs are generally provided by supervisors certified both in educational administration and education of the deaf and hard of hearing.
Academic options available to students at co-op sites should include: classrooms with just DHH students; integrated classrooms with a typical, elementary through high school curriculum with modifications, and academic mainstreaming.
Some students who are deaf or hard of hearing have additional disabilities – such as behavior disorders or learning disabilities. Cluster sites can often provide additional related services such as occupational or physical therapy, social work, speech and language therapy, and counseling. In co-ops, these are often provided by professionals skilled in sign language and familiar with the needs of students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
School districts provide access to general education classrooms in their neighborhood schools for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. A variety of support services can be provided in these inclusive settings. They may consist of certified teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing, interpreters, note-takers, speech language pathologists, audiologists, counselors, and access to amplification equipment. These related services in general education classrooms must be provided by staff who can directly communicate with the students in their language and mode. Students are given complete access to both the full general education curriculum as well as extra-curricular activities. An inclusion facilitator or itinerant teacher often acts as a case manager to coordinate all the general and special education services indicated on the student’s IEP.
As a parent you may have a vision for what your child’s education setting will be and goals they will attain. This is an important starting point when your child is transitioning into a school based environment. Top things you may want to consider in addition to your child’s education setting are: socialization opportunities with DHH peers, extra curricular activities, services and community.