Pupils who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Experiences of Inclusion within a Mainstream Secondary School in Saudi Arabia

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This interpretive study explores the experiences of female students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) in one secondary school in Saudi Arabia and reports their voices, alongside that of their teachers, in an attempt to better understand how hearing impairment impacts on their perceptions of: their education setting; school experiences (feelings and attitudes toward school); relationships (teachers, peers, etc.); participation in learning, and school activities; support; and exams in the Saudi context. The study follows a multiple case study methodology where the cases were 12 female secondary students in the same school diagnosed as having hearing impairment. The study used multiple data sources: semi-structured interviews with students and teachers, unstructured classroom observations and focus groups of students. Ten salient themes emerged from the thematic data analysis: participant personality; feelings in the secondary mainstream school; attitude to the deaf institute and sign language; social experiences and relationships with peers; relationships with teachers and parents; academic participation in classroom and school activities; difficulties’ and barriers in the mainstream schools; speech; exams; and support. Analysis showed that the experiences of participants were varied , and both positive and negative, depending on the relationship between the individual student and different factors, such as, their prior education, personal character, speech skills, teacher support, and hearing students’ acceptance. This study found that the students with DHH sense of belonging in the inclusive environment was associated with students’ academic experiences and involvement in school and classroom activities (academic inclusion) and social experiences (social inclusion) and their attitudes toward inclusion. For example, for students who held positive attitudes towards inclusion this seemed to be the result of experiencing positive academic inclusion (e.g. more engaged and participative in the classroom activities) and social inclusion (e.g. being accepted, included, and encouraged by others, such as, teacher and peers) which all lead to a feeling of belonging in the school.