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Deaf Students with Learning Disabilities

When More Than Hearing Loss Interferes with Education

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Updated February 20, 2011

One of my best deaf friends in college did not graduate from Gallaudet with me in 1987. What kept her from graduating? At that time, Gallaudet required all students -- no exceptions -- to pass certain courses. My friend had a learning disability that prevented her from being able to pass the required course. I will never forget the day she told me tearfully that she would not be able to graduate.

Identification of Learning Disability in Deaf Students

Web Resources on Deafness and Learning Disabilities

There are a few specific resources on the web to help parents and teachers of deaf and hard-of-hearing children with learning disabilities:

  • Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Additional Learning Problems - This document (ERIC identification number ED414666), available for free through the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), discusses how the presence of other disabilities (including learning disabilities) may contribute to learning problems and has a short bibliography of articles on learning disabilities and hearing loss.
  • Gallaudet's Office for Students with Disabilities also has an online set of guidelines for documenting a learning disability in a deaf student.

Tips for Working with Learning-Disabled Deaf Students

Gallaudet University's English Tutoring and Writing Center has a page of Tutoring Strategies for learning-disabled students. This page offers general, math, science, writing and reading-related tips to help deaf students with learning disabilities.

Conferences on Deafness and Learning Disability

There was a conference, "Bridging the Gap between Research and Practice in the Fields of Learning Disabilities and Deafness," held in 1998. Conference proceedings had included topics, such as Tutoring Strategies for Deaf College Students with Learning Disabilities. The collected conference proceedings are available at the National Center on Deafness, California State University Northridge and also at the Gallaudet University library.

Another conference, also titled "Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice in the Fields of Learning Disabilities and Deafness," was held in 2000. The Gallaudet faculty newsletter, "On the Green," carried a report on the 2000 conference in its May 30, 2000, issue. No collection of the proceedings seems to be available.

Journal Articles on Deaf Students with Learning Disabilities

Further search turned up some more journal articles on deaf students with learning disabilities:
  • "Identification, Assessment and Intervention Strategies for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Students with Learning Disabilities," American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 152, Number 1, Spring 2007, pp. 56 to 62.
  • "A Guide to the Diagnosis of Learning Disabilities in Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Children and Adults" (EJ492934). American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 139, Number 3, July 1994, pp. 358 to 370.
  • "College Teachers' Perceptions of English Language Characteristics that Identify English-Language Learning Disabled Deaf Students," American Annals of the Deaf, Volume 145, Number 4, October 2000, pp. 342-58.
  • "The Deaf Pupil with Learning Disabilities" (ED392177) - This article can be downloaded for free from ERIC. It is a study of 68 deaf students.
  • "Students with Learning Disabilities and Hearing Impairment: Issues for the Secondary and Postsecondary Teacher" (EJ432925), Journal of Learning Disabilities, Volume 24, Number 7, August-September 1991, pp. 391-397.
  • "Validating Teacher Suspected Dual Diagnosis among Select Deaf Students Also Thought to Be Learning Disabled" (ED276231), can be downloaded free from ERIC. This is a report on a study of 12 deaf boys, half of whom were suspected to have learning disabilities, by their teachers. Subsequent testing showed that the teachers' suspicions were likely correct. Spelling and math were two key variables that distinguished the learning-disabled deaf students.

Number of Deaf Students with Learning Disabilities

Gallaudet Research Institute's Annual Survey of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Youth collects demographic data, including statistics on the presence of learning disability.

Personal Stories of Deaf People with Learning Disabilities

In the "Story of a Deaf Person with Learning Disabilities," Jodi Kinner describes her learning frustrations and how she overcame her disability to graduate from college.

Awareness and understanding of how to deal with learning disabilities in deaf and hard-of-hearing students has certainly increased. Unfortunately, Gallaudet University did not begin offering special learning disability courses until 1992, too late to benefit my friend who was unable to graduate.

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