Kansas School for the Deaf (KSD) serves as a center-based educational option to provide a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment (i.e., the most accessible environment) to students who are D/HH throughout Kansas. Additionally, KSD has an Outreach department to serve as a statewide resource center for students, families, agencies, programs, and educational placements serving students who are D/HH in their local school districts. KSD is an accredited school which is committed to the education of students who are D/HH. The school must maintain compliance with all state standards, assessments, and performance standards just like any other public school in Kansas. KSD is headed by a superintendent, assisted by the KSD Leadership Team, a group of key administrators and managers who are involved in strategic planning and other policy level direction. Several managers travel to the Kansas State School for the Blind where they have an active role in that school’s mission and administration as well.
KSD has a strong commitment to the education of students in Kansas who are deaf and hard of hearing. This commitment extends not only to students attending the campus-based program but also to those in programs throughout the state. There has been a growing focus on developing services for students who are D/HH regardless of where he/she lives or goes to school in the state through KSD Outreach services. Because of the rapid expansion of early intervention services, an Early Intervention Specialist in the Wichita area has been added to the Outreach Team to assist KSSD in reaching families and students throughout the state.
KSD is the hub of expertise for the education of students who are D/HH, from birth to age 21, across the state of Kansas. Instructional services are the key foundation to these specialized services. Our 159 year history of educational services has ensured that thousands of students and youth who are D/HH have become active, productive, and independent citizens of the state. Over the years, our services have continuously improved to meet the changing needs of education and society. Instructional services are responsible to provide specially designed instruction (SDI) and extracurricular programs. Our Student Life program is an extended day program that offers room and board for students who do not live close enough to be transported to and from home and school daily; however, they go home every weekend. This program also includes an intensive focus on ASL and English acquisition and daily living skills to help our students successfully function in a postsecondary environment. Both our instructional and student life programs are actively involved in our transition and career education program.
KSD offers statewide outreach services that provide the highest quality of services, resources, and support to children aged birth to 21 who are D/HH by collaborating with their families, their communities, and the professionals that serve them.
The Business Office and the Human Resources Department, along with the functions of maintenance, security, housekeeping, dietary and information technology services performed by the Facility Operations Department, are committed to keeping KSD a safe, comfortable, and healthy place for students to learn. Housekeeping and dietary services are made available whenever students are on campus. Security, maintenance, information technology and other administrative support services operate year-round to ensure they support the instructional departments and that KSD is maintained in a secure, efficient and effective manner.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHILDREN WHO ARE DEAF OR HARD OF HEARING
Research validates that D/HH children can acquire two languages, ASL and English, simultaneously if exposed to them in early life. There is no evidence that exposing D/HH children to two languages may cause language delay and/or language confusion. Research also shows that, without appropriate access to opportunities to learn language both explicitly and incidentally, children who are D/HH will fall behind their hearing peers in communication, cognition, reading, and social emotional development. Such delays may result in inadequate readiness to begin kindergarten, lower educational levels, potential increased risk for mental health issues, and fewer employment opportunities in adulthood.
Early Language Access
It is estimated that 95 percent of babies who are D/HH are born to parents who are hearing. These parents typically have no experience or knowledge of their infant’s unique needs, especially in the area of language development. This can be an emotional time for parents faced with an unfamiliar scenario they might not have expected. It is critical they receive accurate, evidence-based, and comprehensive information about raising a child who is D/HH. Through early intervention and appropriate services supporting the development of ASL and English, the expectation for a successful school experience should be the same as it would be for any child.
Leading linguistic experts universally accept ASL as a language. It has its own syntax and semantics. ASL is an accessible and complete visual language that plays to the strength of a child. Utilizing ASL from birth, or as soon as it is confirmed the child is D/HH, is essential to guarantee the child has complete access to language in a visual modality since they cannot fully access it auditorily (even with assistive hearing devices). A National Science Foundation grant which funded a 5-year research project called “Visual Language and Visual Learning” at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. verified that D/HH children who have received early exposure to two languages do not experience developmental language delays. On the contrary, children that were exposed to ASL and English demonstrated higher language skills as they grew. Studies also indicate that there are optimal learning times and conditions necessary for bilingual language mastery.
Language is the basis for all learning and leads directly to literacy. This is true for students and youth who are D/HH. The earlier a student who is D/HH has daily access to a visual language like ASL, the more effectively and efficiently the child/student will develop linguistic and literacy skills within his/her educational experience.
Early diagnosis of hearing loss and early intervention supports normal language development and better reading outcomes. A strong language foundation, whether it is spoken or signed, is critical for reading success. For children who use hearing aids or cochlear implants, early exposure to sign language will not impede the child’s development of spoken language. Acquiring a complete first language (whether a signed or a spoken language) during early childhood, is critical for later reading comprehension (Visual Language and Visual Learning Science of Learning Center, June 2012).
KSD Supports Bilingualism for Students who are D/HH
For over 20 Years, KSD teachers and students participated in national research projects investigating the most effective educational strategies for students who are D/HH. This has allowed KSD to be on the leading edge of educational reform in Deaf Education and to serve as a model program for other schools throughout the United States. As a bilingual school, KSD has continued to strengthen its ASL/English Bilingual Program with a focus on developing language and academic proficiency in both ASL and English (literacy and listening/spoken language) for students who are D/HH in order for social, cognitive and academic advantages to accrue. Ultimately, the goal is for all students who are D/HH to be proficient in ASL and English. The pace of each child’s language development varies as it depends on how early he/she acquired and learned the languages, and how frequently he/she uses the languages for social and academic purposes.
KSD maintains a focus that is always on the linguistic needs of the student and where those needs can be served most efficiently and effectively, regardless of the student’s age or where he/she is located in the state. It is our intent to support students by providing both an educational placement option at a school-based program in Olathe, KS as well as Outreach services to families, students, and professionals throughout the state in order to ensure students are: meeting developmental/linguistic milestones so as to be ready to enter kindergarten, progressing appropriately in their social/emotional development, building world knowledge to learn of various career opportunities, increasing their chance at successful graduation from high school, and developing skills to successfully complete postsecondary work.
Our students do utilize, or are encouraged to use, assistive hearing devices such as hearing aids and/or cochlear implants, if appropriate. The fact is, 60 percent of our students use some type of amplification; 44 percent of our student population have or have had a cochlear implant. Some students with cochlear implants benefit from listening/spoken language; others detect only environmental sounds. Parents recognize the need for their child to have complete access to both a visual language and listening/spoken language, if possible, in order to maximize their educational experience.
Many times, these students have had no, or virtually no, formal ASL (and English) instruction. The challenge for KSD is getting students immersed in ASL to establish a linguistic foundation and build world knowledge while also addressing English skill development. At KSD, students are exposed to both explicit instructions as well as accessible incidental learning due to the language rich environment where communication and language are developed beyond the school day. The Instructional, Student Life, and Support staff members are dedicated to support/facilitate the complete development of both languages,