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Homeward bound: Students with hearing loss venture onward

Written by Susan Mannella on .

Life is often marked by small victories. But there is no understating the news from DePaul School for Hearing & Speech about a small group of students.DePaul, in Shadyside, calls itself the only school in Western Pennsylvania to use the auditory/oral method of instruction, which teaches young people with hearing loss to listen and speak through immersion in a language-filled environment. Its approach is assisted by technological advances like digital hearing aids, micro surgery and cochlear implants, which can lead to a child's transition to a regular school setting and significant savings for the public on education resources.

On June 7 and 8, DePaul will celebrate the transfer of 16 deaf or hard-of-hearing students into "mainstreamed" settings at their home school districts for the 2010-11 school year. While the number of children is not great, their transition from one world to another is. With 58 students attending DePaul on a full-time basis, 16 transfers is nonetheless significant and, as a single departing group, unprecedented.Between the ages of 4 and 14, nearly all of the students will move next fall into kindergarten through eighth grade in school districts including Pittsburgh, East Allegheny, Baldwin-Whitehall, Mt. Lebanon, Quaker Valley, Norwin, Kiski Area, Grove City and Ohio County, W.Va. One student will attend a specialized school with a combined curriculum.For DePaul, a nonprofit institution that seeks to mainstream its students before middle-school age without sign language or interpreters, this is no small victory. It is as big a life change as these young learners can imagine, and it's all about living without boundaries in their own communities and being able to go to school with their neighbors. Welcome home.

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