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.