Stories from Delaware

Based on three family stories documented by the Wilmington News Journal on March 16, 1997 and stories that five other families told the CHOICES project team in a qualitative research project conducted in the summer of 2009, we believe that officials of the Delaware School for the Deaf and Statewide Services have failed to inform families about the full range of options that families ought to have, but don't have here in Delaware.  This practice has been in place for many years and we do not have evidence that it has changed.

These stories–from 1997 and 2009–reveal other problems that stubbornly refuse to go away.  Consider: 

 Problem  Mentioned in 1997 by Mentioned in 2009 by
Persistent Problems in Educating Children with Hearing Loss
 Parents don't sign well, can't communicate with child  Sharon Collier  
 No one at DSD told them of options other than ASL  Sharon Collier; John & Maureen Bard  Mother of "Miranda;" mother of "Chuck"
 Child would have to attend DSD to become immersed in ASL  John & Virginia Gleeson  Mother of "Miranda"
 DSD won't serve the family if the family requests that DSD not use ASL    Mother of "Lynne"
 Resistance to the use of assistive technology    Mother of "Lynne" and father of "Amy"
 Parents had to pay privately to get auditory verbal therapy    Mother of "Miranda"
 DSD terminated a well-liked first grade pullout program without explanation    Mother of "Chuck"
 Child was not allowed to use voice in DSD    Mother of "Gina", father of "Amy"

 
As of April 2010, Delaware does not have a program of intensive early auditory-oral or auditory-verbal intervention for children who have received cochlear implants as infants and whose parents want them to develop listening and spoken language skills.  This therapy works, it's used in other places in the United States, and it's recommended by many experts in infant language acquisition.  

Whether or not a DSD student uses other modalities besides ASL, DSD is an environment that requires the use of ASL by all students, faculty and staff.  At times, during the course of instruction, students who are able to speak and who want to speak are not permitted to do so.  This policy makes sense in a way.  Delaware School for the Deaf, after all, is a School for the Deaf.  If students who are able to speak in class were allowed to do so, then the environment would become inaccessible to students who are only able to sign.   

The stories we tell here don't prove anything about how happy or unhappy the DSD population is with its school.  That's not what qualitative research sets out to do.  It is reasonable to believe that some–perhaps many–families have been happy with DSD.  It is also reasonable to believe that other–perhaps many–families have been unhappy.  What we do know with certainty is that these eight families did not receive the free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment that federal law requires that they receive.  But it's worth noting that Patricia Rivera, the Sunday News Journal reporter, mentioned that in addition to the Colliers, "at least a dozen other parents say the state is overemphasizing ASL and failing to educate parents sufficiently about alternatives."