Research constantly shows children educated in an inclusive environment from the outset, to be more accepting of differences. Deaf children benefit from inclusion, even when play is still the main mode of social interaction. At my mainstream preschool, I remember linking hands tightly in solidarity with one or two particular hearing classmates (still friends today, as adults). This infant friendship was ideal while my spoken language was developing. To my 3-year-old-classmates, it didn’t matter that my speech wasn’t perfect, only that we were individuals united in play. The optimal inclusive environment.
Hearing Awareness By Osmosis
Early in primary school stage, classmates would be asked to alert me in the play area if I missed the signal for the start of class. This approach taught my peers that audible sounds sometimes weren’t heard by everyone, but that was no problem. They became adept at getting my attention when communication was needed in the classroom, playground or on the sports field. With four deaf children of different ages attending this mainstream primary school, a large group of hearing children became aware of hearing from a young age.
From the age of about 7 years old, classmates began helping with missed instructions in class, and continued this practice in secondary school. This inclusive approach extended to my participation in movement games and hand-clapping songs, even if the actual words weren’t verbalised. However, singing classes weren’t an option for me. Instead, my role was to sit by the teacher at the piano, and turn the pages of the music book while my hearing-aids picked up and correlated the sound of singing, to the piano’s output.
Diversity From Preschool Stage
In this case, an inclusive school was achieved with individual differences seen as a source of diversity and not a problem. Rather, all students benefited from being aware of each others’ differences and from daily social interaction in varied settings. The teachers did take the lead as role models in encouraging positive interactions, but their good example ultimately led to the students better understanding each others’ needs.