In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Deaf Education

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks and Edited Works
  • Journals
  • Laws and Related Documents
  • Educational Placement Options
  • Literacy Development
  • Social-Emotional Development

Education Deaf Education
Maribel Gárate, Christi Batamula, Bobbie Jo Kite
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 September 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 September 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0159


Deaf education aims to address the educational, linguistic, cultural, and social needs of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing by providing a continuum of services based on their individual needs. In the United States, deaf education dates back to the 1800s when both oral and manual methods of instruction were imported from Europe. There are three main communication methods used in the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing students: (1) the oral approach, also known as the listening and spoken language method, emphasizes the use of hearing amplification technology (hearing aids and cochlear implants) in order to develop spoken language skills; (2) the Total Communication approach advocates for the use of multiple means of communication, including signing that follows English word order, speaking, lip reading, listening via amplification technology, and finger spelling, to address the students’ needs; (3) the bilingual-bicultural approach, also known as the American Sign Language (ASL)/English bilingual approach, and sign bilingualism outside of the United States, adheres to the principles of additive bilingualism and aims to develop proficiency in a signed and a spoken language. Controversy over which approach is most appropriate to educate deaf and hard and hearing children persists to this day. Schools where students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing are educated vary depending on the level of integration they have with hearing students. They may be educated in full inclusion, mainstream programs, or special schools (day and residential schools for the deaf), each providing different levels of support and access. The passing of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which required states to provide “free appropriate public education” in the least restrictive environment (LRE) as determined by the child’s individualized education plan (IEP), had an impact on the number of deaf and hard-of-hearing children who were then placed in regular classrooms (full inclusion and mainstream settings). The educational and deaf communities argued that this placement did not lead to appropriate education, and that it was the opposite of LRE because it did not consider the language and communication needs of children who were deaf or hard-of-hearing. Access to language and communication as well as literacy development is at the core of the research in the field of deaf education, with an overall emphasis on the benefits that early identification and intervention have on their early language, academic, and social-emotional development.

General Overviews

This section includes materials that provide a historical perspective of the trends and issues that continue to be present in the education of deaf and hard-of-hearing children in the early 21st century. The origins of the oral versus manual debate are presented in historical context in the documentary Through Deaf Eyes. A collection of historical essays, Van Cleve 2007, introduces the reader to the birth and rise of deaf education in the United States leading up to the infamous 1880 International Convention in Milan, the growth of oralism, the creation of sign systems, and the beginnings of school integration. Each of these events and their lasting consequences continue to resonate in the social and academic discourse of the field. The history of the methods war and its impact on instruction, which in turn have had lasting impact on language and literacy development, is told in Moores 2010a, which integrates relevant research findings generated by both sides of the divide. Mitchell and Karchmer 2011 describes the heterogeneity among deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults, highlighting the relations among demographics, educational setting, and academic success. Moores 2010b reports that the same trends and issues found in deaf education in the United States are mirrored across the globe.

  • Hott, Lawrence, and Diane Garey, dirs. 2007. Through deaf eyes. DVD. Washington, DC: WETA and Florentine Films/Hott Productions.

    A two-hour documentary exploring 200 years of history in the American Deaf community. Education-related topics include the establishment of schools, the role of women in oral education, and the influence of Alexander Graham Bell. The video shares its title with a book that portrays American deaf history in photographs (Through deaf eyes: A photographic history of an American community [Washington, D.C.: Galludet Univ. Press, 2007.]

  • Mitchell, Ross, and Michael Karchmer. 2011. Demographic and achievement characteristics of deaf and hard-of-hearing students. In The Oxford handbook of deaf studies, language, and education. Vol. 1. Edited by M. Marschark and P. Spencer. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A detailed description of student and family characteristics and their distribution and representation across various educational settings. The impact of several traits (gender, class, age, language) on academic achievement is discussed at length and specific correlations are noted.

  • Moores, Donald F. 2010a. The history of language and communication issues in deaf education. In The Oxford handbook of deaf studies, language, and education. Vol. 2. Edited by M. Marschark and P. Spencer. Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    A review of the literature on language and communication including international perspective and historical roots of the methodology controversy. Includes a section on definition of terms useful for any first-time reader. The depth of discussion also makes it appropriate for more knowledgeable readers.

  • Moores, Donald F., ed. 2010b. Partners in education: Issues and trends from the 21st International Congress on the Education of the Deaf. Conference held 18–22 July 2010, Vancouver, BC. Washington, DC: Gallaudet Univ. Press.

    A compendium of the themes and abstracts from the 21st International Congress on the Education of the Deaf (ICED) brings forth issues that are both current and prevalent in the education of deaf children around the globe, including language and literacy, early intervention, diversity, poverty, and technology.

  • Van Cleve, John V., ed. 2007. The deaf history reader. Washington, DC: Gallaudet Univ. Press.

    A collection of essays based on historical research narrating the deaf experience from the 17th to the 20th century. Essays 2, 5, and 6 address education issues including the banning of sign language and spread of oralism, the philosophical divide in instructional practices, and early types of school integration.

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