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.



Mom to Toes said...

I am an AVT Parent and I would never consider calling someone who chooses ASL "The Enemy".

How is this helping anybody?

Mom to Toes said...

OK, now that I re-read that, I see you are calling AVT itself "The Enemy", not those that choose it.

That makes more sense... but it is still a bit extreme. But that may just be me.

Carry on.

Anonymous said...

Can you show some video how does that work? ASL helps kids learn fast along any educated including speech!

K.L. said...

I will have to fess up that my "enemy" comment was partially toung in cheek, and partially to grab some attention in the title. I hope you'll allow for some indulgence here.

K.L. said...

We hope to put vlogs demonstrating this dual approach in future posts.

John Egbert said...

Sometime analogy explains better,

MAC and IBM Computer – Same? – Different?

Deaf and Hearing babies – Same? – Different?

This is my analogy about how Deaf and Hearing adults or children or babies are created differently just like a Mac or IBM. They, hearing and deaf people are the same in very way just like a Mac or IBM. But the only difference is the software program. The software disc that you put in the Mac or IBM computer got data information that the Mac or IBM understands what it written(embedded) in it and functions according how you communicate with the keyboard. The software disc could be Word processor program, accounting program, video game program, drawing program like Photoshop, etc.
Hearing and Deaf people are human bionic-computers. Before I go any further explaining more about what I will write on this post, you might ask this question, what is a bionic-computer?
Bionic-computer is a human being that its brain can compute to do things such as like calculating the coordination while walking or picking things up, etc. Your brain is always computing like a calculator doing the adding, subtracting, etc while controlling your balance, reaching for something, jumping or hopping over something, etc.
No one was born as a full functioning bionic-computer human being. Keep in mind that we all had to learn to crawl, walk, talk, sign, run, respond, think, etc since the day we were born. Our parents were the main educators, motivators, etc in the beginning of our lives. Then teachers, your peers, people, media, TV, etc became additional educators, motivators, etc. This process is the education of our bionic-computer body(mind) that goes on until the day we die.
One more thing that I want to say about the terminology of the two words;
Software and Hardware.
The computer that you are using right now while reading this post is call hardware.
The disc that you put in the computer contains data so you can watch movies or video game or Microsoft Word is call software.
The Human Bionic-Computer is the hardware of the human anatomy. This would include the brain, internal organs, and other human organ systems such as Cardiovascular, Endocrine, Immune, Muscular, nervous, Reproductive, Respiratory, Skeletal and Urinary systems.
Your bionic-computer has stored program properties and self- metaprogramming properties, with limits determinable and to be determined.
You might ask, what is metaprogramming?

Metaprogram is defined as a set of instructions, descriptions and means of control of sets of program.
How did we get the metaprogramming properties?
You got them since the day you were born, from your parents, teachers, etc. It is the software education that you have and it is stored in your brain.
Now, let’s go back a little about what I wrote above;
The bionic-computer has stored program properties and self- metaprogramming properties, with limits determinable and to be determined.
You might ask, what you mean by with limits determinable and to be determined.
It means that it depends on how you have been educated, how much data flow you have gotten or able to receive from your parents or teachers in early childhood, etc.
It could also means that it depends on if you are deaf or hearing. In this society now days, a deaf person will have a good chance to get into the phrase of with limits determinable and to be determined.
This is very, very important to keep this in mind as you read on in my post.
The title of this post is
MAC and IBM Computer – Same? – Different?
This is the same as if I had said,
Deaf and Hearing Babies – Same? – Different?
What is really the different between a Mac and IBM computer?
They both look alike, same hardware, functions the same. They both have low level, average level and high level performance.
Just like in the society, we have low level, average level and high level minded human beings. You might ask, why do we have three levels.
With the computers (Mac/IBM), it depends on the speed of calculating, the amount of ram memory and the software program.
With human being (bionic-computer), it depends on the early childhood of language foundation, how much you’ve learned the software program.
You might ask, what was our human software program?
Well, for a hearing baby, it was the data flow of informations that enter through the ears.
And for the deaf baby, it was the data flow of informations that enter through the eyes.
This means that the hearing baby and the deaf baby, both have different type of software input for eyes or ears.
The software makes our bionic-computer to function and the more data flow of informations that each receives through its eyes or ears, will categorize each of us accordingly as low level, average level or high level minded person.
Macintosh are the Deaf baby.
IBM are the Hearing baby.
Hearing and Deaf babies, both require different software to be able function for its highest potential capability to learn… the earlier, the better.
This is why Deaf babies and children must have bilingual education- ASL/English(reading and writing) to be able learn to achieve the level at its highest potential capability.
These Eye software input bilingual education program are for babies that don’t have the natural Ear software input capability.
Over the years, we, the deaf people, or should I say, the Mac computers have been using the IBM “ear” software indoctrinated by the so-call-experts ( i.e. AGBell ) thinking that we deaf (Mac) people could hear and speak 100% like hearing (IBM) people.

The Deaf babies have been deprived of having the use of appropriated software program to be able to function fully like hearing babies since 1880.

Parents of Deaf children need to grasp this simple concept.

John F. Egbert

Anonymous said...

Well, one thing that strict AVT proponents claim is that ASL will become a "crtuch" and "distract from aural development."

of course, for this to be true, one would have to totally mix ASL and AVT. I was raised on both approaches and what worked for me was that I knew I had "seperate" times. At home, my parents would use the AVT approach and at school I would use ASL in order to attain my education as I was learning how to hear.

Just a suggestion to eliminate any language confusion.

K.L. said...

Huh, I feel like I have just been Egberted. John, just for reference, if the blog comment is longer than the blog post, it might be considerate to put it on your own blog, and just put a link in the comments.

And all that to say that deaf kids deserve to know ASL. It didn't seem to have any actual connection to my blog whatsoever, since my blog was about the best way to go about teaching language to kids. By the way, that works for ASL and verbal English.

Since this blog is about supporting ASL and verbal English for implanted kids, you may want to restrict your comments in the future to those topics.

Anonymous said...

My CI kid loves playing one-on-one with both therapists and ASL teachers and keeps asking for more! It is a lot of fun. It is not like the traditional speech therapy that I used to have while growing up.

My kid's ASL skills are above average and is a little delayed in spoken lang. but may catch up in a matter of months.

It s important to use spoken English and ASL at separate times to avoid confusion. My kid speaks English at school and uses ASL at home.

CICDA member

raychelle said...

Good discussion :)

Language therapy is a bit too broad - is that for spoken, written English or ASL? Simply say Spoken English therapy? Just like ASL therapy? I don't know about the word "therapy", maybe we need just a new word altogether. Or simply say spoken English class just like ASL class.

I personally believe children's cognitive skills should be developed - over anything else, even speech. Cognitive skills such as inferencing, comparing and synthesizing can be expressed in any language, but when you don't have that skill - then you're basically a language robot - able to speak/sign/write but not much more.

And in the case of deaf children, they have 100% access to ASL, therefore, their cognitive skills can be developed to its fullest through ASL. The child is able to debate, analyze, question any topic in ASL. The value of cognitive skills should never be underestimated.

And to take *a lot* of time away from that to devote to fun and games in how to speak particular words puzzles me...

I personally know a researcher who has been studying a deaf, ASL-using family who implanted their two deaf children at ages of 3 and 5. The children are now in elementary school. The children attended a deaf school from birth and never received speech therapy. Their deaf parents do not speak at all. And the kids speak English fluently. The amazing part is they were able to pick up spoken English on their own through interaction with their neighbors, TV, community members and so on. Although the 5 year old struggled a bit (because of late implantation), the 3 year old, when interacting with hearing adults, they have absolutely no idea she is actually deaf and wears a CI.

So if deaf of deaf children pick up spoken English naturally (just like ASL), why devote so much time to speech? Why not devote time to developing cognitive skills that are transferable across languages? If you're able to reason, evaluate, synthesize in one language (e.g. ASL), those cognitive skills are transferable to other languages. Therefore, if your reasoning, evaluating, synthesizing is fully developed in a language you have 100% access to, then everything else, with support, should fall in place.

Anonymous said...

Most important, do not dumb down the language.

Good article as example; http://www.cuedspeech.org/sub/resources/The_Dumbing_Down_of_Language.asp

(It does not have to be cued english though)

Anonymous said...

My kid isn't receiving exactly speech therapy but mainly LISTENING therapy such as AVT instead and develops cognitive skills through both ASL and spoken English naturally. My kid is far ahead in ASL before receiving a CI and needs to learn to LISTEN (not speak) to new sounds before learning to speak naturally. Listening therapy involves developing a lot of cognitive skills, too. Deaf school teachers mainly teach my child all the cognitive skills using ASL, too.

However, I wanted my child to receive a little speech therapy to develop expressive spoken language skills as a bonus and my child is already a little ahead in speaking than most of hearing peers as a result. Our speech therapist encourages my child to speak more naturally through fun activities such as playing games and reading books. My child enjoys it and keeps asking for more activities.

Maybe other parents can explain that better than me as I'm kind of new to this. Hope that helps.

CICDA member

K.L. said...

You are on track, but the "games" played do teach cognitive skills. As an example, when my daughter was in the TC class, they required everyone to sign and speak everything. This won't work with ASL, but the point is, that they taught English, math, science, history etc... and the kids learned language while they were learning everything else.

What I posted, works for both ASL and spoken English. It is just a deliberate way to retrain yourself to focus more directly on your child, and to include him/her in everything you are doing.

Deaf parents will have the advantage in teaching ASL, and hearing parents will have the advantage in teaching spoken English, so both must make sure that the other language is included in the child's day.

Anonymous said...

The use of "THE ENEMY" in the title could be seen by many as inflammatory. I thought the goal of this blog was to try to celebrate the use of ASL AND Oral skills in deaf children. How can the use of inflammatory language do anything other than get people inflamed?

Also, each and every family who has a deaf child has to make choices based on what is best for their family. This might not include sign, or, if a family was isolated in a small town, a cochlear implant might also be excluded as a choice. Choices are based on what is available as well as what the family feels is the right fit. I have a very dear friend, she has two deaf children, one is completely deaf, signs and speaks (has an implant) the other child refused to sign, wanted nothing to do with it and is completely oral. Another friend, her child wanted nothing to do with sign. How do you force a child to sign when they are hell bent on speaking and using their residual hearing to the best of their ability?

My son has used ASL since he was in pre-school, and also has two cochlear implants. He is completely oral with oral people and can switch between ASL and PSE with people who sign. He likes to believe he is firmly planted in both worlds. While I think this is wonderful, for him, it is not the reality for many parents and their deaf children.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Rachelle comments.

CI users actually feel sorry for other Deaf people who are able to speak and listen like CI users do. Parents of Deaf children with CI said, “Cochlear implants allow my children to function very normally in a hearing world.”

I often see some CI users have disliked the way their implants fed “environmental noises” into their heads.

K.L. said...

Anon (I really wish people would put SOME sort of name to their posts),
I fully support the parent's decision on whichever methodology they choose. Each parent must work with their child and choose what works best for them. Not all kids will do best with this method, but not all kids will work best with AVT or TC either. However, if you start out with ASL and CI, the base is there, and if the child chooses not to continue with the sign, that is fine.

There is a huge hole in the options for methodology since there is no comprehensive nationwide program for ASL and English for the CI. We are trying to fill that hole and provide support for this method here with this blog.

Anonymous said...

(aren’t able to speak and listen)

D.D. said...

This is a big debate within everyone who is involved with a deaf child or Deaf people.

Deaf people feel that they have seen ENOUGH of these "oral failures" throughout our lives that we are really trying to make people understand that ASL is a language just like English is.

Also, there are MANY Deaf people who were "oral success" all throughout their childhood into teenagers. But then they found that ASL has been there the whole time and it makes lives easier. These people are trying to make people understand that ASL is a language just like English is.

At many Deaf programs where ASL is being practiced, there are programs for speech classes and all that. That gives the child two languages.

While AVT does not encourage (prohibits) ASL usage. Who is one that is being the one way?

Why can't everyone work together? Deaf people who wants Deaf child to use ASL are all for it but important thing is to use ASL. The "others" who wants only speech is the ones who don't want to work together.

K.L. said...

That is why we promote both English and ASL for implanted kids. However, in order to make the implant work, you need to train the brain to understand verbal English. What many of the Deaf Schools do in the way of speech therapy is not often enough. Also the therapy needs to start as soon as the child gets implanted, which is usually years before the child would be going to the school.

We are promoting the use of both verbal English and ASL as soon as the baby is identified as deaf, and to continue that after the child gets implanted. That way the child won't slip through cracks. They would be supported whether they prefer oral or sign.

raychelle said...

my experience with speech therapy (or language therapy or whatever you'd like to call it) consists of mostly "parroting" techniques. therapist speaks a word, the child speaks the same word. this parroting technique applies to computer programs that speaks or is activated by correct pronunciations of words the child speaks. this definitely has nothing to do with developing the child's cognitive skills and only reminds me of the prescriptive language teaching philosophy where nouns, verbs, adjectives and pronouns would be emphasized to no end (and I still can't figure out what's a noun and what's an adjective). both approaches give very little benefit for the child's cognitive skills. but i agree with you - reading books to the child with wh-questions is definitely a cognitively challenging activity.

that's why i'm for teaching approaches that put heavy emphasis on meaningful dialogue/interaction within the classroom, via book reading or other activities in both languages.

in the case of a deaf child who wants to spend some time learning via the spoken English mode, s/he should be able to participate using spoken English in a classroom setting with peers - the emphasis should be not learning how to speak English - but instead learning about academic content through spoken English.

the huge issue for me personally here is deciding how much of the school week should be devoted to spoken English classes. and this is a huge issue for deaf schools, administrators, teachers, and parents as well.

K.L. said...

Here is an example. The therapist shows the child a picture, and asks the child to describe it. When the child gets stuck on an idea they can't provide words for, the therapist helps expand the vocabulary and pronounciation for what the child is trying to say. Tehy then continue, with the therapist asking questions about the picture, or what the person in the picture might be thinking or might want to do. You can see how they work on cognitive development while they also work on language and pronounciation.

This is not language without meaning.

As to how much time per week, I think it should be daily. The child will need to spend time daily on both ASL and English. How much time daily, I don't have a clue.

raychelle said...


language with meaning is not the same as cognitively challenging. when i say cognitively challenging i mean:

-language that replicates some of the demands of literacy
-understandings beyond the here and now (instead of concrete/present objects/pictures, make use of abstract concepts)
-giving opportunities for the child to make logical connections between objects, events, concepts or conclusions (e.g. cause and effect)
-challenging the child to think rather than require them to recall/repeat
-extended conversations about a topic (instead of IRE - therapist inquires, student responds, therapist evaluates... which is typical of speech therapy sessions)

some of the things you said may be cognitively challenging such as asking the child what the person in the picture may be thinking, of course it would depend on the picture and how much information it has (too much means too easy, thus not cognitively challenging). and this easily turns into a IRE sequence where the therapist asks the child what s/he thinks the person in the picture is thinking and the child responds, the person in the picture wants an ice cream, and the therapist says, "good". instead of asking "why?". this is a problem among many teachers as well as therapists.

K.L. said...

I know in our therapy sessions, the therapist regularly sent home age appropriate books for my daughter to read. She then had to explain what was happening, chapter by chapter. It required her to really understand what she read. It was challenging, but fun. The push was always to get the child thinking and developing language, not just speech. (I see the difference as understanding the concept not just repeating words without meaning).

When parents are at home and they are having their young child help with dishes, they can talk about the size of the plates, the colors, where they go, why the big dishes go here and the little dishes go there, etc. They can get their child thinking about size and shape and how things fit, etc... which all helps with cognitive development. If Mom or Dad then askes questions, then the child is now thinking about relationships and developing responses. Again, cognitive development. A good therapy program will develop good cognitive thought processes, not just clear speech.

raychelle said...


thanks for elaborating the book example - your daughter seems to have an excellent spoken English therapist. we must have high expectations of our spoken English therapists and of what occurs during the sessions, just like we have for our children's teachers as well as ourselves as parents and relatives of deaf children. down with IRE! :)

AL said...

We all must remember that speech therapy for deaf children with or without hearing aids are nothing like speech therapy for deaf children with CIs. This is due to the fact that CIs allow deaf children to hear much more than if they were wearing hearing aids or nothing at all.

Basically the old model of repetition, focusing on sounds and words over again and again for years with limited progress do not apply to deaf children with CIs. They are able to progress far beyond the basics of speech therapy.

This is a common misconception that I've often encountered in the deaf community- many of them do not realize how much access deaf children with CIs have to spoken language. They often think that the benefits of Cis are similar to hearing aids, which is not the case. The concept and practice of speech therapy many of us in the deaf community experienced while growing up is nothing like the speech therapy that deaf children with CIs have today.
AL, a CICDA member

kw said...

K.L.-- I understand what you mean by the "therapy." Kids learn best while playing. The "therapy" is actually the way ALL children learn any kind of language. Parents talk to them, child responds. Telling stories, discussing size and colors of plates, playing board games, talking during dinner, cooking together, singing, fingerplays, jump ropes rhymes, reading and talking about stories-- all of that teaches language as well as other concepts.

When you said you needed to relearn how to talk to your Deaf child-- I GOT that! Most hearing people don't look at each other while talking. So you needed to learn to focus on your daughter.

This is making so much sense to me and I really appreciate your blogging about it. I completely agree about bilingualism. The more languages a child learns at a young age the more language avenues are opened up. Makes them SMART. And I bet your daughter is a smart cookie! :-)

raychelle said...


thanks for sharing the difference between speech therapy for hearing aid users and for cochlear implant users - maybe blog about this for ASLCI later down the road? this is important, i bet a lot of people don't realize the difference (like me).


one of the most interesting things i've learned over the years in my course work was that we teach the way we were taught.

we internalize how we were taught from k-12, and under stress, we subconsciously refer to our experiences and teach the same way we were taught. this is a very hard habit to break -

therefore, since our generation taught us using IRE (inquiry, response, evaluation). we have this habit of teaching using IRE with our students without realizing it. i am sure the same goes for spoken English therapists. they grew up in the same generation we did.

it is up to us to be vigilant and make sure we as parents, teachers, therapists always ask "why" instead of "good" in response to our children's answers.

heartie7 said...

I have so many thoughts based on the blog and comments..

It seems that the resources for AVT and ASL are increasingly changing and becoming readily available (with more and more research proving that ASL does not interrupt the development of spoken english)-I believe the problem is the partisan image that AVT has exerted upon itself-dictating that sign language discourages speech development. How can we change this? Change the way the professionals are trained, teach them flexibility in how language can be taught and set up interdisciplinary teams/programs. Of course, it is easier said than done. The division between different language beliefs is creating an unnecessary stress on the families.

I agree with Raychelle regarding the issue of how much time should be devoted to speech development. Professionals are literally pulling their hair out over how to use the time to teach language. "Every minute you don't learn to listen and speak is a waste" approach is a bit extreme and far-fetched and "besides speech therapy, there's not enough auditory stimulation in a deaf classroom" is the common beating by parents who also support ASL-a valid argument? A school's responsibility? Or the parents' responsibility? How much auditory stimulation and speech therapy is good enough without deviating them from their education? I know this constant battle is hurting the deaf schools-I wonder how they are addressing this? How can deaf schools support the parents while preserving the education? How much should the parents be doing outside of school?

There is only one school I can think of that provides an "idealistic" environment for a child who uses CI as well as ASL is Miles school in Tucson, AZ. They co-enroll deaf and hearing students, and for every hearing teacher in a classroom, there is a deaf teacher (with an interpreter). This way, the deaf children have access to both spoken english and ASL naturally (through teachers and peers) and with no "pull-outs" unless necessary. This is pretty much a win-win situation. Are there other schools you know of that parallels this model?

I am one of those folks who were raised orally then learned ASL later. I often wonder how my life would turn out if I learned sign language earlier despite the fact that I'm often praised for the ability to switch between ASL and written/spoken english. I give my parents credit for raising me orally right, providing that I had a good speech therapist and all, but if only the resources and more support were available, I believe early access to sign language would have sped up my language processing exponentially and given me the identity I so ever needed. I do not want to see the future generation to have to go through this realization later in life.

K.L. said...

Great comment. There are actually two issues that I see. Therapy for younger kids, and therapy for older kids.

For younger kids, my gut instinct is that they need as close to equal time for both ASL and verbal language. That won't happen in school since they are not yet in school. So the parents will have to see to the balance. How they get the balance is the question.

For older kids who are in school, what you described in that Arizona classroom sounds ideal. More schools need to commit to emulating that program.

Ideally, kids would be implanted early enough that their language foundation would be well set in both English and ASL prior to going to school. So if they had an ASL interpreter and a spoken language teacher, they would get good exposure to both. This puts the pressure on families however, to find a good early intervention program that can provide them with the support they need. Does anyone know of a good birth-to-three program that supports ASL and spoken English?

raychelle said...


"So if they had an ASL interpreter and a spoken language teacher, they would get good exposure to both."

Hmm, I think what heartie7 meant was there's a hearing teacher who speaks English (and knows ASL?), and a deaf teacher who speaks ASL (and is fluent in written English), and an interpreter there to interpret whatever language into the other (ASL or English) for those who may not understand? (Although I believe the students in that type of class should be fluent in both ASL and English regardless of hearing... it's always good to be bilingual, trilingual even!). I'm guessing heartie7 meant the interpreter is there as listening 'support' for spoken English - ASL translations for Deaf children with CI who might miss some spoken English in class.

Because we all know ASL-spoken English interpreters are not the same thing as a native, Deaf, ASL speaking role model for Deaf children. We must never remove Deaf native ASL speaking role models from the classroom.

And that's a good question about 0-3 programs... hope someone knows of one!

K.L. said...

I get what you are saying. I should have been more clear. Yes, what Heartie7 described is best. I was thinking about kids who needed to be in a mainstream setting. Having a solid bilingual language base would allow for more flexibility in the educational setting. Not all kids are able to attend Deaf schools, and not all parents want to send their kids away for an education. If the child is fluent in both, then they don't need as much intense language therapy when they get older. It is far easier to keep a kid at grade level than to have to catch them up to grade level.

raychelle said...


interesting, because an ideal academic setting, to me, would be to give deaf children 100% access to languages -

which would obviously be ASL and print English for visual students, regardless of their hearing (deaf, hard of hearing, ci, hearing). this would be "a solid bilingual base" as you say...

...along with spoken English support.

the school would be a primarily ASL/print English bilingual school with ASL/print English Deaf bilingual teachers and roaming/stationary spoken English teachers (they can be hearing, hard of hearing, wear a CI or hearing aid).

remember, we cannot just have a "solid bilingual base" by the age of 5, then just focus on one language.

this is because conversational English (in spoken and print form) and conversational ASL is vastly different from academic English (in spoken and print form) and academic ASL. this is why we must have constant, lifelong, k-12 training in the academic discourse of ASL and print/spoken English.

that's my ideal dream school :)

also, just a FYI...when you say bilingual, you need to be specific what you mean by bilingualism. because, to me, in my experience (and most other deaf people), bilingualism in educational settings means ASL and print English.

K.L. said...

For me, when I think of being bilingual, with the CI would be fluent in ASL and spoken English. The thing is, with the implant, you need to be willing to provide verbal therapy of some sort every day. What you describe would not provide the implanted child enough verbal support. For the brain to make sense of the sound, you need to provide regular verbal practice.

I can guarantee that if a child is implanted by 18 months, and if they get the right support, they can easily be fluent in both verbal English and ASL by age 5. That is of course age appropriate. By that point, it will be fairly clear if they are primarily oral, or primarily ASL. By giving them a dual base, they can choose for themselves, where they feel most comfortable.

The support still needs to continue, but it can be tailored to the child's learning style.

heartie7 said...

K.L. and Raychelle-

I have not observed the classroom at Miles yet, but from my understanding, there is an interpreter there to translate the deaf teacher for the hearing peers and translate the hearing teacher for the deaf peers. So yeah, Raychelle, you read me right. I don't know if the hearing teachers know ASL but I assume they do since they're around ASL all the time! This is a nice setting because the deaf students have the opportunity to interact with their hearing peers (through signing and talking), who also have the advantage of learning how to interact with the deaf early on! So it kills many birds with one stone. I've already met the hearing graduates from that school, and they're amazingly influent in both english and ASL.

The way I see bilingualism is that constitutes of ASL and English, period. Modes of English would be written and spoken, both conversational and academic. Vice versa for ASL.

I agree with K.L. that if there is the right support for bilingualism, then no intensive language therapy or play "catch-ups" would be necessary.

raychelle said...


i'm amazed you didn't mention print English earlier, maybe that was an oversight.... many linguists believe that spoken and print English are almost like 2 separate languages in terms of phonology, semantics and structure.

that is why there are many illiterate English speakers in USA - you have to be TAUGHT to read and write (it's not naturally acquired). i'm sure you already know this.

anyway - why does there have to be a decision by the age of 5 if a child is primarily visual or auditory? why can't the child have best of both worlds - ASL and print/spoken English?

and we all already know this... a CI child will always be deaf - there will be times where their CI breaks or situations where their CI does not work well, if raised in primarily an auditory environment, the CI child will not have much to fall back on.

here's an example: a good friend of mine speaks Spanish and English. she lived in mexico with her family, then moved to texas, and still speaks Spanish. her family speaks Spanish. she is a native Spanish speaker. She learned English in school, graduated from college in Texas, then got her MA and her PhD from a university in Washington, DC. Then there was a conference in Mexico on bilingual deaf education and she was asked to speak at that conference in Spanish. She couldn't. Because she had no idea how to speak academic Spanish. She was educated monolingually in English only after about 1st grade. She still speaks fluent conversational Spanish today, but she struggles with academic Spanish.

It is incomprehensible to me to intentionally limit/determine the primary language for a child. more languages are always better, and research in bilingualism and cognitive development supports this.

Anonymous said...

When you are talking about bilingualism, you are talking about fluency in two languages. A hearing parent learning ASL along with their deaf child will never be able to provide the fluency needed for a child to properly acquire ASL. An ideal model would be for the parent to model spoken English (or Spanish or Hindu, depending on the language the parent is most fluent in) and for the child to receive ASL instruction from adults who are native/fluent users of ASL. Unfortunately, this is not always available.


heartie7 said...

But what if the hearing parent is already a Coda? A hearing parent who has rolled up his/her sleeves to learn sign language, but still not an appropriate model as you say, OM? Who are the approrpriate models from 0-5? Somehow the parents need to be involved in the language development-not depend on a fluent signer to do all the work. In order for bilingualism to work, can the parents and child learn together in the beginning or do the parents have to meet a certain level of fluency before exposing their child ASL?

K.L. said...

You misunderstand me. I never said to stop one form of communication at age 5. I just said that if a full base is achieved, the child will have naturally formed a preference.

In an ideal world, one parent would be hearing, and one parent would be deaf, and fluent in ASL. That way, both parents can provide the necessary environment for their child. Yes, it is important for the bilingual child to be able to both speak and read English, and to fluently sign ASL. That is what I consider true bilingualism.

In reality, most of the time you either get two deaf parents or you get two hearing parents. And for the child to be fluent in both English and ASL, they need to be around adults who are fluent in that language. So it is up to the parents to provide one-on-one time for their child with someone who is fluent in whatever language the parent is not fluent in. For hearing parents, it is important to learn ASL, but they also need to expose their child to fluent ASL signers. For deaf parents, they may want to enroll their child in a hearing preschool for a couple of hours a day, or have a hearing friend or family member come by every day.

It is not as important for the parent to be fluent in both languages as it is for them to make sure their child is provided good language models. As long as the child's needs are getting met, I'm not one to beat up the parents for not providing everything themselves.

Anonymous said...


I copied from ASL Teacher’ comment in the title blogs- eat42f.com- Jeff Daniel and Marlee Matlin and then I put pasted this information.

“But to insist that CIs are necessary to develop successful language (i.e. - English) skills is a fallacy pure and simple. Yes, I grew up orally, but I credit my English skills to one thing and one thing only - a read a LOT. In my lifetime I have read THOUSANDS of books. I give these books full credit for the development of my English skills. I am currently an ASL teacher and I have classrooms full of hearing students (absolutely nothing wrong with their ears) who, quite frankly, suck when it comes to the English language. I have children of my own in elementary and middle school who's English skills are way better than many of my high school students. Why? Because my children READ. So, toss the "CI = better language skills" argument out the window. The truth is that it doesn't matter if you are deaf or hearing, if you want better language skills you MUST read.”

“I actually know a number of parents who are incapable of communicating with their child because they won't learn sign language. I know one girl in particular who has a CI and her speech is completely unintelligible and she still uses an interpreter because she is unable to get sufficient information from her CI to understand her teachers. Yet her parents still insist that she continue to use the CI and they will not learn to sign. But, back to deaf children without CIs - they do so poorly because most parents simply aren't involved as much as they should be.”

K.L. said...

First off, this is a blog specifically for kids who have been implanted or are considering implants. I fully agree that reading is a VERY important part of learning written English. But it will not help with speech. In order to speak clearly, you need to have some amount of hearing. For those with implants, their hearing aids were not sufficient to provide adequate hearing.

Parents are a critical part of the success of the child. For the child to learn both ASL and verbal English, as well as written English, the parents must dedicate themselves to providing the platform for learning all of the above. It is asking a lot, and if the parent cannot do it all themselves, they will need outside help. It is better for them to ask for that help than to drop one form of communication altogether just because it is overwhelming them.

If a child does not have adequate hearing from hearing aids, the longer the parent waits to implant them, the less successful the implant will be. That is the parents failure, not the child's.

What we are promoting here, is for parents to teach both ASL and Englisn (both written and verbal) to their implanted child. This blog is assuming that the parents have already gotten implants or will be getting implants for their child. Hense the title "The ASL Cochlear Implant Community"

FYI, if hearing aids are adequate to provide useable sound across the entire pitch range, the child can easily be bilingual too, without getting implants.

starrynight said...

Wow, great discussion!

Strong involvements of parents are the key to their children's success, whether they are hearing or deaf. I also agree that reading is very important for developing English skills for everyone, deaf or hearing.

However, CI also gives a deaf child an opportunity to hear and speak English and it also makes it easier for them to interact with hearing people more independently such as colleagues, neighbors, doctors, etc. in the society without relying on interpreters all the time. It may also help them build a stronger relationship with the hearing community especially their own family.

I ve grown up relying on interpreters almost all my life at public schools and workplaces. It hasn't been easy for me to interact with my hearing colleagues as a professional at my work and I use e-mails or instant messengers frequently to communicate with them but it s not the same as face to face communication that often occurs between hearing people. I use ASL interpreters for group meetings and socializing at the events at work. Using an interpreter at a social event sometimes makes it awkward for hearing people to talk to me and it s not the same as socializing with ASL Deaf people. Also, I come from a large hearing family and often miss conversations at our dinner table with my family. So, I sometimes feel left out in my own family gatherings. Those are the reasons why I thought of giving my child an opportunity to hear and speak with a CI and hope that will make her life easier in the society but if that doesn't work out, she could always use ASL and continue to participate in the Deaf community. It won't hurt to try something new and if it doesn't work out, then do something else.

Anyway, back to the subject on bilingualism in English and ASL. My CODA naturally picks up spoken English at school and uses ASL with us at home. So, why can't my deaf child do the same with a CI? My CI kid has been doing very well at regular school except for the noisy background that sometimes makes it difficult for her to hear but her teachers have been using an FM and that has been extremely helpful. She also receives weekly home visits from a speech therapist and teachers for the deaf there. To my surprise, my child has been very happy and interacting well with her hearing peers but it may change when she gets older. Got to wait and see!

Starrynight, a CICDA member

K.L. said...

Congratulations on your daughter's success with both languages. As a hearing parent, I've seen that learning both languages works for my daughter, so I know it can work for Deaf parents. No matter what, the implant will make it easier for her.

raychelle said...

k.l. thanks for taking the time to clarify your stance on "primarily auditory/visual", etc.

hey all, here's my last two cents then i'm outta here :)

the way i see it - if the home environment is lacking in spoken English-- which is the case for many CICDA members-- the school environment still needs to be primarily ASL to assist with identity/cultural development, participation in school events, sports, organizations.. however i completely understand the parents' concern about having more spoken English opportunities at school, and their concerns should be addressed immediately and individualized among the CICDA children.

===this population represents maybe .01% of all implanted deaf children in the usa

if the home environment is lacking in ASL (and academic ASL), which means usually, the parents are fluent/native in spoken English (and academic/written English)... therefore the school environment needs to be primarily ASL to assist with ASL acquisition, identity/cultural development, participation in school events, sports, organizations (along with roaming/stationary spoken English teachers).

===this population represents probably .99% of implanted deaf children in the usa....

of course, all students - deaf or hearing- should have frequent opportunities to volunteer, do internship, travel, go on field trips.

*two coins clinking on the floor* have a good weekend :)

Anonymous said...

I said "a hearing parent learning alongside their deaf child", obviously a CODA, if their parents were fluent in sign, would also be fluent. No question. BUT, 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents with limited or no experience of deafness, be that language or culture.

I am not saying that a parent should abdicate their role as parent to a deaf child, I am just saying that a deaf child learning ASL from an adult who is only learning it with them, will not acquire fluent language from that parent.

In order for the child to learn any language fluently from their parent/s, the parents must have a higher level of language than the child. This is why parents of deaf children who are not native English users are now being encouraged to use their native language with their child, so that L1 (the child's first language) is acquired fluently and easily.


Candice said...

My daughter looks forward to her speech classes and when they increased from 2 to 3 times a week, I thought she was going to wet her pants with joy. We use SEE because that is what is used at her school and our church, but she has ASL interpreters from time to time. We will learn ASL eventually, but for now we are just trying to give her language basics with SEE.

sara said...

This is an older blog post, but I thought I'd add my 2 cents. The "Signing Smart" program that teaches sign language to hearing babies focuses on teaching parents exactly what you're talking about, creating meaningful interactions to enhance language development. They use ASL signs, but don't teach ASL grammar (at least not in the very young babies).

Personally, I think everyone should be raised bilingually!