Monday, November 26, 2007

Illinois School for the Deaf Sees Enrollment Increase

When my friend's son Matthew attended sports camp this summer at the Illinois School for the Deaf, he told his Mom, "I want to go to school here."

Sue never thought that she would consider a residential school as an option for her kids. Sue is deaf and she grew up attending schools that had several deaf students within a regular school. She always had one or two deaf friends to hang around with when she was growing up. She attended Hinsdale South, which had several hundred deaf students back in the 80's.

So when Sue saw the isolation that Matthew's brother, Alex, was experiencing during his freshman year at their local high school, she decided it was time to take some action. Hinsdale South wasn't an option for them unless they moved to a district that would accept placement there. Sue sat down with Alex and together, they made the decision to enroll at the Illinois School for the Deaf.

Sue called an IEP meeting with the district team and explained the reasons for her decision. "I was tired of seeing my kids socially isolated," Sue shared. "And when I explained this to the team, one of them simply said, 'they're all isolated.'"

For the same reason, Illinois School for the Deaf is now experiencing growth at a time when other schools for the deaf are struggling to keep their students. A recent newspaper article explains more: ISD Sees Enrollment Boom.

Social isolation for deaf and hard of hearing kids is a subject that is difficult to talk about and difficult to remedy when schools have rigid boundaries and limited regional programs.

To me, the solution seems simple: break down the boundaries and allow parents to choose school programs with a critical mass of deaf and hard of hearing students without having to fight for them.

For Sue, it will be hard to send her two sons off to Illinois School for the Deaf in January, but she knows that it is the right decision for her family.

"It's time to end the social isolation," she says.


Anonymous said...

Praise Lord! You did the right thing. Hope others will follow you.

deafk said...

Hi, Karen,

I do not believe that someone just said 'they all are isolated,' as if we are designed to be isolated?!?

It is outrageous! This is not accepted! This is not tolerated! We need to do something, sigh...


Anonymous said...

deaf dk,

I think you misunderstood the statement. The person at the meeting was talking about the deaf students at that school, not about all deaf people.

And they were right. If there are two, three deaf kids in a high school or any kind of educational setting, they ARE isolated. Even if they hang out with each other all the time, they're still isolated!

drmzz said...

Right on Sue! This comment, "They all isolated" grr. It reeks of ignorance and prejudice. I was mainstreamed until the third grade before transferring to Deaf school and I was able to thrive much much more. Best decision my parents ever made.

deafk said...

one of them simply said, 'they're all isolated.'"

That is all I refer to, ok? You see, this person refer to those Deaf students as if this person is labeling them generally. Do you get my meaning?

I know very well that other deaf students are very happy with their socialization, especially with large deaf groups.

By the way, this should be documented, and passed it to Bilingual Deaf Coalitation. We need to collect the information such like that. Hope it can be done!


Joseph said...


I was a graduate of Rockford School District in Illinois (graduated from Rockford East there in 1992).

I do understand what your kids are going through because even if I had hearing friends and even a hearing girlfriend (on and off for three years..ha ha), I do know how "isolated" I felt even if there was other 12-13 deaf/hard of hearing students in the program based at my high school. More than the majority are these that don't really sign at all..they were more interested in being passed as hearing people by trying to speak with the lips all the time. There were about two or three true deaf students but nothing in common with me. Its hard for me to hold conversation with them due to their immaturity and lack of knowledge in various subjects.

At the time, I was the most brilliant student there in forty years since the program was founded. I decided to make the most of my time by taking on challenges and other activities. I was a sports writer and an co-editor for the school newspaper and was an editor for the yearbook. I joined the sports such as Track and Field and Cross Country. I even took on honors classes even these classes that the teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing said I can't take because of my deafness..such as Spanish.

More importantly I took on a lot and a lot of reading. It do make time fly away and before I knew it, it was time to graduate.

I am the only one in the whole history of that program that had graduated with a masters degree.

My point is that it is about how parents and kids approach things and figure out how to get by the barriers placed before them. I do have wonderful supportive parents!

If you feel that the Illinois School for the Deaf is the choice, then I would say go for it. Let your kids get the taste of the residential school and see how it goes from there.

deafk said...

To anonymous,

I understand what you were referring to, but I am not even comfortable with this statement at all. I guess I am the result of that mainstreaming school myself, smile.


Deb Ann said...

You did the right thing and it is the very important thing to be shared to everyone because I feel so bad for some Deaf students being so isolated when there are so many school with Deaf programs and there are not too many Deaf students. I am sure that they will THANK you some day. Maybe you and your husband can move closer to the school? I can understand how hard to send the kids away to school. You are a bravest mother and maybe you and the kids can keep in touch on the daily basis by using emails, calls, etc.

Nita said...

Although I know kids have different needs, I beg to differ somewhat, in relation to education-wise, instead of social-wise.

I grew up in mainstreamed schools. I am glad I had good education, but socially, I was somewhat isolated at times as well.

Quite often when I bring up some issue what I learned in school, just as part of conversation whenever a certain subject came up, many times I would "hear" my friends say, "I never studied this or that." I was surprised.

In my opinion, I feel you can't "make-up" education when you are older, but socially, you CAN. So, it is a tough choice, for any individual.

Jodi said...

Hi Karen,
It sounds like your friend Sue made an excellent choice, but I can relate to how she will feel having an empty nest..
I know ISD, since I am an alumni, I think I would have become emotionally and socially stunted had my parents put me into a "mainstreamed school" back in the late 50's ( there was no such thing at that time to our knowledge)
This way both of her sons will become well rounded students and will get the social skills they need to enter the world . I think that they will be so much happier.

For the person who said " THEY ARE ALL ISOLATED", well that person should push for the remaining isolated students into a residental school, to save those poor kids from being isolated. its time for those schools to stop being selfish ( for the lack of better word) and let those kids go.
I also realize the schools recieve an extra xxx amount of dollars to have a "disabled" kid in their school, but again for the lack of better word this is selfish..

Again I think once Sue sees how well the kids are getting on at ISD, and how much more INVOLVED they are in all the activities, she will feel a lil bit better.


groovyoldlady said...

Hi Karen,

This is totally unrelated to your post since I am certainly not qualified to opine one way or another about whether deaf kids are isolated or not.

Instead I am here to tell you that I FINALLY did the MeMe you tagged me for


I'm having a giveaway, but you'll have to be FAST to get in the running for it!