- The Evolution of the Education of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children Into Speech-Language Pathology, Educational Audiology, and Special Education
Teacher preparation programs and educational programs serving children with hearing loss have been closing at an alarming rate since the beginning of the new millennium. Is the education of deaf and hard of hearing children evolving into a permutation of speech-language pathology, educational audiology, and special education? Is the field moving from a primarily educational discipline into a primarily clinical discipline? It gives this impression, I believe.
This is due to politics, incidence, and economics. With medical advances (cochlear implants and now brainstem implants), plus technological improvements (digital hearing aids), college and university administrations and school district boards are cutting these programs, believing that with these new advances the students do not need to be educated distinctly as before, and can be served in the general or special education classrooms, receiving oral/aural service from speech-language pathologists or educational audiologists. The perception is that these students who are implanted or aided today are gaining much more hearing, and thereby require less restrictive classrooms. Of course, this idea means it will be less costly for the district to educate these students in classes/rooms for children with hearing loss. This is a large factor in closures. The envelopment of audiology to now include actual aural rehabilitation, as well as evaluation, diagnosis, and amplification, is having an impact, especially on classroom teachers of children with hearing loss and providers of related services to deaf or hard of hearing students. With the closing of resource rooms and contained classes for deaf and hard of hearing children, the teacher preparation programs are also terminating, as the reduction of positions in the field is inducing this situation. This was evidenced in 2004 at Adelphi University in New York, when the deaf education program I was hired to teach in closed, as a result of politics, incidence, and economics. Since I had a background in speech, linguistics, and basic audiology, I was kept on at Adelphi. However, some of the other adjunct faculty in the program were not so fortunate, and, of course, the appointed professor line was eliminated.
Where are the voices of the experts, administrators, and educators in the field? They seem to be silent. Where is the clout of the Council on Education of the Deaf (CED) and its five groups (AG Bell Association, CAID, CEASD, ACE-DHH, and NAD) in discussion and action concerning the downfall of the field?
What about coming together to acknowledge and address this issue? Start with local/regional forums, expand the discussion to a national symposium, and possibly expand it to an international symposium, as this may be an international problem also?
Unique education, expertise, skills, and experience are required to work with children with hearing loss; plus, these students need and deserve this attention. Speech-language pathologists, educational audiologists, and special educators lack this preparation; thereby, their proficiency and capability are limited in this important educational/clinical area. At my university, aural rehabilitation as a distinct course has been dropped for graduate students and is now incorporated into a course called Advanced Audiology, in which aural rehabilitation and audiology are cut in half and combined into a three-credit course. At a time when speech-language pathologists are working with more students with hearing loss, they are receiving less preparation for this work. Here is the paradox: This reduced preparation for speech-language pathologists to work with these children is being provided at a time when they are increasing their case-loads of these children and may be the only service provider for these children, many of whom have been removed from resource rooms and contained classes. At my university [End Page 484] some of the aural rehabilitation courses are being taught by audiologists, most of whom have limited practical knowledge and experience in working with these children. How well are we preparing these prospective speech-language pathologists, educational audiologists, and special education teachers to work with deaf and hard of hearing children and clients?
Let us hope the transition from a field of specialized education to a field of...