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.