Thursday, October 16, 2008

Choir Captain

Life continues to take me by surprise. The other day my daughter told me she was co-captain of the school choir this year. Choir captain? My deaf daughter is captain of the choir? Huh. I readily admit that the implant works well, but singing is definitely NOT her strong suit. I asked her music teacher how this came to be. She told me that ANY child who wanted to be part of choir deserved to be in it in elementary school. She also told me that my daughter was turning out to be an invaluable asset. How is that? My daughter is now teaching all the kids to sign all the songs. And as those of us who are proponents of both speech and signing have seen, learning the sign actually helps learn the speech. These kids are learning the songs better because they are also SEEING the words. It is also helping them focus and settle. Signing the songs is getting more of their brains engaged during the practice.

You Go Girl!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

ASL Classes and Bilateral implants

This has been a busy summer, but we are getting back into the routine, and getting back to blogging. A wonderful lady was going to get together with me and my 10 year old daughter to help us learn ASL. We met once. Everyone's schedules were simply too full. But my daughter did get to go to Deaf Camp in Oregon. She had a great time and will be going back next summer for sure.

I have looked into signing her up for ASL classes, but there simply aren't any for kids. There are a few for kids and parents, but none within easy driving distance. One of the programs is willing to set up private lessons however, so we are pursuing that. Hopefully we can get those started by the end of the month.

In other news, she was finally approved to get her second implant (bilateral) on her right side. It is ossified, so we weren't sure they would ever approve the surgery. But Doctor Rubenstein is confident that he can get a good insertion using a split electrode array. We are all very excited. Insurance approval pending, but we are scheduled for her surgery in mid November.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

ASL Enhances Spoken English Acquisition

My 2 yrs old child is proof that American Sign Language (ASL) does help her acquire spoken language more quickly with a cochlear implant (CI) than most children without ASL who received the CI at the same age, according to her therapists. My child was just assessed in spoken language after one year of using CI and made a huge jump in spoken language, over 2 years progress in only one year! She is delayed only a few months in expressive and receptive spoken language and is closing the gap. She transferred her age appropriate ASL to her new language, spoken English after her CI was first activated. She has been exposed to ASL since her birth and she is fluent in ASL. My child is in an early stage of her CI journey and time will only tell how well she would do in spoken language as she gets older.*

herefore, ASL does not interfere with spoken English development but contributes significantly to a deaf child’s rapid acquisition of spoken English after receiving a CI at a young age before 2 or 3. It is also important to keep both languages separate like any other foreign languages. My child uses ASL at home with her deaf parents. My child has been learning spoken English at a regular school with typical hearing children with support services from therapists and deaf educators. Also, my child’s problem solving and fine motor skills were assessed at nearly 4 years old. It is possible that bilingualism in ASL and spoken English contributes to her advanced cognitive and fine motor developments. My child is even more advanced in many developmental areas than her hearing peers according to her teachers.

SL would be a huge benefit for both deaf children and hearing children at young ages. As the research shows, bilingualism in ASL and spoken English at an early age increases cognitive skills and intelligence. Many CODA (hearing children of Deaf adults) are also the proof of that.

Read the answer to
“Does ASL interfere with spoken English?”

*Results may vary in other children with CIs

Written by Anonymous deaf parent of deaf child with a CI

Photo credit from MSNBC.MSN.COM.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Skype, ASL and Kids

Our daughter (age 10) knows Signing Exact English, is fluent in verbal English and is interested in learning ASL. To that end, we sent her to summer camp for deaf kids, which she loved, and where she did become more fluent in ASL. She is starting to take lessons from a wonderful lady who has been deaf most of her life. To make things easier, and save on gas, we installed Skype on our computer so they could do some of the lessons over the computer instead of meeting in person.

At some point in my brain a light bulb began to glow. If she can connect to her teacher via Skype, she could also connect with other people via Skype. For those of you who aren't up on Skype, you need to buy a camera for your computer, but the software is free, and you can then connect computer-to-computer, kind of like on Star Trek.

If you have kids around her age who would like to help her learn ASL, leave a comment below, and I'll try to figure out how to connect with you off the internet.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Upcoming MTV episode featuring an ASL- CI user!

Andrea Manning from MTV Press contacted us yesterday and informed us about this upcoming show, "True Life: I'm Deaf!", which will feature two different stories of two teenagers getting the Cochlear Implant.
Here is a preview of what will be featured on MTV on July 20th, 2008 at 1pm ET/PT.

Below is an excerpt from Manning's email that explains in detail what the show will include:
"On this episode, you'll meet two young people who were born completely deaf and must overcome huge obstacles to get the most out of their lives. 16-year old Chris has made the risky decision to get a cochlear implant, which, if successful, will allow him to hear for the first time. But Chris faces years of hard work to make sense of the sounds and speech that surround him. Can he learn to embrace the hearing world -- or will he get overwhelmed and decide to live in the silence he's known for so long? Amanda discovered how to dance by feeling the vibrations of music. Now, she's good enough to compete for a spot on an NFL dance team -- but is afraid her deafness will keep her from making the cut. Can Amanda impress the judges or will her limited speaking skills end her dream?"

Thank you, MTV, for letting us know!

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Phoenix Shall Rise from the Ashes of DBC

From Aidan's calling out closet anti-ci people to Patti's repeated pleas for peace, some might call the recent discourse on DeafRead madness. From my point of view, this fits perfectly with Joseph's interpretation of Deafhood. We might fight and scream and hurl insults at each other, but in reality this is part of the process, although painful at times, of finding our identity as a community during these changing times. The advent of CIs have forced us to reexamine what it means to be deaf. Does it mean deaf-mute, or can we hear and still be deaf?

This reminds me of parenthood. As a parent, I am constantly wrestling with choices- to vaccinate my child or not, to give my child a CI or not, to spank my child or not. Regardless of the choices we make, parenthood is a journey without an end. In this sense, the battles raging in DeafRead significantly contributes to the shaping of our American deaf community, especially what the community does with those who are deaf but can hear with CIs.

Whether the deaf community likes it or not, we are slowly evolving into a signing community. We no longer will need to base our membership on the degree of hearing loss, but on whether we know ASL or not. ASL is the key- ASL holds our community together. As long as there is ASL, there will always be a deaf community.

Image Source

Thursday, July 10, 2008

DBC's Position on Cochlear Implants... Still Waiting.

In April, ASL-CI Community wrote an email to the founders of Deaf Bilingual Coalition (DBC) asking them if they had a position on cochlear implants. We support ASL/English bilingualism, and we were wondering how DBC planned to address the issue of deaf children and cochlear implants in a bilingual classroom.
Although our original email was addressed to DBC founder John Egbert, we got a response saying that our email was forwarded to DBC Nation Core Team, which John Egbert is also a member of.

It has been more than 2 months and we are still waiting for them to let us know their stance on bilingual education for children with cochlear implants.

Email to the DBC Founders and committee on April 24, 2008:

To: John Egbert (founder/Minnesota),
Jill Lestina (Indiana chapter),
Kristen Weiner (California chapter)

Good morning,
We hope we have reached the right people involved in DBC. Please feel free to forward this to the appropriate people within DBC. We represent the ASL-Cochlear Implant community blog. To put a long story short, we would love to put DBC on our blogroll and advocate for all deaf children to learn ASL-English from birth. But we are unsure about the position of DBC on cochlear implants.

For instance, DBC Indiana's vlog by Jill Lestina, we thought was absolutely wonderful. Being Pro-ASL from birth is our position as well. However, some DBC members mentioned that, in the "search" for Deafhood, one needs to let go of hearing aids, cochlear implant processors, iPods for example. We do not fully support that, because we support each individual's personal decision to use or not use a cochlear implant, and we hold the same position for parents in deciding to implant their child or not. Our message remains the same - regardless of the tool you have on your head, learn, embrace, and use ASL :)

So, we would like for you to share your position when it comes to cochlear implants. Thanks!

ASL-CI Users and Parents of ASL-CI Users
Response from DBC dated April 24, 2008:

Thank you, ASLCI Community, very much for getting in touch with us. We truly appreciate your effort to communicate with us.

I have forwarded your kind message to the DBC Nation Core Team, which John Egbert is also a part of for he is the amazing founder of DBC.

Yours for Bilingualism,
DBC CA/Nation

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My Experience as a Parent of a Newly Deafened Child

We entered the world of “having a deaf child” in November of 1998. One day, my beautiful baby was getting over a mild case of the flu. The next day she was in critical condition at Children’s Hospital with bacterial meningitis. By the time our 7 month old baby was discharged from the hospital, she was profoundly deaf.

Many parents, upon learning about their child’s hearing loss, are devastated. We came at things from a different perspective. Our beautiful baby was still alive! Her brain was undamaged. No stroke. No blindness. No blood clots. She did have seizures during her illness, and had to be weaned off the anti-seizure meds, and she needed a ventricular shunt because she developed hydrocephalus, but she was alive. And, oh yeah, she was deaf.

We immediately started educating ourselves about hearing loss. Our first reaction was to learn ASL. However, none of the ASL programs included any verbal component. Our audiologist explained about the cochlear implant, and also that the Deaf Community was by-and-large opposed to it. But we were determined that the meningitis would not take any more from our daughter than it already had, and if the implant could give her back some of her hearing, then we were all for it. We ended up choosing Signing Exact English, because we could speak and sign the same thing, and that was much easier for us, as well as being a good tool to teach verbal language with the aid of the implant.

What really horrified us was how negative the Deaf Community was to people who had gotten implants. At that time, there was much more hostility than there is now. There was no middle ground or any kind of acceptance of the people who got implants. As soon as you had one, you seemed to be ostracized. At that point, we just chose to turn our backs to the Deaf Community, and concentrate on providing our daughter with everything she needed to develop language. The Total Communication early intervention group was very supportive, and the families of other kids who also had implants became our community. Our daughter proved to everyone how important early implantation really was. Because of the meningitis and the beginnings of cochlear ossification, she was implanted quickly, just after her first birthday. She only spent 7 months without any hearing. Her sign language flourished, and so did her speech. By the time she entered kindergarten, she was above age level for both verbal language perception and expression, and she was already reading at the first grade level.

Today she is fully mainstreamed and going into fifth grade. She is starting to learn ASL, and enjoys talking to “deaf people who can’t hear” as she puts it. She thinks she either wants to be a swim instructor or an ASL interpreter.

If we had been accepted into the Deaf Community when she was a baby, without prejudice against her implant, she would have already been well immersed in Deaf Culture, and fluent in ASL. When I see the continued “war” against verbal options, AG Bell, oralism and parental choices I just cringe. I know how new hearing parents will react. I fully believe that bilingualism is the best option. I support ASL in concert with English (verbal and written). But in order to get the right message to the hearing parents of deaf babies, that message must be positive. No finger pointing, accusations, talk of “audism” or angry painful rhetoric is going to get the job done. That will simply send them running away as fast as they can. They will turn their backs just like we did.

DBC can be successful at either rallying Deaf adults against AG Bell, OR it can be successful promoting ASL to new parents. Not both. DBC needs to pick ONE message, and concentrate on it fully.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Promoting ASL to hearing families

One of the biggest hurdles for ASL advocates is to help parents of deaf children find the time to learn ASL. Parents of deaf children with CIs often say they need to focus on the deaf child's auditory/verbal development, which leaves little or no time for ASL.

Here's a solution: Signing Time! These dvds incorporate both languages- English and ASL. The DVDs are full of sound, original songs, and printed English words that go with ASL signs. The entire family, including siblings can watch these dvds and learn ASL while the deaf child can learn the sounds that go with signs. Win-win!

Here's a sample of Signing Time:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Where are the deaf children?


Approximately 95% of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (D/HH) children are born to hearing parents (Mitchell & Karchmer, 2004).

D/HH children who received early cochlear implants and high-quality early intervention achieve similar levels as their hearing peers (Cheng et al., 2006; Geers, 2004).

In 1995 in the state of North Carolina, 40% of families chose auditory/ oral options compared to 60% who chose sign language-based options.

In 2005, 85% of families chose auditory/oral options compared to 15% who chose sign language-based options.

Paraphrased from: White, K. (2006). Early Intervention for Children with Permanent Hearing Loss: Finishing the EHDI Revolution. The Volta Review, 106, 3.

We need ASL in the picture. Luckily for us, researchers are hard at work proving that children who learn ASL along with CIs show even more benefit.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

DBC and AGB positions on ASL and CIs

Please click here to see Alexander Graham Bell Association (AGB) and Deaf Bilingual Coalition (DBC)'s position on ASL and cochlear implants... or see below for the full URL:

Karla Gunn said it best- children with CIs can still learn ASL. However I was a little concerned when I read Ella Mae Lentz's remarks about CIs and repeating outdated information that only a small percentage of deaf children benefit from CIs. It seemed as if she was speaking on Deaf Bilingual Coalition's behalf, and making it seem as if its ASL versus CI when it could be ASL and CI.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Implant infection answer a winner

The following article was published in The Australian, on June 21st.

The puzzle of why people with cochlear implants are more susceptible to meningitis has been discovered by a Victorian researcher. Bianca Nogrady reports | June 21, 2008
THE brain is an incredibly fragile organ. Evolution certainly thinks so -- it has surrounded this mass of nerves and cells with a solid case of bone to guard against physical trauma, and lined its blood vessels with an almost impermeable membrane to guard against chemical and biological threats. As long as these defences remain unbreached, the brain is relatively safe.

But sometimes they have to be breached. Cochlear implants bypass damaged hearing systems to directly stimulate the auditory nerves, but to enable this, surgeons must drill through the bone and implant electrodes deep within the inner ear, where they come into direct contact with the nerves.
It is testament to the careful design of implants and the skill of the surgeon that this procedure and the device are so safe. But in June 2002, something went wrong. The US Food and Drug Administration began getting reports of bacterial meningitis in children who had received a cochlear implant. Their investigation revealed a 30-fold increase in the risk of bacterial meningitis compared to the general population, especially in children with a particular US-designed cochlear implant that included a "positioner" -- a tiny wedge that held the implanted electrode against the wall of the inner ear. The discovery led to swift withdrawal of that design of implant.
Around the same time, a young Taiwan-born Australian doctor, Benjamin Wei, was taking his first steps on the path to becoming an ear, nose and throat surgeon. But unusually, he also hankered for the laboratory.
"At the time, meningitis and cochlear implants were very topical and I was very interested and I wanted to have some experience in research," says Wei, an ENT surgical registrar and scientist at The Bionic Ear Institute in Melbourne.
Earlier this month, Wei, 31, received the 2008 Victorian Premier's Award for Health and Medical Research for his investigation into the link between implants and pneumococcal meningitis. What he discovered has implications not just for cochlear implants, but for any device implanted in the brain.
Pneumococcal meningitis is the medical term for inflammation or infection of the meninges, the membranes surrounding and protecting the brain and spinal cord, most commonly caused by the bacterium Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus. Infection can be treated with antibiotics if caught early, but one in five patients will die and up to half will experience long-term complications including deafness, paralysis and mental retardation.
The FDA's investigation highlighted several risk factors that appeared to predispose cochlear implant recipients to bacterial meningitis, but left many questions unanswered.
"It was hard to say if (infection) was due to cochlear implants because a lot of patients had pre-existing risk factors, such as a malformed inner ear or had a previous history of meningitis because they were immuno-suppressed," says Wei. "No one knows exactly what caused it, whether it was the implants or underlying risk factors."
Wei's first step was to study the effect of a cochlear implant in the absence of these other risk factors. With assistance from the departments of otolaryngology, and microbiology and immunology at the University of Melbourne, he conducted an experiment using healthy rats where some received a cochlear implant and others simply had the operation to insert a cochlear implant without actually getting the device implanted. The rats were then exposed to pneumococcus via the usual routes that infect humans.
This simple study revealed that the presence of the implant lowered the amount of bacteria needed to trigger meningitis, making implant recipients more vulnerable.
"In essence, any time when you have a foreign body in any part of the body we increase the chance of infection," says Wei. The presence of a foreign body seems to impair the activity of immune cells, but there was more to the picture.
A second experiment of a similar design included a group of rats who underwent surgery that caused considerable trauma to the inner ear. It showed that the more trauma inflicted on the inner ear during implantation, the greater the risk of meningitis.
"When you have trauma in the inner ear, it opens more direct communication from the inner ear to the brain, a more direct pathway," Wei says. This offered some explanation as to why the US implant withdrawn in 2002 was associated with increased incidence of infection -- its extra components made it bulkier and the design did not adequately consider the very small dimensions of the inner ear, says Wei.
The end result of these studies was the realization that while any implant can increase the risk of meningitis, poor surgical technique and a more traumatic implant design considerably amplify that risk.
This new understanding has helped shape implant design in Australia, according to doctor Rob Shepherd, director of The Bionic Ear Institute.
"We've done a lot of work both in Melbourne and the cochlear group in Sydney to make sure the electrode array for a cochlear implant is designed for very safe insertion so it doesn't cause any trauma," Shepherd says. "Ben's work doubly emphasised the importance that any new design of any device needs to take into account design that absolutely minimises any trauma."
But Wei's work was not over.
Having identified the route and cause of infection, Wei's next move was to prevent it. The FDA had recommended that children receiving implants should be vaccinated against pneumococcus, but the agency made this recommendation without having clear evidence that immunisation would be as protective in patients with implants as it was in the general population. So Wei went back to his rats, immunised then implanted them, and found strong evidence that vaccination prevented meningitis.
Thanks to what Shepherd described as "elegant and rigorous" research, scientists now have a clearer understanding of what leads to meningitis in cochlear implant recipients, and how to avoid it. Those who stand to gain the most are the patients -- people such as retired high school teacher Joav Niran. He lost hearing in one ear after an explosion in his earlier army days, then seven years ago the hearing in his other ear began to fail after a bout of influenza.
"I couldn't communicate before -- people had to speak to me directly in front of me, sometimes I had to ask people to write things down because I just couldn't understand them," says Niran. His implant changed all that. "Basically, I'm able to communicate ... I'm functioning."
While Australian cochlear implants do not have the same design issues as the American implant withdrawn from the market, Niran, like all implant recipients, was also vaccinated against pneumococcus.
The application of Wei's research also goes beyond the ear to include other devices that by their very nature compromise the brain's defences.
"There are devices such as brain stimulation for treating Parkinson's tremor and potentially also shunt devices that take fluid from the brain in areas where there's build-up of fluid," Shepherd says. A bionic eye, also being developed in Australia, would operate on similar principles to the bionic ear in terms of direct stimulation of the optic nerve, and will therefore also benefit from Wei's findings.
"I think the most important message to come across is that the research is paving the way for better health, making implants even safer, reducing the chance of infection and making infection risk very low," says Wei.
"Our research basically ensures current and future cochlear recipients that the chance of acquiring meningitis is no greater than a person without implants."

Here is the direct link to the article. (The Australian.)


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Bilingualism and the Future Generations" Panel live!

Most of you were curious how the panel discussion on "Bilingualism and the Future Generations" went... here is the video for you all to see. It happened on April 10th, 2008 at Gallaudet University.

The panel begins with an introductory presentation by Dr. Dirksen Bauman, a professor of the Deaf Studies department at Gallaudet University, prior to kicking off the recent April 10th Provost's Inclusive Bilingualism Series panel discussion. He discusses statistics and trends in enrollment at Gallaudet and nationwide and questions how Gallaudet should prepare for the future generations of Gallaudet students. Next, a panel discussion was held, with representatives of each department/schools:
  • Lauri Rush, the mother of a Deaf, Bilingual-Bimodal child with a CI shares her experience with the Deaf community and the ASL/English bilingual-bimodal classroom her daughter is enrolled in.

  • Jennifer Drew shares her experience teaching first/only ASL/English bilingual-bimodal class at Kendall School.

  • Nicole LaMont, currently a senior at Gallaudet University, shares her experience enrolling as a freshman at Gallaudet as a new signer with a CI.

  • Daniel DiDonna, currently a freshman at Gallaudet University, shares his experience at Gallaudet as a fluent ASL signer with a CI.

  • John McGinty, a graduate of the Clarke School for the Deaf, student at Northeastern University, and currently an intern at Gallaudet University, shares his experience at Gallaudet as a fluent ASL signer with CIs.

  • Gina Oliva, a faculty member at Gallaudet and the author of "Alone In The Mainstream" shares her experience enrolling at Gallaudet as a new signer. She also shares insights from talking with parents of oral children and children with cochlear implants.
Many thanks to Gallaudet University's Academic Technology for providing us access to view this video clip.

For a text version of happenings on Gallaudet campus about Bilingualism, read Gallaudet's On the Green article here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Can We Find Common Ground?

If there is a more passionate group of diverse people than the D/deaf community, I have not met them. Not only is hearing loss a very personal issue, it expands into every aspect of one’s interactions with other people. Each person has found their own balance and method of coping with the world. Some people sign, some people cue, some people lip read, some use hearing aids or cochlear implants. Some people are immersed in the ASL signing Deaf community. Some people spend most or all of their time in the hearing community. Hearing loss can be mild, or profound. Some people have many family members who are also deaf. Some people are the only deaf member of their extended family. Most people have hearing parents.

Most D/deaf people have had some less than encouraging interactions with the hearing world. Education can be a challenge. Getting a job can be difficult. Getting an interpreter to help with important events may not even occur. And ignorance within the hearing community is almost a given.

It is no wonder that discussions surrounding methodology, oralism, implants and other issues can get heated (to say the least). It is difficult not to feel that your entire world is being threatened when someone starts talking about not needing what you depend on. It is also difficult to see people making the same mistakes generation after generation, and not get angry about it. How do you not get defensive when someone rejects your very way of life? Should you even try?

And yet… There are children growing up now who have opportunities never before available. They have an easier time in school. They have shown that they can easily interact in the hearing community. And, many of those children have proven that they can also sign ASL fluently. Are these children doomed to be rejected by both the hearing and the Deaf community, or are they the bridge between cultures? Can the ASL Deaf and the oral deaf coexist in peace? Is there common ground that can be found so that the greater needs of all D/deaf people can be supported?

I believe that my child will not be rejected by everyone. I believe that she will thrive where she chooses to plant her roots. I believe that I and my husband are giving her the tools she needs to find her own balance and method of coping with the world. I hope and pray that the world she finds, will give her the chance to prove herself, and not reject her simply because she uses a cochlear implant. She is a beautiful, vibrant, energetic, enthusiastic, brilliant child. It will be your loss if you choose to reject her because of a piece of hardware she wears on her head. Because whoever is fortunate enough to know her, is enriched because of it. Let’s all try real hard to find that common ground.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Summer's Story- a film about the life of an ASL-CI User

There is a new DVD created by an ASL-CI User. Check her website:

Summer Crider, who got her cochlear implant at age 6, uses both ASL and spoken English to communicate with her family and friends.
This DVD contains four different films, the first one was made by her mother, Linda Crider. Linda talks about a mother's experience making the decision to proceed with the cochlear implant operation back in 1990. Summer then explains in the second film about what it's like growing up as a bilingual CI user, using both spoken and signed languages. The other two films are segments from PBS's documentary "Through Deaf Eyes" in which Summer appeared on last year and an update on her life since her graduation from high school.

For more information about this DVD, contact

That website has a great resource list for parents and individuals who are considering an cochlear implant and want to learn about sign language, deaf culture, and deaf identity.

Here, below, is a short demo (2 min. clip from her 64 min. long movie) of her recent update.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Diversity in D/deafness

How many ways are there to be D/deaf? How many D/deaf people are there now? How many D/deaf people have there ever been? How many D/deaf people will there ever be? That is how many ways there are to be D/deaf. Why is that important? Because we are all here to learn and grow. You cannot learn and grow if you have the exact same opinions and beliefs as everyone else. There is a reason why we are all different. There is a reason why we all have unique experiences and views of the world. There is a reason why it would be wrong for everyone to be D/deaf the same way. We are supposed to be different. We are supposed to bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table of life.

There is a huge chasm in the Deaf World. There are those who see the Deaf Community as the rightful place only for those Deaf who use ASL, and who, for the most part, refuse to use oral speech. Hearing parents of deaf children are allowed to participate in the Deaf Community if they also embrace ASL, and immerse their children in this community. The traitors who choose to live as Oral Deaf, are banished from The Deaf Community, and are ignored as if they simply don’t exist. Ironically, they comprise the majority of D/deaf people. The two camps then routinely send pot shots at each other, with mini skirmishes breaking out on a regular basis. The saddest part of this situation, is that both camps could accomplish way more if they could work together, than if they remain apart.

I absolutely believe that every child should be treated as an individual. There is no single best method of teaching a deaf child. There is no single methodology that works best for everyone. Implants are not the right choice in every case. ASL is also not the right answer for every child. Some children need qued speech. Some children need total communication. Some children need hearing aids. The reason there are so many options, is that somewhere, some child NEEDS that specific option to reach their highest potential. Nobody has the right to say that they know best, what is right for that child or any children simply because they share a feature. Just because you are Deaf, that does not give you the right to deny other options for D/deaf children based on what worked best for you. So you don’t like cochlear implants. You have every right to your opinion. You do not have the right to tell parents that they cannot have their child implanted simply because you say so. That right and responsibility belongs to the parents. And it always will. I believe that D/deaf children have the right to both verbal AND visual communication. They have the right to explore their own lingual strengths and weaknesses based on what works best for them, not based on limitations placed arbitrarily on them at birth or through accident or disease. To that end, I believe that the parents of those children need to educate themselves on ALL the options and choices, and give their children as many options as possible. That way, the kids themselves can choose what works best for them as they grow.

I believe the Deaf Community has an obligation to support those parents as they educate themselves. The Deaf Community needs to support those parents no matter what methodology they choose, and no matter what assistive devices they decide to use. The ongoing war between ASL Deaf and oral deaf needs to end.

The decision to remove Cochlear Implants Online off DeafRead is the wrong one. Choosing to remove differing opinions sends DeafRead backwards into isolationism. Diversity is necessary and should be celebrated, not punished. Can’t we all just get along?


Monday, June 2, 2008

Calling Solitaires for Research Study

Many of us have experienced being the "only one" at some point in our lives. Being the only deaf or hard of hearing person in our elementary, middle, or high school years has made an impact on shaping who we are.

Dr. Gina Oliva, the author of "Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School", based her book on a qualitative study on the solitaire* experiences of deaf and hard of hearing people. She wanted to see how these individuals would describe their k-12 years when they were adults, to see how they would view their school years in retrospect. Alone in the Mainstream sheds light on how school experiences influenced the decisions that deaf people make in their lives: whether they choose to remain a oral deaf person or use ASL, become member of deaf community, and how they spend their leisure time.

Dr. Oliva has also been investigating summer camps for the deaf and hard of hearing children. So far, she observed more than ten camps, and has interviewed managers, counselors, parents, and former campers (who are now over age 18).

She is expanding the summer camp study, focusing on a younger group- Generation X- and this will naturally include more individuals with cochlear implants.

She is looking for participants that are between 18-33 years of age who were "alone in the mainstream" for at least 7 years, and who have preferably also attended at least one summer camp.

If you or someone you know fit in this criteria, please contact Gift cards will be given to those who have completed the survey/essay procedures.

Participants' names will not be revealed, however; their experiences/stories may be included in a publication; details may be changed to guard anonymity.

The goal is to help show parents, educators, and professionals who work with deaf/hoh children what solitaire experiences was like for Gen-Xers, so they can better prepare to support future generations.

For further information or questions, contact Support future generations by helping out!

*"solitaire" is a term coined by Dr. Oliva, to give a name to the experience of being the only deaf/hard of hearing child in a hearing school environment.

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Equilibrium"- journey of a bilateral CI user

Adrean Mangiardi, a bilateral CI User who directed this film, grew up oral but learned ASL when he was a film student at RIT.

Although this film is not in ASL, it is purely visual/symbolic with no dialogue except the end where it is captioned. The film called "Equilibrium" is a great experimental film and shows what it's like being bilateral.

"The purpose of this film is to express the director's perspective on cochlear implants and what's like to wear them. It is focusing on the struggle to balance between the old cochlear implant in the right side vs the new cochlear implant in the left side." (source from D-PAN website,

This film was featured in the PBS documentary, "Through Deaf Eyes", and was featured in March 2007. Congratulations, Adrean!

To watch another film created by Adrean: "Paper Airplane"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

First Steps on the Road to ASL Fluency

As I have said before, we started out using Signing Exact English, with a Total Communication methodology (TC/SEE) when our daughter first became deaf. She got a cochlear implant just after her first birthday. She went to a TC/SEE private school through first grade, and then was mainstreamed with a SEE interpreter for two years. She doesn't have an interpreter this year.

Our goal for her was that she be able to communicate with as many people as possible, and to keep as many doors open for her as we could. We have always intended for her to learn ASL, and this summer she will begin to learn ASL. We have talked to a private ASL teacher (she is Deaf), and she will begin meeting with our daughter once a week. The teacher is also helping to introduce her to various ASL social get-togethers. We have also signed her up for a Deaf summer camp. Hopefully, between the ASL community events, summer camp and the weekly instructions, she will have a good introduction to ASL.

I will keep you updated as to her progress. Maybe by the fall she can do a vlog on her progress.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Gallaudet Offers Spoken & Sign Language Workshop for working with Children with CI's

Spoken Language and Sign: Optimizing Learning for Children with Cochlear Implants

25 - 26 Jun 2008 2-Day Workshop (1 PST) Price: $150
Workshop participants will learn about and discuss highlights of the latest research, principles to guide planning, cochlear Implant technology updates, and planning and implementing a comprehensive educational program. Other focus areas will include developing spoken language skills and integrating spoken language and sign language in school. Presenters will offer information on the best practices in the field.

Debra Nussbaum, MA, CCC-A, is coordinator of the Clerc Center's Cochlear Implant Education Center. She has developed many resource materials on auditory and speech skills for deaf children who also use sign language and on educational considerations for students with cochlear implants. Nussbaum is an adjunct professor at Gallaudet University where she co-teaches Family-Professional Collaboration in Early Communication Planning and an on-line course, Cochlear Implants: Considerations for Decision Making and Educational Planning.

Susanne Scott, MS, CCC-A, is an outreach specialist in the Office of Outreach and Partnerships at the Clerc Center. She has given presentations at national conferences and written articles and books related to habilitation with deaf and hard of hearing individuals from birth through adulthood. She has taught graduate students at Gallaudet University in the area of aural rehabilitation. Contact:

Friday, May 9, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Sometimes we agree. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes we argue. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we cry. But always, we work to raise our children the best way we can. To all the other moms out there, Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Hear and Now

Hey-out of curiosity-did anyone see "Hear and Now"? I watched it tonight and am curious as to what the viewers think!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

When did you learn ASL?

There are lots of discussions about language options here on DeafRead. This blog supports both ASL and spoken/written English. The age of acquision of language is critical to the fluency of that language. So my question this morning is, when did you learn ASL, was it your first or second language, and how did your age affect your ability to learn it?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Difference between Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants

I’ve seen many references on various blogs/comments that say that hearing aids are non-invasive, so they are a better choice than the cochlear implant. The implication is that the cochlear implant works the same as hearing aids. That is like comparing camels and horses. You can ride both of them. But horses work better on solid ground, and camels work better on sandy ground. They each have different strengths and weaknesses.

Hearing aids work by amplifying sound. The idea is that the few working hair cells in the cochlea will then work harder, and send more sound signals to the auditory nerve. Hearing aids work best if the hair cells in the cochlea are evenly distributed. Newer digital hearing aids work better, because they can separate out different frequencies, and add more or less amplification at a given pitch range, depending on what the audiogram shows. The problem occurs when there are simply not enough hair cells in the cochlea in a given frequency for the amplified sound to work. If there are no hair cells, there is no sound sent to the auditory nerve, no matter how much amplification occurs.

This is where the cochlear implant comes in. Hearing aid trials are required before the implant can even be considered as an option. If you receive adequate amplification across the frequency range then you are not a candidate for the implant. You are only a candidate for implantation if hearing aids do not support reasonable hearing across the speech “banana” on an audiogram. The implant works by turning sound into digital signals, transferring them via radio type signals to the internal implant, which in turn transmits them directly to the auditory nerve via a transmitter electrode array implanted into the cochlea. This allows for the full spectrum of frequencies to reach the auditory nerve. As long as the entire electrode array is inserted into the cochlea, and the auditory nerve is healthy, sound IS getting to the brain. The key is how the brain handles the signals. If the brain is able to fully integrate the sound signals to understandable information, then the implant is considered a “success”. If the brain is unable to interpret the signals then the implant is considered a “failure”. But the truth is much more complicated than that. Partly it depends on what the implanted person expects to get from the implant. Part of it depends on how hard the person is willing to work to make their brain learn how to understand the implant. Part of it depends on how much sound the person was exposed to prior to implantation, and how well their brain understood that sound. And part of it depends on how old you are at the time of implantation.

The people who seem to do best at making sense of the implant signals are those who had the most hearing prior to becoming deaf, and those who have had the shortest period of deafness prior to getting implanted. Among that group are babies and toddlers. Even though they may not have had any hearing prior to implantation, their brains are so flexible (plastic) that they have no problem interpreting the signals. The older they get, the harder they have to work to make sense of sound.

If you have a mild to moderate loss, hearing aids are the answer. If you have a severe to profound loss, and hearing aids are not enough, then that is where implants can be considered.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Deaf Identity for Deaf Children with CIs

On a recent visit to an oral deaf classroom in a hearing school, I was struck by the following things I observed in this school:

-no deaf adults (no deaf teachers, deaf teaching assistants, no deaf administrators, no deaf service workers, etc)
-no mention of ASL/deaf culture
-no posters specifically about deaf people (history, sign language, advocacy)
-many teachers/support service staff knew ASL but did not use it in front of students
-no plans to introduce ASL to deaf children
-deaf students in the minority, majority is hearing students
-plenty of audiological/speech support

Imagine if it was a classroom with black students in an all-white school. Now imagine the reaction of the black community to that classroom. This helps us understand the reactions of the deaf community when they find out deaf children are in a similar situation.

Many deaf adults who grew up oral without any knowledge of ASL and deaf culture often say that they wish that they had been exposed to ASL and had deaf role models while growing up.

It all boils down to this: Deaf children need deaf role models. ASL and deaf culture are deaf children's birthright. Having a strong deaf identity is essential to becoming a confident deaf adult.

I am a culturally deaf parent of a deaf child with a CI. I want my child to be exposed to both spoken and signed languages, and I am having a tough time finding an appropriate setting that celebrates being deaf yet provides ample access to spoken English. In deaf schools, spoken English is basically nonexistent outside the speech therapist's office, not to mention the prejudice my child would be facing in deaf schools. In oral deaf classrooms, my child would feel as if being hearing is something to strive towards, instead of being proud to be part of the deaf community with its own language and culture.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

What can we learn from THE ENEMY?

So the goal is to teach our implanted children how to speak and how to sign ASL. Now how do we get there? The first step in any campaign is to study the enemy. In this case, to find out what is successful about Auditory/Verbal Therapy (AVT) and Total Communication (TC). The best way to provide a successful ASL/CI model for our kids is to learn what is successful in general, and see what we can use.

If I use the words “speech therapy”, many Deaf folks out there start to sweat. I can already see the painful comments getting written. I have already read many comments on other blogs regarding the frustration and dislike people had for those hateful sessions. Guess what? If there is one thing that has changed, it is speech therapy. It should really be renamed language therapy. And it is FUN. Most kids these days see it as one-on-one play time. It is a necessary part of aural habilitation for getting implants, and it carries over into the home. Parents are taught how to change their habits to incorporate language therapy into everyday events. Everything we do is a language opportunity. AVT and the TC program I was involved with have that in common. You talk to your child (or in my case talk and sign using Signing Exact English) about EVERYTHING. Doing dishes, the laundry, making cookies, cleaning the bedroom, going to the grocery store, playing board games, washing the car, and on and on. The key to teaching your D/deaf child language is to get them to focus on you one-on-one to talk, ask questions, answer questions and basically interact. Hearing kids overhear language between other people. D/deaf kids don’t. Even with the implant, overhearing conversations is harder to do, and easier to ignore, so you need to get their attention and be very deliberate in your interactions.

What most parents have to learn, is that you can’t count on your child picking up language by observation or verbal “osmosis”. What AVT and TC teaches parents, is how to change the way they interact with their child. That formula is a successful one, and can be incorporated into an ASL/CI methodology. Parents will need to learn how to sign to their child, then speak to their child (or vice versa) while their child is focused on them. They need to include their child in everything possible. It is time intensive, and getting chores done will take about three times longer. Oh well. Language acquisition is way more important than the chores. So those of us who have been there will be more than happy to overlook your less than completely clean home, while we watch your child thrive.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

ASL students educate a hospital about Bilingualism

This is a great video created by ASL students at the University of Penn. There are quotes about the benefit of bilingualism incorporated with different video clips (from movies, TV, and YouTube). These ASL students will be using this film to educate staff members at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a leading hospital for cochlear implants.
Hooray! *hand waving*

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Biggest Myths

The following discussion is specifically about profoundly deaf children. Earlier, on Jodi’s blog there was a discussion about myths and inaccuracies. One anonymous commenter chimed in with a comment about how much they disapprove of implanting babies. I know this blog is aimed at families who are already past this discussion, and are more interested in providing both spoken language and ASL for their implanted kids, so I am probably preaching to the choir. However, sometimes we need to go back and visit other issues. Like myths. A common belief that I have encountered is that babies should not be implanted, that the child deserves to make this decision for him/herself. The myth then is that the implant will work as well for older kids and teens as it does for babies. An associated myth is that there is no way to estimate how successful the implant will be with a given individual, or that there is not enough information available to make an informed decision on the best age to implant your child. WRONG. On all counts. While it is true that you cannot guarantee results prior to implantation, there is plenty of information now to get a very good idea of how well the implant will work. The implant does not work the same for everyone, and to determine how well it may work for you, you need to take into account how much residual hearing you have had, how good your verbal speech is, what your hearing history is, how old you are and how determined you are to make it work, among other things.

Last week, my family attended a seminar on early language acquisition, put on by Cochlear Corp. Heather Whitestone McCallum was one of the speakers, and my daughter was invited to be part of her presentation. My daughter was invited because of her early implantation and subsequent success with her implant and verbal language abilities. We really enjoyed the seminar, and got some good information. Some of that information is relevant to this discussion. Dianne Hammes, with the Carle Clinic and Foundation presented a study regarding the outcomes of four groups of children, grouped by age of implantation. The results of her study showed that children implanted by 18 months of age had near normal speech and language ability as they got older, while those implanted after 19 months of age got farther and farther from hearing average the older they got. And the older they were at implantation, the more they deviated from the norm. Please note that this is a study of verbal skills only, and did not take sign language into it.

There has been quite a bit of research regarding age of implant versus level of acquisition of verbal language that supports that study: see here and here and here. These are just a few of the many results I came up with when I Googled “Effects of early implantation on speech and language”. All of them agree that earlier is better, and that children who are implanted by 18 months of age have a very good chance of achieving speech and language abilities in the same range as their hearing peers. This does not make them hearing. It means that their brains can understand verbal language at the same level.

The important point here is that the brain is an integral part of the success of the cochlear implant. How well the brain can integrate sound is directly connected to the age at which the brain is introduced to sound. By the time a child is old enough to decide for him or herself, they are well beyond the age when the brain can easily integrate sound into meaningful understanding. So the parents who choose to wait and let the child decide, are actually choosing against getting the implant. One way or the other, the parents DO decide. It is far better for them to be intentional in their decision making. I know parents who are now very angry at the Deaf Community because they were led to believe that they could wait, and it would not impact the success of the implant. When they found out otherwise, they felt that they had been lied to by the Deaf Community. This serves nobody. It is more important to keep the lines of communication open, and keep the relationship intact than it is to have the parents follow the “ASL only” ideology without full understanding of all of the options.

The children who will have the highest success with both American Sign Language and the verbal English Language are the ones who are implanted prior to 18 months of age and who are instructed in both English and ASL from birth. This will take dedicated parents and a supportive community working together.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Support Group for Deaf Parent/s of CI Children: CICDA!

CICDA – Cochlear Implanted Children of Deaf Adults, a new parent support group is founded!

To the deaf parents of CI child(ren) and those in process of receiving CI,

-In what ways have members of the Deaf community reacted to your decision to implant your child?
-What are your reasons for getting a CI for your child?
-Are you trying to figure out the best choices for your CI child?
-Is your CI child struggling with her/his identity? Is she/he transitioning smoothly between Deaf and hearing worlds?
-How interested are you about a possible gathering with other deaf parents and their CI kids?
-Are there other issues that have arisen from having your child implanted, which you would like the CICDA group to support/discuss/ or to which you would like to draw attention? i.e. sharing successes and struggles of our kids.

If you find the above to be issues about which you feel strongly--or about which you are curious, join, learn from, share with and contribute to CICDA, please join the CICDA group and email us at

CICDA is a new private support group for deaf parents with CI kids who are part of the deaf community with a variety of communication modes such ASL, oral method, cued speech, PSE, etc. This group gives us an opportunity to be able to feel free to share experiences, offer advice, and keep updated with the latest research and developments. The number of deaf parents with CI children is small but has been growing steadily.

-Posted by a CICDA member

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Faces of ASL CI Users

Note: Not all of the participants in this video are active CI users. The intention of this video is to show diverse members of the Deaf community that happens to have a cochlear implant and use ASL.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bilingualism and the Future Generations of Gallaudet Students

Gallaudet University is going to have a campus-wide panel discussion about the future generation of deaf students and how bilingualism will impact these students!

Because of the increasing number of mainstreamed deaf students and deaf individuals with cochlear implants, the focus of this panel discussion will be on the impact of bilingualism for these students.

The panel will address questions such as:

  • What are the attitudes towards the new "generation" of Gallaudet students, especially those with cochlear implants, those who come from mainstream schools, and new signers?
  • How would the new generations of deaf students perceive the term "bilingual university"?

Panelists will consist of representatives of different groups on campus: students (undergraduate and graduate), faculty, staff, parents, and teachers of bilingual children.

Please spread the word and encourage others to engage in this healthy campus-wide discussion!

Can't make it?? This event will be recorded and hopefully broad-casted on the Gallaudet website when the video is ready.

Monday, April 7, 2008

What are your thoughts?

Good morning. It dawned on me over the weekend that it would be a lot easier to answer questions and clear up confusion if I actually knew what the questions and confusion was. So here is your chance to ask questions. Please try to limit them to cochlear implants, early language acquisition, or speech and sign language issues. I may not have the answers, but I will do my best to track them down. Some of the other bloggers on this site may also be the ones taking the reins and answering some of the questions.

I also have a topic for discussion. Within the Signing Exact English group that I have been involved in, the sign for the cochlear implant (snake bite behind the ear) was seen as derogatory and somewhat insulting. We instead used the letter C to I at or just behind the ear. This issue was discussed within the CI Circle several years ago, and since this group is nation and world wide, I know this is not strictly a local issue. The CI Circle also preferred the C to I sign rather than the snake bite sign. So now I want to know what you think. I would love to hear from CI users and those without implants. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


As many of you know, while I support bilingualism, I myself do not know ASL at all. My daughter, who is almost 10 now, lost her hearing at 7 months of age, and was implanted just after her first birthday. We looked at all the early intervention programs, methodologies and school age programs, and went with Total Communication with Signing Exact English (TC-SEE).  Click here to go to the school's website.  We started signing as soon as her hearing loss was diagnosed, even before she was implanted. And she picked up signing quickly. She also picked up spoken English after her implantation, and became primarily oral by the time her second birthday came around. We continued with TC and she entered a private TC school at age three. By age four, her receptive and expressive verbal language was above age level average for hearing kids. And her signing was just as good. Eventually she was mainstreamed, and the signing was dropped, because she simply didn’t need it. Her implant really does work that well for her. However, she is good at signing and we don’t want her to loose that. So she will be learning ASL starting this summer. All that having been said, the question remains, why didn’t we just start out with bilingual ASL and English?

There are primarily two reasons we went with a TC program using SEE instead of ASL. The biggest reason is that there were absolutely no ASL programs that included speech. Sure, if you wanted some speech therapy included, they would bring in a speech-language pathologist (SLP) once a week for a one hour session. But the TC program with SEE had all teachers and kids say and sign everything. All the time. It was a huge difference. And it had more than 20 years of test scores of the students showing that academically, it had high standards and results. The other reason was parental support. The TC program had tons of parental support for both the signing and the verbal aspects of the program. The ASL programs had plenty of ASL support, but absolutely none for the verbal aspects. That is one thing the TC program has in common with AVT. Parental support.

There is a general question floating around the blogosphere. “Why don’t the parents just add ASL to their Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) lessons, and make their children bilingual?” It would seem to be a simple and economical solution. It isn’t. To understand the problem, you need to understand AVT. Auditory Verbal Therapy. It is exactly what it sounds like. Hearing and speaking. No signing. It is not only how they teach AVT, it is a basic philosophy. They believe that to maximize the auditory pathway growth in the brain, they spend a great deal of time teaching the child to listen and speak. To add sign, means the child might get the information visually rather than aurally. That would not strengthen the auditory portion of the brain. There are plusses and minuses to this method. A big plus is that for early implanted children, it is exceptionally effective. The minus is that it doesn’t work for all children, and it really has problems with older implanted kids. And it leaves those children without nearly enough language. And those children have no ability to communicate with ASL folks in the Deaf Community.

So why do parents use this method? Parental support is a big reason. Proven results is another. So how do we promote bilingual ASL and spoken English for those families who have chosen cochlear implants? It isn’t enough to simply say “Add ASL to whatever methodology you are currently using”. Most methodologies either already incorporate a different form of sign, or are philosophically against sign altogether. And it is horribly unfair to ask parents to choose a methodology and then have them go against what they have chosen to crib in ASL on top of it. Since most parents are hearing, and generally new to Deaf Culture and such, they are understandably overwhelmed. They need to find a single methodology that supports them, and shows proven results. They need to visit the program, see the kids and talk to the other parents. What they need is an ASL English bilingual program that does everything in one program. One that provides ASL classes, speech and verbal language support and an understanding and acceptance of cochlear implants.

There are lots of ASL programs around the country. How many of them have successful verbal language incorporated into the program? If there are any, those programs need to be emulated by other ASL programs around the country. If there aren’t any, then a model needs to be created that can then be incorporated by other ASL programs. A national support system needs to be put into place so each of these programs can support each other, and so that continuing education can be implemented.

If we want parents to teach their children ASL and English, then we need to give them the programs to do just that. Do you know of a successful program that does this? We’d like to hear about it.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

CI and Deaf-Blind Children

Within the Deaf/ASL Community, there are diverse group of people with different ways of being, and ways of orienteering through life. Some Deaf children are more visual than others, some children rely more on tactile, and others on their hearing aids or cochlear implants.
There is a rising number of children who navigate through their lives from a combination of senses: the sense of hearing and the sense of touch.
An website about Deaf-Blind children shows of an increase of cochlear implantation in children with deaf-blindness in the state of Texas from the years 2002 to 2005 alone. Click here to go to the full article.

The Right of the Deaf Child to Grow Up Bilingual

The right of the deaf child to grow up bilingual∗

François Grosjean
University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
(Click here to go to this same article in 29 other languages)

Every deaf child, whatever the level of his/her hearing loss, should have the right to grow up bilingual. By knowing and using both a sign language and an oral language (in its written and, when possible, in its spoken modality), the child will attain his/her full cognitive, linguistic and social capabilities.

What a child needs to be able to do with language

The deaf child has to accomplish a number of things with language:

1. Communicate with parents and family members as soon as possible. A hearing child normally acquires language in the very first years of life on the condition that he/she is exposed to a language and can perceive it. Language in turn is an important means of establishing and solidifying social and personal ties between the child and his/her parents. What is true of the hearing child must also become true of the deaf child. He/she must be able to communicate with his/her parents by means of a natural language as soon, and as fully, as possible. It is with language that much of the parent-child affective bonding takes place.

2. Develop cognitive abilities in infancy. Through language, the child develops cognitive abilities that are critical to his/her personal development. Among these we find various types of reasoning, abstracting, memorizing, etc. The total absence of language, the adoption of a non-natural language or the use of a language that is poorly perceived or known, can have major negative consequences on the child's cognitive development.

3. Acquire world knowledge. The child will acquire knowledge about the world mainly through language. As he/she communicates with parents, other family members, children and adults, information about the world will be processed and exchanged. It is this knowledge, in turn, which serves as a basis for the activities that will take place in school. It is also world knowledge which facilitates language comprehension; there is no real language understanding without the support of this knowledge.

4. Communicate fully with the surrounding world. The deaf child, like the hearing child, must be able to communicate fully with those who are part of his/her life (parents, brothers and sisters, peers, teachers, various adults, etc.). Communication must take place at an optimal rate of information in a language that is appropriate to the interlocutor and the situation. In some cases it will be sign language, in other cases it will be the oral language (in one of its modalities), and sometimes it will be the two languages in alternation.

5. Acculturate into two worlds. Through language, the deaf child must progressively become a member of both the hearing and of the Deaf world. He/she must identify, at least in part, with the hearing world which is almost always the world o his/her parents and family members (90% of deaf children have hearing parents). But the child must also come into contact as early as possible with the world of the Deaf, his/her other world. The child must feel comfortable in these two worlds and must be able to identify with each as much as possible.

Bilingualism is the only way of meeting these needs

Bilingualism is the knowledge and regular use of two or more languages. A sign language - oral language bilingualism is the only way that the deaf child will meet his/her needs, that is, communicate early with his/her parents, develop his/her cognitive abilities, acquire knowledge of the world, communicate fully with the surrounding world, and acculturate into the world of the hearing and of the Deaf.

What kind of bilingualism?

The bilingualism of the deaf child will involve the sign language used by the Deaf community and the oral language used by the hearing majority. The latter language will be acquired in its written, and if possible, in its spoken modality. Depending on the child, the two languages will play different roles: some children will be dominant in sign language, others will be dominant in the oral language, and some will be balanced in their two languages. In addition, various types of bilingualism are possible since there are several levels of deafness and the language contact situation is itself complex (four language modalities, two production and two perception systems, etc.). This said, most deaf children will become bilingual and bicultural to varying degrees. In this sense, they will be no different than about half the world's population that lives with two or more languages. (It has been estimated that there are as many, if not more, bilinguals in the world today as monolinguals). Just like other bilingual children, they will use their languages in their everyday lives and they will belong, to varying degrees, to their two worlds - in this case, the hearing world and the Deaf world.

What role for sign language?

Sign language must be the first language (or one of the first two languages) acquired by children who have a severe hearing loss. It is a natural, full-fledged language that ensures full and complete communication. Unlike an oral language, it allows the young deaf child and his/her parents to communicate early, and fully, on the condition that they acquire it quickly. Sign language will play an important role in the deaf child's cognitive and social development and it will help him/her acquire knowledge about the world. It will also allow the child to acculturate into the Deaf world (one of the two worlds he/she belongs to) as soon as contact is made with that world. In addition, sign language will facilitate the acquisition of the oral language, be it in its spoken or written modality. It is well known that a first language that has been acquired normally, be it an oral or a sign language, will greatly enhance the acquisition of a second language. Finally, being able to use sign language is a guarantee that the child will have mastered at least one language. Despite considerable effort on the part of deaf children and of the professionals that surround them, and despite the use of various technological aids, it is a fact that many deaf children have great difficulties producing and perceiving an oral language in its spoken modality. Having to wait several years to reach a satisfactory level that might never be attained, and in the meantime denying the deaf child access to a language that meets his/her immediate needs (sign language), is basically taking the risk that the child will fall behind in his/her development, be it linguistic, cognitive, social or personal.

What role for the oral language?

Being bilingual means knowing and using two or more languages. The deaf child's other language will be the oral language used by the hearing world to which he/she also belongs. This language, in its spoken and/or written modality, is the language of the child's parents, brothers and sisters, extended family, future friends and employers, etc. When those who interact with the child in everyday life do not know sign language, it is important that communication takes place nevertheless and this can only happen in the oral language. It is also this language, in its written modality mainly, that will be an important medium for the acquisition of knowledge. Much of what we learn is transmitted via writing be it at home or more generally at school. In addition, the deaf child's academic success and his/her future professional achievements will depend in large part on a good mastery of the oral language, in its written and if possible spoken modality.


It is our duty to allow the deaf child to acquire two languages, the sign language of the Deaf community (as a first language when the hearing loss is severe) and the oral language of the hearing majority. To achieve this, the child must be in contact with the two language communities and must feel the need to learn and use both languages. Counting solely on one language, the oral language, because of recent technological advances is betting on the deaf child's future. It is putting at risk the child's cognitive and personal development and it is negating the child's need to acculturate into the two world's that he/she belongs to. Early contact with the two languages will give the child more guarantees than contact with just one language, whatever his/her future will be, and whichever world he/she chooses to live in (in
case it is only one of them). One never regrets knowing several languages but one can certainly regret not knowing enough, especially if one's own development is at stake. The deaf child should have the right to grow up bilingual and it is our responsibility to help him/her do so.

∗ This short text is the result of much reflection over the years on bilingualism and deafness. Those who surround young deaf children (parents, doctors, language pathologists, educators, etc.) often do not perceive them as future bilingual and bicultural individuals. It is with these people in mind that I have written this paper. I would like to thank the following colleagues and friends for their helpful comments and suggestions: Robbin Battison, Penny Boyes-Braem, Eve Clark, Lysiane Grosjean, Judith Johnston, Harlan Lane, Rachel Mayberry, Lesley Milroy, Ila Parasnis and Trude Schermer.

By the same author

Grosjean, F. (1982). Life with Two Languages: An Introduction to Bilingualism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Grosjean, F. (1987). Bilingualism. In Gallaudet Encyclopedia of Deaf People and Deafness. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Grosjean, F. (1992). The bilingual and the bicultural person in the hearing and in the deaf world. Sign Language Studies, 77, 307-320.

Grosjean, F. (1994). Individual bilingualism. In The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Grosjean, F. (1994). Sign bilingualism: Issues. In The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Grosjean, F. (1996). Living with two languages and two cultures. In I. Parasnis (Ed.), Cultural and Language Diversity: Reflections on the Deaf Experience (pp. 20-37). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Poem by an ASL-CI User

The Rectitude of the Deaf Community

It saddens me, the ignorance of those in the Deaf Community.

They fail to understand cochlear implant users and judge their every move.

They are blind to see that they are so close-minded.

Hypocrites! They are the ones that are so “hearing”, using ipods and hearing aids.

Crabs! Rejecting those whom become successful.

Audist! Judging those with cochlear implants and deciding who’s “deaf” or not.

Liars! Creating false tails and fibs about the implant out of fear it will destroy the community.

Critics! Blaming hearing parents and the implant itself for the decline in the deaf community.

Who’s missing out? Me, or you?

I have no fear of the hearing community and will bravely take them on any given day.

I will break from the flock of sheep and graze in a much larger field.

I will expand my options and become successful in the “outside” world.

I will have an open mind, open to learn from and experience new things.

My deaf culture will be able to always be within me, no matter where I go.

You will stay close, not out of love of the community, but out of fear of those unlike yourselves.

You will end up alone, despite those who say they will support you forever.

You will be hurting the deaf community by shunning those away who grow up differently and aren’t “deaf enough” or involved in the culture enough to meet your standards.

You will be isolated and unaware of the marvelous discoveries in the world, the “hearing” world.

You will see my success and grow angered within, at your own ignorance.

We are one. “Gallaudet-United-Stay”.

Yet, we continue to segregate and categorize each other based on hearing status.

You judge me because I am different.

Jewish people were judged because the color of their hair and eyes.

African American’s were judged because the color of their skin.

“Ghetto” people are judged for the way they talk and what they wear.

And I am judged for the way I hear and what I hear with.

I am here to be part of the community that I’ve grown to love.

And yet, I am pushed away because of the tool, the device that I use.

Where is my support? The hand that I may hold to add a longer link to the human chain to make this community grow?

I now see, you clearly don’t know what unity and acceptance means.

Inclusive and cognizant.

We are all humans, entitled to make our own mistakes.

We only hurt ourselves if we continue to be ignorant and close-minded.

This is the time we began to step out of the past and build for our future.

As the world changes, so must we.

This is not about tradition anymore. It’s about our community as one: cochlear implant users; hearing aid users; non-hearing aid users. We all fall under the same category: Deaf.

Tradition becomes worthless when the right values are lost.

If this community really means something to you, then you will know when it’s time to make a change. Be prudent and the community will thrive.

-Poem was written on November 9th, 2007 by Nicole LaMont, an ASL-CI User and Senior at Gallaudet University

*Disclaimer: This poem does not represent the feelings or experiences of all ASL-CI Users, but one's own. Although there is an increasing body of CI students at Gallaudet and everyone has their own opinion of Cochlear Implants, this is one of many messages of some ASL-CI Users who feel rejection because of their personal decision. We hope that this poem will make people aware of the impact of negative attitude towards ASL-CI Users. Nicole learned ASL at Gallaudet and learned to embrace it along with Deaf Culture, but does not abandon her cochlear implant because "people don't like it". She is a shining example for those who have "discovered" sign language and keeps Deaf Culture in her heart.
Thank you, Nicole, for being brave enough to submit this poem for the world to see and disclosing your name.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Welcome to this new site! We have set up a place where deaf people with cochlear implants, educators, doctors, parents, and the general deaf community can come together to share stories, ask questions, and learn more about different issues related with the Cochlear Implant, Sign Language, and the Deaf community.

Because of the long-standing controversial issues, some of us, especially those who are bilingual in both English and ASL, are afraid that this ongoing controversy will impact the future generation of the deaf community so we are taking a stand!

The mission of this blogsite is to educate the public about widespread misconceptions related to cochlear implants. We sincerely believe that the deaf and hearing communities* must come together and start driving towards a uniform belief:

That since Cochlear Implants are here to stay, we must do our best keeping our future deaf children (implanted or not) bilingual/bimodal in both sign language and spoken language.

This place welcomes those bilingual cochlear implant users to share their experiences. If you are an CI user that supports this goal, please email us at so we can become a blogging/vlogging community. We are opening this mainly for those who have been hesitant to speak up, now is your chance!

We hope to develop different groups: ASL ci users, parents of CI users, CI users curious about ASL and Deaf community, and other group of people so they can have their "discussions" within this blog.

We are in the process of setting up the first "ASL-Cochlear Implant Community" vlog so this blogsite can be bilingual! Thank you for your patience and do check back often!

We will be united, we will stand against ignorance, and we will help the future generations of deaf children "cherish and defend our beautiful sign language as the noblest gift that God has given us"!
-George Veditz, 1910, "Preservation of Sign Language"

*please keep in mind that the "hearing community" does not mean cochlear implant users. There are no "sides", we are trying to break down the "wall" that CI users face because some members of the deaf community do not consider us one of them, when, technically, we are. When we mention "hearing community", we are referring to hearing people who are not familiar with Deaf culture and ASL. Although we recognize that there are some CI users who have never been exposed to Deaf Culture/ASL, we still consider them deaf AND hope that this blog will be their positive welcome into the Deaf World.

Friday, March 21, 2008

ASL Vlogs about Cochlear Implants

ASL-CI Community would like to thank Raychelle for donating these v/blogs she produced and published on her blogsite to help with spreading awareness about ASL and Cochlear Implants. Enjoy.

First Vlog: I Got The Surgery

In this ASL vlog, I talk about my surgery and how I believe it is analogous to cochlear implant surgeries. Would you change your opinion of a Deaf person you've known all your life, went to school with, who received a cochlear implant? Why? They're still the same person.

Cochlear implant surgeries, in my opinion, are similar to someone getting laser eye surgery. Both surgeries assist the person in seeing/hearing. Both surgeries have possible risks and complications.

Cochlear implant technology has improved drastically in the past ten years. Many of the things we know about CI's are outdated. In the following vlogs, to be posted soon, I will share more current information about cochlear implants.

Did you know that Cochlear Implant Education Center (CIEC) at Clerc Center of Gallaudet University was established in the year of 2000? Since that time they have been working with professionals and families both Deaf and Hearing to investigate how ASL and Cochlear Implants can work together. This vlog kicks off a series of vlogs of myself exploring the nature of CI’s and their presence in the Deaf community.

Disclaimer: I am not a certified medical professional, however, I have friends who have had the surgery, I have read research-based articles and chapters on this issue and I have had the information shared in this and the following vlogs/blogs confirmed by professionals at the Cochlear Implant Education Center at Gallaudet University/Clerc Center. Much gratitude goes to them for their willingness to help with editing and correcting information in this and subsequent blogs/vlogs on this topic.

Click here to go to the very informative Gallaudet University at Clerc Center, Cochlear Implant Education Center site.

This English print blog is not a word-for word translation of the ASL vlog above.

2nd Vlog: Myths About CI Surgeries

How long is the surgery itself? Actual surgery time can range from 1 ½ hours- 6 hours depending on the individual. The surgery is usually outpatient and after about a 2 hour recovery period the individual can go home.

What does the scar look like? The scars of the past do not apply to today's surgeries. The scars are very minimal, and for young infants, the scar is almost undetectable. Right after the surgery, there may be a little bleeding. The cotton/mesh wrap stays around the head for approximately 24 hours, then it may be removed. You will see small surgical tape covering the incisions and some dried blood in the area. Your head is not shaved bald but a small section just above the ear. There are no stitches or staples.

Does CI surgery destroy residual hearing?In more and more situations residual hearing can be preserved because the surgical techniques to insert the electrodes into the cochlea are improving. While the doctors can not guarantee that residual hearing won’t be destroyed, audiology tests done before and after the cochlear implant in many cases are showing that residual hearing does not necessarily change. (I fingerspelled 'auditory stem', what I should have fingerspelled was 'auditory nerve')

How long does it take to recover? CI surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis. There are some hospitals that might keep individuals overnight. By the second day, most children are usually back to themselves. Some adults report being tired and sometimes dizzy for a few days.

Each body heals in different ways at different points in your life. Of course, for infants/children, they heal much faster as opposed to adults, and this applies to any type of surgery. Most adults who have had the surgery report minimal pain or discomfort. Judging by watching the children after surgery, they don’t seem to be experiencing discomfort. There may be some adverse reactions to the anesthesia (which can be true for any type of surgery)

There is swelling around the site of the surgery. It usually takes about 3-4 weeks for the swelling to go away and the site to heal completely. That is why it is important to wait for that long before the outside part of the cochlear implant is added. That is called the “activation”.

Is there a difference in recovery time between infants vs. adults? Your body heals in different ways at different points in your life. Of course, for infants/children, they heal much faster as opposed to adults or older adults, and this applies to any type of surgery. Many factors affect recovery time - exercise, diet, amount of sleep and so on. Infants and children take a few hours to a couple of days to be their old self, while it is about a week for adults.

What about surgery complications? As with ANY surgery, there are always risks and complications. This may prolong the recovery time. It is the responsibility of the patient/parent to investigate the reputation of the hospital/surgeon before making the decision.

Let me share my surgicial experience: I had the same knee surgery which was performed in 2006 on my left leg and then in 2007 on my right leg. Both were done by the same surgeon for the same purpose. Both surgical experiences, recovery, therapy and end result were VERY different.

Click here to go to Gallaudet University's website about CI surgery information...

This English print blog is not an exact translation of the ASL vlog above.

p.s. the photograph in the vlog of the CI coil is from

Third Vlog: Getting a CI – The Earlier, The Better

The earlier, the better saying could not be more true here. Brains are like sponges the first few years of a child’s life. After that, it has been shown that the plasticity/ flexibility of brain starts to decrease. The longer a young child does not have access to quality sound, the more difficult it becomes to make sense of the many sounds provided by a cochlear implant. So telling a parent to wait until the child grows up to make the decision if s/he wants a CI is not a valid recommendation.

Research shows that if the auditory areas of the brain are not stimulated at a young age, then the window of opportunity to develop spoken language will be significantly decreased. Research does not give an exact age, however research and observation are suggesting that children implanted before age 2 are more readily developing spoken language than children implanted after that age.

Going back to the saying of earlier is better. The same holds true for American Sign Language. Research is showing that the brain has the capacity to learn both a visual and an auditory language at the same time. And when children are young they can learn several languages effortlessly. It’s so easy for them!

For us adults, we struggle to pass HS classes in foreign languages and college classes in French, Spanish, and so on. Then at the end of the semester we can only remember a few Spanish words. Why is that?

Two reasons: 1) when we get older, we can only “learn” (not acquire) additional languages – which means we have to be taught, it’s harder to learn languages naturally like children. 2) our brains harden as we get older, so teaching our brains new things are harder than it is for children.

So this principle makes sense, we want to expose our infants/children to as many languages as possible – ASL and spoken/print English for the case of American deaf children. It doesn’t have to be an either/or choice of ASL or a cochlear implant. You can't lose if you're bilingual from birth. You win, and you win the best of both worlds - the Deaf world and the Hearing world.

Click here to go to the conference proceedings of Cochlear Implants and Sign Language: Putting It All Together in 2002.

Also, click here to go to Gallaudet University's CI site about who's a good and who's not a good CI candidate

The English print blog here is not an exact translation of the ASL vlog above.

4th Vlog: People With CI’s Can’t Drive Hybrids and Play Football?

Remember this vlog applies to the new and most recent CI’s.

Drive a hybrid? Yes.

Ride roller coasters? Yes

Scuba dive?
There is a depth limit. If a person with a cochlear implant goes beyond the specified depth the internal implant (plastic casing) holding the magnet will break. Ihe internal implant is validated to withstand pressure at a depth of 82 feet underwater.

Go into MRI machines? The problem is that the internal part of the cochlear implant has a magnet in it and an MRI means Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Having two technologies that contain magnets are not compatible. The test will not be effective. The person will not be harmed. Some of the newer cochlear implants are compatible with MRI equipment that does not have a strong magnetic strength. But… sometimes a weak MRI is not enough. So… with a cochlear implant, some people do have to have the magnet removed surgically—the implant is designed to have that done, then have the MRI and have the magnet put back in again. (that can happen all at the same time)

Play football/physical sports? Yes, of course the processor may fall off (just like eyeglasses) and may need to be left aside to continue playing. As with anyone who wants to protect themself during a rough sport—wear a helmet—if a person is hit in the head it can possibly dislodge the internal part of the CI, but this will not harm the person.

Airport metal detectors? Walking through will not harm the internal part of the cochlear implant or hurt the individual. Just to be on the safe side, remove the external speech processor and ask the airport personnel to not place it through the x-ray screener.

Water sports? Most CI’s are now water resistant. It does not mean that they are water proof . So getting them wet with a small amount of water is ok. It is not recommended to shower with the external part of the cochlear implant or swim, but if they get wet in the rain or have excessive sweating it should not be a problem. CI’s still can’t be submerged, so when swimming, surfing, bathing the CI user is Deaf.

Become an astronaut? No idea, we’re still waiting for the first Deaf astronaut!

New Technology… many new things are being invented today that includes a magnetic field so we have no idea how the CI will fare in different situations. Technology progresses really fast, there are plans for a completely internal CI, but that does not yet seem to be in the near future.

The same applies to my knees. I was worried, because I had screws in my knees that I might not be able to go into a MRI – but no, found out that my screws were made of a plastic compound. New things are invented everyday and it’s our job to check ourselves/people about whether if it is safe for us.

For more information, click here to go to Gallaudet University's Cochlear Implant site to read about CI's and the environment.

This blog is not a strict translation of the ASL vlog above.

5th Vlog: CI Users are Still Deaf

CI's are unusual – you remove them, you are Deaf. This is not comparable with hard of hearing people who are always hard of hearing, 24/7. They cannot stop being hard of hearing. CI’s are similar to people who wear hearing aids and glasses, when they take them off they hear less/see less.

Cochlear implant break and get lost. When a person does not have their cochlear implant on they can not hear. That person is DEAF again. That is why it is important for CI users to have a visual language, to have ASL. Research has shown that two languages are better than one for cognitive and linguistic development. That is why we should always encourage parents to expose the child to two languages – ASL and Spoken/Print English. Because when their CI breaks, when they lose their CI, or during swimming lessons, they will need some language to fall back on – that’s where ASL enters the picture.

Research is beginning to show that an infant learning ASL/sign language along with CI/spoken English pick up spoken English at a more rapid pace than those infants who are not taught sign language.

What about bilateral implants? Are they necessary? Yes. Imagine being hearing in just one ear, but not the other ear. Bilateral implants are like surround sound – with two implants you can finally hear everything around you, not mostly on one side. But each person is different and should be evaluated to make sure that two cochlear implants are needed. There are many questions now about getting two implants—will insurance pay for two?, should they be done at the same time? Should one be done first and then one later?

But again, people with CI are still DEAF. Again, it doesn’t have to be a choice between a CI or ASL, both can work together beautifully.

Click here to go to the conference proceedings of Cochlear Implants and Sign Language: Putting It All Together in 2002.

For a comprehensive discussion about the merits of ASL-based education for children with CI's click here to go to Gallaudet University's sign language & the cochlear implant site.

For copies of the research showing ASL + CI advances language development, contact: or

Yoshingaga-Itano, Christine, Menn, Lise. A Lexical Sign Language Bootstrap to Spoken English. University of Colorado, Boulder.

6th Vlog: Who is Our Enemy?

Who are our enemies? The CI companies? The doctors? The parents?
No, our biggest enemy is ignorance. We must educate everyone – I mean everyone – on the merits, benefits and successes of implanted bimodal (visual/auditory) bilingual (ASL/English) Deaf children. (In the vlog, I did not distinguish between the visual and auditory modes very well - reading and writing should be under the visual mode, along with ASL)

This means changing our attitudes when we see an implanted child. Remember, the child has no idea the political ramifications of getting a cochlear implant. The parents are also innocent and only want the best for their child. They have no idea what’s going on in the Deaf community about cochlear implants, and if they do have a slight idea, they’re under extreme pressure to decide what’s the best for the family. Time is running out. They have to hurry and decide...and the concept of a CI versus a bad experience with an angry deaf community member makes it very easy for them to decide to go with a CI, and possibly deny their child ASL as well.

And for us to make faces at them, talk behind their backs, exclude/refuse to talk to them only makes matters worse. Children and people with CI are still human and deaf, just like us.

We must make our deaf schools and programs CI friendly and embrace CI toddlers and children as our own or we will be advancing our very own cultural and linguistic genocide because almost every child born to hearing parents will be implanted. And the 5% of deaf children with deaf parents are not enough to sustain the Deaf community and language. We need to embrace the other 95% and to welcome them in our culture and language with no reservations. This means a long, hard look at our old prejudices and assumptions and updating them with new information and knowledge.

We need to look at the next generation of Deaf children. They will still be Deaf, however, some of these children will use a technology called a cochlear implant. So we will have a generation of children who are still deaf, they just happen to have the opportunity to have access to sound in a different way than other generations of deaf people. It is just that… a technology. And as we know no technology is perfect.

Most importantly, we don’t want to go back to the “oral failure” model—which means sending the deaf, implanted students to an oral program. And when/if they fail, then they are too old to learn language, and send them to learn “sign” at the deaf school after they are already delayed in language development. Use of a CI alone does not guarantee “oral success”. The best scenario is this: CI and ASL. This should be our main message for everyone out there.

Click here to read National Association for the Deaf (NAD)'s position paper on Cochlear Implants and the Deaf community, which discusses the importance of looking at the whole child.

Click here to watch a vlog by Dr. Laurene Simms, Dennis Berrigan and Francisca Rangel about the Deaf Community and Cochlear Implants

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not a word-for word translation of the ASL vlog above.