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.



Anonymous said...

Have you been to the National Association of the Deaf Conference? This is a good place you to meet diverse deaf people who do not reject others based on the type of hearing loss or hearing device once chooses. Give us a try and see for yourself.

NAD is having their biennial conference in New Orleans this July 7 - 11. Come and see what we are all about!


Anonymous said...

K.L. - Well-said! Your daughter is more than welcome to the Deaf Community as my daughter and I have our cochlear implants. We enjoy hearing music and enivornment sounds. We sign ASL as well. Do the best for your daughter and so am I.

Deaf Parent of Deaf children

Karen Mayes said...

Very good posting. It is something that we forget... we all have varying different of deafnesses and have different backgrounds. Some have ASL and some don't. Visual and aural. Etc.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Passionately, powerfully stated. Your child is obviously a reflection of you and your husband: beautiful, vibrant, energetic, enthusiastic, and brilliant. What a tragedy it would be if people allowed their personal politics to get in the way of appreciating your daughter or taking joy in however a deaf child chooses to participate in his or her life.

Paotie said...

I beg to differ regarding the NAD.

It wasn't so long ago that the NAD outright declared cochlear implants to be a form of cultural genocide, and after a public backlash, the NAD reversed itself - ON PAPER.

If any organization across the land of ours ever had the potential to build bridges between various groups of hearing loss, it would have been the NAD. But, that has not happened because the NAD is mostly a weekend social function for a few elitists.

The NAD is a terrible organization.

Ya'know, I once supported the NAD.

"Go NAD" I said. And then my comment was deleted by the NAD.




Anonymous said...

I am a "D"eaf person. I'm a stone Deaf person.

I want to tell you that my "d"eaf son goes to an oral school because he has some residual hearing and I made sure that he got the training and made a good use of his hearing ability. I also sent him overseas for enriching his education for a year.

Anyone asks him if he has a hearing loss? He always answers "I am Deaf" in speaking.

I communicate him using ASL. He can talk three different languages.

Now, your words "Most D/deaf people have had some less than encouraging interactions with the hearing world.". Based on what information do you get ? Hard data?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your posting! I hope to meet you and your daughter someday! I am an ASL user who just got a CI. At the last NAD conference I was shocked to see the diversity of the people there- a lot more people wearing CIs than the conference before that.

I am encouraged by your posting because I have been to another Blog which has chosen to contribute to the split in the Deaf community rather than to bring all the wonderfully diverse people together in one place. I added my two cents to that blog and was pretty much attacked for offering what I thought was a balanced perspective on my end.

Thank you!

Kim said...

I love the way you write. Your open-mindedness and calm way of approaching problems is such an asset to this community of bloggers. The D/deaf community will be more powerful than ever once we're united behind the same cause.

It's important to applaud ALL our successes while simultaneously addressing the needs of ALL as well. Not every child can benefit from Cochlear Implants. Deafness isn't always caused by cochlear failure. Currently there's so much misinformation out there about CI's-- whether people don't know about them, or believe they offer perfect hearing.

I much prefer our focus be on access for all, no matter what our individual needs might be.

Karen said...

Awesome post-- I share the same sentiment.

I'm raising my deaf and hard of hearing kids to embrace the diversity-- after all, that's what makes this world such an interesting place.

Anonymous said...

I understand your sentiments and why you would not support NAD. I don't always agree with what NAD does...but that would be true for many other organizations. No one or nothing is ever perfect. We don't live in a perfect world...if we did then we'd not have anything to

Kidding aside, just because NAD brushed you off doesn't validate you not supporting them. NAD needs people like you to help them see the diversity and variety of people we have in our community. They need people like you to help them grow and make changes for the better. There are many things I don't personally agree (being hard of hearing myself...I don't think they make NAD attractive for folks like me BUT...I am also cultrally deaf coming from deaf family, etc) with their stance here and there but I won't just back down because of our differences. I need to be there to constantly make NAD aware that they need people like me and need to change their attitude. Besides, I have many friends there who think and feel like I do...NAD has got to "shape up" a bit.

So, you see, Paotie...NAD needs you, otherwise they'll just remain --- like the "old boys club" and we can't let that happen. We all need to get NAD to rise up to our needs whether you are deaf, deaf-blind, deaf with CI, hard of hearing, CI or not..etc, etc, etc.

We need NAD and NAD needs us.


K.L. said...

Thanks everyone for your support. It means a lot. I have never wanted everyone to agree, but to support each other. I truly believe that as long as we keep working toward that goal, things will get better.

Anonymous said...

by the way...NAD is not a weekend social function at all. We do get together at biennial conferences.

Like what K.L. said, we need to support each other and keep working towards that goal...things will get better! I could not agree more.
We NEED everyone to be involved. It is not just for Deaf/deaf only...NAD belongs to everyone with hearing loss. After all, we are fighting for the same needs (captions, ADA, and so on...).


Anonymous said...


At least, NAD is evolving over the past decade. Will you be evolved as well?


Jon said...

There seems to be two different groups.

One groups focus on language and education


the other group focus on auditory and speech/hearing

which of the two we should focus on?

What is happening to us? Who is doing the dividing?

Many Deaf people love music too but they need a language to interact at the same level as hearing people. But seems there is a "force" out there saying that to be able to hear is more important than to have a communication language at the same data flow as hearing verbally.

If we want to advocate ci, we should emphasize that it will not help education. It is ASL that we should advocate more if you are more interesting in education rather than just enjoy to hear music.

Candy said...

Jon, it does not have to be one or the other, It can be ALL of the above.

I think it is important for us all to respect the decision and the choices we've made or the parents have made.

Why? because one size does not fit all in the deaf world. People have varying degrees of hearing loss. Some benefit from ASL, others benefit with HA or C.I. and others benefit with different tools or methods. To each it's own. It's time for us to learn to respect the choices that others have chosen.

K.L. said...

You have a basic misunderstanding of what this blog is all about. We support BOTH the cochlear implant (with comprehension and listening skills) and ASL, so that all the bases are covered. However the child learns best is what we want for them.

Speech therapy is nothing like it used to be. It would be better to call it language therapy. The goal is LANGUAGE, not simply clear speech. There is no division here.

K.L. said...

One other point. If the child gets the implant early, they can easily gain the same basic level of verbal communication skills as hearing kids. How can you say that the implant will not help education when these kids are proving that they are at or above age level for language acquisition, when compared to their hearing peers? The implant absolutely supports better education.

Anonymous said...

K.L,Jon doesn't misunderstand what is your blog. I can disagree with your comment above.

Anonymous said... got your tongue?? Am I gonna see you in New Orleans dear?? Sure hope so!! ;)

K.L...agree with you 100% that we gotta use what is best for the child...however, I would say that good education comes from good quality teachers who are fluent in ASL (deaf and hearing teachers) in schools. Not that the implant would support better education....that's like saying without the implant the child would not have access to good education which is not the case. If the child is not implanted the child still has access to good education as long as child has ASL foundation to begin with which is why I emphasize teaching and using ASL from the first day of the deaf child's life.

Any chance of you going to NAD conference in New Orleans too??

Sharon (aka...Divided)

Kim said...

Do you believe people and organizations can change their minds?

Currently I think HLAA is better about supporting diverstiy within the deaf community, but they haven't been in the past. I knew people who were turned away from HLAA in the 80s because they were deaf and they signed. NOW HLAA actually holds basic ASL classes.

Cloggy said...

You're absolutely right. Children with CI and who know signlanguage will be an important bridge - as long as both sides allow fo it.
We can expect great things from them. In fact... they allready give it to us on a daily basis.

Jon.. you're wrong... Remember.... Getting good education with CI (speech/hearing) does not mean you cannot get good education with ASL... One does not rule out the other.. Imagine knowing both...

K.L. said...

I am not a NAD member (nor do I belong to AGBell or any other group, including CAN) so I won't be going to their conference. Maybe one day I will feel that I should join, but not right now.

The key to a good education is a good language base. If implanted early, a child can easily acquire a good spoken language base, as long as the child has also gotten quality speech and language therapy. If they are also exposed to sign language early, they can also easily get a good sign language base. There is nothing prohibiting them from being fluent in both. So to say that the CI does not support education is just plain wrong. If the child has gotten proper habilitation support, that child can easily flourish in a mainstream setting. But since there is no way to know ahead of time, how that child will learn best, it is good to give them every tool available, so they can have the highest chance of success. So that is why I support both the CI and ASL.

Anonymous said...

Sure hope that we will meet in the near future.

Perhaps my earlier message was not clear. I'm with to give both early language base (ASL and auditory it CI or hearing aid) so the child could benefit from both.
However, I meant to say that if the child does not benefit from auditory training then the child would benefit having his/her ASL language developed early on and be educated using ASL/English in a school that provides teachers who are fluent in ASL. I've seen and heard stories, even today, there are teachers who are not fluent in ASL therefore, the deaf child is not being exposed to the best possible education.

That's a whole other subject...I'll stop rambling on here.


Kim said...

K.L.--That makes so much sense. I've seen studies indicating that bilingaul children who know both ASL and English early on benefit equally to those who learn English and another language-- say. . . Chinese. It doesn't matter which languages are learned. The more, the better because learning more language stimulates language learning centers of the brain that then increase understanding and vocabulary in BOTH languages.

It is also well-known that bilingual children often are a little behind in language acquistiioin in preschool when they're learning two languages at once. However, they quickly catch up once they get to school, and surpass their one-language peers by second grade. So the benefits of learning ASL early absolutely offsets the small delay a young child might have in learning English.

I really don't know why anyone makes a fuss about it. There have **always** been bilingual children. Generally the more languages you learn at a young age, the more you benefit.

I would send links, but have little time today. In any case, I'm sure you're aware of the same information.

starrynight said...

K.L., thanks for bringing that up. I believe that the ASL Deaf community would accept your daughter if she uses ASL regardless whether she uses a CI. There are already a large number of students with CIs at Gallaudet Univ. and NTID where ASL is the main language.

Would young children with CIs be on the fence between deaf and hearing worlds in the future like many hard of hearing people are? Probably some of them would be fully integrated into the hearing community and others would participate in both deaf and hearing communities with ease. It would depend on their personalities, upbringings, methodologies, family backgrounds and where they live, too.

My child would be more likely to remain part of the Deaf community because of her deaf parents but may have an easier time to participate in the hearing community including our families if she succeeds in spoken language with her CI in the future. If she doesn’t succeed, she’d always use ASL as the cushion to fall back on and remain part of the Deaf community.

Maybe the Deaf community would evolve with new technologies including CIs with the new generation of deaf children in the future. They may begin to accept both oral method/spoken language and ASL since CIs give them capability to speak and hear well if they get appropriate training and receive CIs at a very young age. That would an ideal world for my child in the future!

heartie7 said...

I will be at NAD convention representing Cochlear-so for those who are going, come to our booth! NAD is already evolving-it is the second time in a row Cochlear has a booth at their convention. It is important that information is accessible to ASL users.

Paotie said...


I forgot about this article!

Kim, no. The NAD will not change and if they were about change, then they would NOT have acted stupid when a blogger on DeafRead tried to shove her political ideals down a young child's at a deaf school.

The NAD was more concerned about the lack of a JRNAD program.

That is the NAD for you.

Want to support that organization? You may as well support terrorism.

NAD sucks.

And Sharon, no, I do not go to conventions run by idiots but I will not hold it against you for going or even subscribing to the NAD's "membership drive."

For only $40.00 you can earn "protection" - kinda like the Mafia.

That's the NAD for you.