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Hearing-Impaired Students in School-Work Transition Proposal

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Updated: Jul 13th, 2020

The transition from school to work is an important chapter in a person’s life, and it can be difficult for many individuals. This difficulty is further exacerbated by disabilities (Bonds, 2003; Punch, Hyde, & Creed, 2004). For students with hearing impairments (SHI), additional challenges for transitioning to adulthood include “reduced access to rigorous education and full communication models” in K-12 (Cawthon et al., 2014b, p. 1) and the lack of ability to successfully master the data provided during training, which leads to lower levels of English literacy, worse mathematical and reasoning skills, poorly developed social skills, etc. (Bonds, 2003).

As a result of these complications, SHI suffers from insufficient competence required for a successful transition to their post-school lives (i.e., lacking job-seeking, work adjustment, and employment-related social and interpersonal skills, as well as the inadequate skills required for independent living, such as money management, care for personal health and accommodation, and community-related skills), which exacerbates their postsecondary outcomes (Luft & Huff, 2011). Employees with HI who have recently transited from school to work often experience additional stress, whereas college students with HI often drop out (Cawthon & Caemmerer, 2014a).

This causes the decreased ability to perform certain tasks, lower labor productivity, and most importantly, lower quality of life (Cawthon & Caemmerer, 2014a; Kramer, Kapteyn, & Houtgast, 2006). Therefore, it is crucial to provide support for SHI during the transition to decrease the initial stress from transition, as well as to help them better adapt to the new environment, adjust to new challenges that they may face at work, and live independently.

Common Postsecondary Outcomes for SHI

The postsecondary outcomes for SHI often look rather grim. SHI often does not receive the knowledge that is relevant for career and adult life; “instructional preparation for transition and post-school living often gets minimal attention in schools,” and the specific needs of SHI are often not addressed (Luft & Huff, 2011, p. 569). After SHI leave school and continue their education at college, the adverse consequences from the HI still influence their life. In particular, approximately 2/3 of postgraduate students with HI do not graduate; this value is much lower among students with no impairments (Cawthon & Caemmerer, 2014a).

School leavers with HI also require additional efforts to overcome barriers to employment (Punch et al., 2004). Moreover, individuals with HI are very likely to experience stress at work due to their auditory status (Kramer, Kapteyn, & Houtgast, 2006), are often underemployed and underpaid, and require additional support from their families and colleagues (Cawthon & Caemmerer, 2014a).

At the same time, it has been shown that individual education plans and transition programs have a positive effect on the adult life of individuals with HI (Kellner & Strickarz, 2003; Martin & Williams-Diehm, 2013; Seong, Wehmeyer, Palmer, & Little, 2015). In such programs and practices, it is important not only to address the transition-related skills such as lower reading, reasoning, and mathematics skills (which, according to Bonds (2003), decrease the ability to compete in the employment market) and the need to adapt to the new environment but also to offer the support with communication needs (Cawthon & Caemmerer, 2014a) and to address the long-term needs of people with HI (Luft, 2014).

Fortunately, the U.S. legislation provides opportunities to implement such programs and practices for SHI (Wehmeyer & Webb, 2012), and the current situation supports the need to direct more attention to implementing the individual education plans and transition programs in practice.

Some Obstacles that SHI Face

The difficulties which exist for individuals with disabilities are numerous, and they can be found individually, in school, family, or work. In this section, some of the specific obstacles SHI faces on different levels (individual, family, school, community, and cultural) will be discussed.

Individual barriers

SHI suffer from numerous individual barriers to a successful transition from school to work. Among these barriers, it is possible to name the lower levels of academic skills of SHI. Indeed, due to their HI, such learners find it much harder to benefit from training, and, as a result, have additional complications while attempting to master English literacy, mathematical and reasoning skills, etc. (Bonds, 2003).

The fact that there is a dearth of such skills among employees with HI might be supported by the statement according to which in 1999 employers had to spend nearly $62.5 billion to train their workers with impairments (including those who have a HI) in skills that should have been learned at school (Bonds, 2003, pp. 39, 44). It is possible to state that these problems, along with other numerous difficulties (such as the documented by Luft and Huff (2011) lacking job-seeking, work adjustment, and employment-related social and interpersonal skills), lead to additional complications while seeking employment. These complications might exist even though, according to a study by Michael, Most, and Cinamon (2013), the vocational self-efficacy did not significantly differ among the three following groups: deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing participants.

Family barriers

It is known that the support from the family provides students with impairments with much better chances to succeed in the transition from school to work (Cawthon et al., 2014a; Snyder, 2014). Cawthon et al. (2014a) carried out a study in which a survey was conducted; 56 parents from across the U.S. participated in it. These parents, among other questions, answered six questions related to their expectations regarding the future employment and education perspectives of their children with an auditory deficit.

On the whole, it is reported that parents had high hopes towards their children’s future education and employment; for instance, 42 of them stated that they expected that their children would be well-prepared for the future job, whereas 12 were convinced that their kids would be over-prepared, and only 2 believed their offspring would be underprepared. These findings suggest that higher expectations of parents towards their children with HI are associated with better postsecondary education and employment outcomes (Cawthon et al., 2014a, p. 9). Also, many parents know that their children with HI need support during the transition, but are not aware that ongoing support, when the person with HI has already been working for some time, is also needed (Cawthon et al., 2014a, p. 15).

It is possible to state that SHI who do not receive proper support from their family do not enjoy the named benefits. Besides, the negative attitude of the family is highly probable to further exacerbate the problems for SHI (Cawthon et al., 2014).

School barriers

Children with HI also experience additional problems at school. It is stressed that nowadays most SHI attends regular schools; for instance, in the U.S. 86.41% of SHI study at public schools (Luft & Huff, 2011, p. 570). At the same time, while this allows SHI to better integrate with peers without disability. These peers without disability socialize with SHI less than with other non-impaired students; furthermore, SHI may become the subject of jeering, which causes even more discouragement in SHI (Weiner & Miller, 2006). It appears that integration into a public school increases the risk of bullying for SHI, but the ways to address this problem may require additional investigation.

Some other major problems related to school education are that inclusive education often does address the specific needs of children with HI and that schools mainly focus on academic skills while neglecting the need to support the transition from school to work and to devote attention to the issue of post-school living (Luft & Huff, 2011). Also, many teachers do not receive training in providing transition services (Wandry et al., 2008). All these factors further exacerbate the postsecondary outcomes for SHI by leaving them without proper instruction of the transition issues and post-school living.

Community barriers

It was already noted that SHI experience community-related barriers, such as the lack of proper communication with non-impaired peers and jeering at schools (Bonds, 2003; Weiner & Miller, 2006, pp. 64-65). Barriers in communication also arise when SHI attempts to communicate with people who do not have an HI; conversations are prolonged and difficult for both the SHI and those with who they converse, which discourages SHI from taking part in interactions with others (Bonds, 2003). Also, the communication of individuals with HI with others is exacerbated by the society’s attitudes/behaviors towards communicating with these individuals, which, is also one of the causes of the fact that persons with HI possess significantly lower social skills than individuals without HI (Bonds, 2003)

The postsecondary outcomes of SHI might be additionally worsened by other social problems, such as the low economic status, which are a predictor for low parent expectations. For instance, it is known that impaired students whose families have low income generally have significantly lower expectations of attending college, even though it is noted that parents of SHI have comparatively higher expectations towards their children than parents of kids with disabilities such as autism, deaf-blindness, or intellectual impairments (Madaus, Grigal, & Hughes, 2014).

Cultural barriers

SHI also face additional cultural barriers both while attending and leaving school. For instance, the fact that education techniques usually rely on speaking and auditory methods leads to the inability to fully benefit from instruction (Bonds, 2003). After leaving schools, it is harder for people with HI to adapt to their new job, and they are more likely to experience stress at work; the need to “use hearing activities” in their job and to “recognize/distinguish between sounds” is a serious risk factor for taking days off because of stress (Kramer et al., 2006, p. 503).

Also, accommodations used by SHI in high schools and postsecondary settings differ, which results in an additional need to prepare SHI for the transition (Cawthon, Leppo, Ge, & Bond, 2015). On the whole, individuals with HI are less likely to live independently, and often suffer from being underemployed and underpaid (Cawthon et al., 2014a). The fact that the culture relies on auditory communication means that much additional effort has to be made to make individuals with HI feel more or less comfortable in this culture.


In summary, SHI have numerous specific needs and problems that exist on different levels and are often not addressed. Individuals with HI face many additional complications during their school-work transition, which also causes difficulties in their adult lives. Therefore, to improve the postsecondary outcomes of SHI, it is essential to address these issues by providing interventions aimed at preparing them for their future lives. Importantly, these interventions should not only address the issues related to the school-work transition challenges but also deal with the long-term challenges that people with HI usually face. The intervention should be comprehensive and aimed at improving all the domains that SHI struggle with. Using the parent’s involvement as an intervention would also provide better outcomes for SHI (Cawthon et al., 2014a).

Intervention should be beneficial to all the involved parties, including not only SHI and their families but also their potential employers; preparations for the future should be related to the needs of the contemporary economy and technological advancements that are used nowadays (Bonds, 2003, pp. 43-44).


Bonds, B. G. (2003). School-to-work experiences: Curriculum as a bridge. American Annals of the Deaf, 148(1), 38-48. Web.

Cawthon, S. W, Caemmerer, J. M. (2014). Parents’ perspectives on transition and postsecondary outcomes for their children who are d/deaf or hard of hearing. American Annals of the Deaf, 159(1), 7-21. Web.

Cawthon, S. W., Garberoglio, C. L., Caemmerer, J. M., Bond, M. P., Leppo, R. H. T., Schoffstall, S. J.,…Hamilton, G. A. (2014b). Professional preparedness and perspectives on transition for individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 2014, 1-10. Web.

Cawthon, S. W., Leppo, R., Ge, J. J., & Bond, M. (2015). Accommodations use patterns in high school and postsecondary settings for students who are d/deaf or hard of hearing. American Annals of the Deaf, 160(1), 9-23. Web.

Kellner, M. H., & Strickarz, B. (2003). Exit plans for students with disabilities attending separate approved special education programs in the private sector. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 26(1), 85-97. Web.

Kramer, S. E., Kapteyn, T. S., & Houtgast, T. (2006). Occupational performance: Comparing normally-hearing and hearing-impaired employees using the Amsterdam Checklist for Hearing and Work. International Journal of Audiology, 45, 503-512. Web.

Luft, P. (2014). A national survey of transition services for deaf and hard of hearing students. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 37(3), 177-192. Web.

Luft, P., & Huff, K. (2011). How prepared are transition-age deaf and hard of hearing students for adult living? Results of the transition competence battery. American Annals of the Deaf, 155(5), 569-579. Web.

Madaus, J. W., Grigal, M., & Hughes, C. (2014). Promoting access to postsecondary education for low-income students with disabilities. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 37(1), 50-59. Web.

Martin, J. E., & Williams-Diehm., K. (2013). Student engagement and leadership of the transition planning process. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 36(1), 43-50. Web.

Michael, R., Most, T., & Cinamon, R. G. (2013). The contribution of perceived parental support to the career self-efficacy of deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing adolescents. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 18(3), 329-343. Web.

Punch, R., Hyde, M., & Creed, P. A. (2004). Issues in the school-to-work transition of hard of hearing adolescents. American Annals of the Deaf, 149(1), 28-38. Web.

Seong, Y., Wehmeyer, M. L., Palmer, S. B., & Little, T. D. (2015). Effects of the self-directed individualized education program on self-determination and transition of adolescents with disabilities. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 38(3), 132-141. Web.

Snyder, S. A. (2014). Engaging parents in the special education transition process: Perspectives of parents of students with significant disabilities (Doctoral dissertation). Web.

Wandry, D. L., Webb, K. W., Williams, J. M., Bassett, D. S., Asselin, S. B., & Hutchinson, S. R. (2008). Teacher candidates’ perceptions of barriers to effective transition programming. Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals, 31(1), 14-25. Web.

Weiner, M. T., & Miller, M. (2006). Deaf children and bullying: Directions for future research. American Annals of the Deaf, 151(1), 61-70. Web.

Wehmeyer, M. L., & Webb, K. W. (Eds.). (2012). Handbook of adolescent transition education for youth with disabilities. New York, NY: Routledge. Web.

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