Monday, September 20, 2010

Does It Have To Be Either/Or?

If there is one thing that confuses me about Deaf Culture, it is the seemingly insurmountable wall between ASL Deaf and oral deaf. I know absolutely that there are people out there who happily live in both spaces. They sign, they talk, they live their lives. But there also seems to be this attitude that proclaims "If you were oral and are part of the ASL Deaf Culture, then being oral deaf must have failed for you." People seem to question the success of implants if they see a Deaf person with a CI who is signing and an active member of the Deaf Community. Is there no room for someone who wants a Deaf Identity, who also enjoys the use of their implant?

My daughter is developing her Deaf Identity. She knows she is deaf, and would not change that. She likes being around other D/deaf people. She doesn't care if they are CI recipients, have hearing aids, or if they are ASL Deaf. She feels comfortable being around other D/deaf people. I would not change that for anything. I think it is important for her to have a good self image, and feel good about who she is. But she also loves her implants. She used to cry if we tried to take them off for naps or at bed time. She has an extensive CD collection, and loves music. She talks naturally and easily to her hearing friends. She even talks in her sleep.

I would not be surprised if she chooses to go to Gally for college. If her dream is to become an interpreter, that would be the best choice for her. I see in her, the ability to accept all types of deafness in other people, without judgement or prejudice. But I cannot say the same thing in return. If you see a deaf person with a CI using ASL, do you think "Their choice, their life, fine with me." or do you think "The CI must not work if they have to sign."

Some Deaf have said that they would welcome CI deaf into the Deaf Community if they respect and use ASL, even if they continue to use their implants. But the moment they show up, the response seems to be, "See, they need ASL. The implant must not work because here they are." I see it differently. I see that the Deaf Community is doing something right if CI deaf feel comfortable enough to want to participate in the Deaf Community even if they can easily speak and hear with their implants. What do you think? Please keep the comments respectful, or I will use my delete option. This is a moderated site.


Anonymous said...

I know you are right, because I'm one of the people you describe here. Raised oral, learned ASL later, fell in love with the Deaf community and consider it my home. But I still talk and mingle with some hearing people, have a CI, and have the best of both worlds. what's so wrong with that? because I have a CI, it doesn't follow that there is anything wrong with being deaf. I don't consider myself superior to someone who hears nothing. CI off or CI on, I'm still the same deaf person. I'm lucky that most of my Deaf friends accept me as I am and don't care that I have a CI.

Li-Li's Mom said...

I feel the same way. I'm convinced that people think my daughter is what they call a "CI failure" (online only: you wouldn't think so in person :) ) just because she's at a bi-bi school for the deaf. No one thinks that those who choose aural/oral routes are ASL failures, do they?

I really hate when people talk about "dumping" kids at deaf schools -- ugh. We love our school, and my daughter thrives there as a deaf child with access to sound using her CI. My daughter doesn't have to sign nor does she have to speak: we choose both.

But honestly, in real life, I've only once been given the cold shoulder by a Deaf family (actually, hearing parents of an ASL deaf child who were so wonderful as we stood in front of a grocery store signing -- their child was at MSD, but were horrified when I shifted to speaking for just a moment (my daughter had turned the other way, and couldn't see me signing to her) and my daughter responded without batting an eye -- they hadn't seen her CIs initially. They shut down so quickly and walked away that I thought I'd said something offensive, and then realized it was just that I'd said something.

But online -- wow -- and CI is seen by s many as a repudiation of ASL -- and it's NOT!

Karen Putz said...

It definitely does not have to be either/or. It all comes down to attitude. I personally seek out those who have open attitudes and are willing to see the whole person instead just a part of a person. Plenty of those kinds of folks out there! :)

Anonymous said...

Born hearing
Became profoundly deaf at age 7
Raised orally
Learned ASL in High School
Taught Interpreter Training Programs
Got a CI at age 45
Now am a CDI.

It is all good, and your daughter can do it, too!


Anonymous said...

The problem is the educators and professionals who tell the parents the myth that if they teach their deaf child sign language, the child will become "lazy" and not learn how to hear and speak with a cochlear implant. Research out there shows the opposite is true.

If people would put aside all those myths and fears about sign language and teach it to all deaf children, then maybe the community wouldn't be so divided and every child would have a positive identity.

The One and Only Ridor said...

Actually, I don't mind that my friends speak and uses CIs. I'm Deaf from Deaf families. My family often allowed these deaf kids that does not sign to stay overnight at my folks' place when I was kids mainly because they were starved for communication at ease.

The insurmountable wall you just described was created not by Deaf community, it was done by these pro-oral folks.

So for you to spin it around and accuse us of doing like that, please do not do that.

Place your accusations on someone else.


marla said...

I like your blog post because it was presented without anger. You stated the issue clearly, and I like it. I am a human being and that said, I try to keep my biases out of my treatment of other people.

I think it works both ways. Let me tell you my experiences

As an ASL speaker who do not use voice, I encounter this kind of conversation very often, especially when discussing ASL politically. It would go:

"I support ASL as the language of choice for deaf children to attain English literacy."

Other people -- very often -- will respond, "But, Marla, speech is important."

I would then think to myself, "where in that first statement did I say "speech is not important." I really did not say anything to this effect.


we know it is about ASL vs speech.

And when we try to change this perspective, we don't get very much support from Deaf ASL-speaker CI-user.

To me, I get the impression that "it is important to HEAR," never mind that many deaf children cannot read or write English.

It is one thing to get CI because you want to hear; another because you believe it is one way to attain English literacy.

I know that you write from your experiences, and me from mine. As long as you ask to be understood, I respectfully ask for the same.

Thank you for writing about this issue. It is one way to work through those concerns.

Anonymous said...

The only time I say "They need ASL" if I find out if they are falling behind in school.

I think the ones who say "see she need ASL" are the ones who remember growing up in oral school.

K.L. said...

I agree that there is not nearly enough respect for ASL within the hearing establishment. I have no answers on how to fix this problem. I wish I did.

I know only that what we are doing seems to be working for our daughter. She will have as much access as we can give her to both hearing/verbal speech and ASL. She will choose for herself where she feels she fits in best.

Karen Mayes said...

That's a good blog.

I have a son with CI and he attends a Deaf school... and no, he's not seen as a CI failure. Having the CI does not mean one must be mainstreamed.

Dianrez said...

Li-Li's mom, those people that shut down on you when you spoke to your implanted daughter are probably grappling with feelings of guilt or inadequacy because their child doesn't do the same. It doesn't have to do with you or your decision to include the CI.

As for the CI being accepted in the Deaf community, it's already happening. The last two clubs for the deaf I attended had a mix people wearing all sorts of devices or not, communication styles, and yes, attitudes, but these did not enter into the social atmosphere.

In the future the CI will not matter any more than a hearing aid does. Nor will it matter whether a person can use a phone or can only distinguish noises in the immediate environment.

The only thing that matters is a love of the Deaf Community, a healthy attitude re. hearing levels, and a love of ASL.

MM said...

Everyone is the same, I've no real time or patience for those who draw lines in the sand. It's more important to be yourself and not someone else's idea of what you should be. Once you conform to others there is no you any more. I could not socialise with or befriend people that moan about CI's or whatever, if more of us were like that we would kill off these silly divisive issues. If no-one listens to them, and marginalises them, then they will give it up and find out how discrimination really hurts, perhaps stop them using deaf culture as a weapon too.

Bob said...

You've hit the nail on the head with this one! This is long how I've felt. I do fantastic with my CIs, but if I want to become more involved in the community people wonder--does your CI not work?

I might be a CI-failure in those peoples' eyes, but to me learning ASL means I want to be able to connect with another culture. It's learning a new language! Do we learn Spanish because English has failed us? No! We learn it to connect with those who speak the language!

Great write up!

Anonymous said...

Great blog! I am a Deaf parent of a boy with bilateral CIs. I gave him an opportunity to take advantage of CI for developing spoken English while using ASL. He has both choices. So he could interact with hearing people without using an interpreter while he is part of the Deaf community. CI does help deaf people relate better to the hearing community. My son is very happy in both deaf and hearing communities and doesn't have to choose between them!

Anonymous said...

If you getting comments from the internet than real life, I wonder these people are the "stuck between world" oral-only deaf people. that is their first language is not ASL and they are still not fluent in Listening and speaking/English. I can imagine them being on the computer more often because of communication barrier than deaf community themselves. They had hearing aids growing up and people thought they were fine. They no longer want people to believe it is just fine without accessible communication.

MKChaikof said...

I would rephrase this question to ask why there has to be only one supposedly acceptable choice, whether that choice is spoken language only, sign only or both. We have opted not to sign and not to be a part of the deaf culture. My girls are very happy with that choice. They do not have a "deaf identity." Rather, they have an identity that includes being deaf but is not defined by being deaf. It's just a part of who they are, which to me is as it should be. It shouldn't be the focal point of their lives. So, for us it has been either/or.

The issue is not the choice of one or the other or both but the right of parents and others to make that choice while not receiving unwanted and unasked for criticism and biased information. Doing both was not the choice we made, and that should be okay to all. My younger daughter is in a new high school that happens to house the deaf ed high school program for our metro area. During the first week, she was bombarded by teachers asking her if she wanted to learn sign. She politely replied, "No thank you. I prefer to speak." However, yesterday a deaf student badgered for quite awhile, telling her she needed to learn sign. This is no more okay than my daughter telling this girl that she has to stop signing and only speak.

Tara said...

I actually have a 6 year old daughter who has an implant and have been told since she got it she don't need the sign language because she won't learn to use her device if I do this. Well I went against everything that they had said and she dont use it as much but there are so many things that deaf people dont understand like simple things like saying you drive me up a wall to a deaf person some might think you literally drive a car up the wall so i believe that ASL and CI are just fine. I also have others who think that just beacuse she hears with the implant on she isnt part of the deaf community well guess what when she takes it off she is profoundly deaf.

Anonymous said...

Yeah..I've seen it all. I have a CI and two kids with CIs, and have many Deaf friends who choose not to have CIs. Unfortunately some people out there are the biggest hypocrites. Especially when it comes to hearing aids- HAs are NO different than CI's in terms of basic function. Deaf people fully accept Deaf people who use HA's but not those with CIs? I just choose not to lose sleep over those people's viewpoints.

Anonymous said...

Did you just say that some people are hypocrites based on how hearing aids and cochlear implants are different but to you they are the same? That's where you are deadly wrong. Deaf community were fine with hearing aids because they do not destroy any residual hearings like cochlear implants does.

Many deaf people are troubled with children who has cochlear implants because they are told that their they "need" it to survive in hearing world by interacting with the others, having a higher chance to get a job, and be "happier". Basically, they are feeling that if they do not get cochlear implant then they are not to get any of those benefits that I just mentioned. This is the main reason why many deaf people decide to get cochlear implant for themselves.

So, every time you see or hear people with a cochlear implant going to a deaf school or socializing with the deaf people isn't because their cochlear implant failed them. Deaf people know why its "important" for them to have cochlear implant--to be able to be "successful" with hearing people and have to deal with pressure all the time. They're always being pressured to be using cochlear implant but not when they hang out with the deaf community--they know thats where they belong and will not feel any type of pressure from them.

You do not need cochlear implant to be successful in the deaf community. But you do need to have one to be successful in hearing community based on all implications that the hearing community seems to be saying.

Sad, is it??


Anonymous said...

I ve heard newer CI now has lower risk of destroying residual hearing but it doesn't make any difference if the CI users are profoundly deaf and HA don't benefit them. CI benefits profoundly deaf people who don't benefit enough from HA. So, HA and CI both basically help deaf people hear better.

CI would help increase deaf people's independence in the hearing world. They'd not need to depend on interpreters anymore if they are successful in using CI. I ve been using interpreters all my life and it s not always easy on my job interacting with hearing people. I agree that deaf people could succeed without a CI but they'd have to work a bit harder and rely on interpreters in the society.

I am happy in the Deaf community without a CI, too and feel a strong sense of belonging on that community but have a harder time to fit in the hearing community because of the communication limitations.

Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

I can only respond to this comment with my experience as a hearing person who learned ASL as and adult. I am an interpreter and a teacher. I teach deaf and hard of hearing children. I came to teaching in a much different way than most teachers of the deaf as I was an interpreter before I was a teacher and therefore my bias is that I have a cultural perspective on the Deaf community rather than a pathological or deficit perspective.

When I see little kids with implants, even though I realize their parents have made that decision out of love and desire for their children to be the happiest and most successful they can be, my heart hurts. It isn't a logical response but an emotional response. One lovely little deaf kid who will no longer be Deaf. A future member of the community - lost. A next generation of leadership, one for the current group of teens to mentor, no longer there.
If your child with a (working) implant is actually bilingual and bicultural - bravo! This is unusual.

I know one challenge to youth programs I am involved in today is including deaf kids with CIs who do not sign fluently but are learning. How do we make the most of the precious time the ASL using deaf kids who can't hear at all have to actually socialize with complete freedom and ease as equals with their peers and yet still accommodate those kids who can't sign well enough to understand fluent ASL? The ASL using kids NEED time in an ASL environment for their own linguistic and cognitive development - they are all mainstreamed and have hearing parents so they don't get this opportunity very often. However, once the CI kids arrive, the number of kids using English-based signing and speech alone rises.. this means the ASL using kids are once again (in the long list of times they are marginalized -home, school, everywhere they go) out of the loop and wondering what people are saying. This is the dilemma. No easy answers in a world where Deaf people are an increasingly tiny minority.

Sean Gerlis said...

First, I want to kick off with appreciation of your time & effort with this blog. I just started reading this due to my 7 months old son who is profoundly deaf which I am struggling whether to have him implanted or not.

I come from 3rd generation Deaf family that our primary language is ASL. Till I have a family of my own that comes with hard of hearing wife, unilateral hearing loss son, and a profound deaf son. This is an interesting mix I'm having.

Now, the struggle I'm facing with is perception on CI/and its social impact.

Sadly enough, when I start to discuss about implanting my son - I start to notice some of my dear deaf friends starting to drift apart because they didn't like the topic I've started to bring up. Bear in mind, where I come from would be considered as hard-core deaf community, the big "D" if you want to label this. It actually hurts big time when I start to see people drifting away.

It’s getting to point in our life where I should decide whether to sacrifice my community for my son's sake or not. Remember, he’s deaf like me. He wouldn’t be missing out much except auditory-based simulations and/or ability to speak/hear from spoken English.

I've asked many specialists (audiologist, social workers, etc.) to provide me the names/contact information about other parents (hearing or deaf regardless) who have implanted kids who are absorbing both language - ASL and Spoken English bilingually in Greater Metro of New York City area. So, we can meet them and evaluate their success. Up to now, none of them could refer us.

I also checked two different deaf schools (which they are ASL friendly environment for their students as well) that have programs for CI kids. To my surprise, they are not offering ASL to these kids due to Parent's wishes. They are effectively keeping their students separated. Ugh!

I couldn’t believe there actually segregated approach within CI? It is bringing me great uncertainty about children who are being limited access of languages of their success in life in both worlds, deaf and hearing.

I've spoke with Deaf leaders who seems to be open minded about CI on kids and they seems to be in sync in getting these children exposed in bilingually approach. Meanwhile the larger mass of our community (e.g.: Deaf grassroots, Orals, Hard of Hearing, Hearing (non-medical professionals), and medical professionals) seems to be clearly not offering similar (our leaders’) goals for these kids with CI.

One interesting thing I’ve started to notice and discussed with many people lately about research papers/documentations on cochlear implant and their social impact. I could not find any papers focusing on ramifications of implanted children that could not adopt the technology well. Why aren’t people documenting this? It seems to me we have one-sided view on technological advancement of cochlear implant and their social impact. Why aren’t people writing/documenting both sides of the technology and it’s impact on people? This reeks non-kosher.

(continue in next reply due to excessive characters)

Sean Gerlis said...

Now, enough about “researching”, let’s talk about my POV –

I’m very actively involved in advocacy of deaf rights in our community. I spent so much of my time & energy to get things done for our community. For instance, I was part of the team who managed to get a new law adopted by President Obama – 21st Century Video Communication Accessibility Act, Video Relay Service Industry, Theatrical, and social organizations. The degree of my participation and involvement with Deaf community is too deep, and yet I am beginning to see the BENEFITS of cochlear implant that may offer my son and other deaf babies that are outweighing the risks of surgeries. Even though, I, myself am opposed in having an idea in getting infants implanted. Like we are aware about researches showing the learning development during between infants and toddlers are quite extraordinary.

Since the opposition of getting infants/toddlers implanted started to look bleak when it comes into the “real” world out there – it’s a hearing world. Simply that is. No way to avoid this. The job discrimination is so strong out there – they managed to keep this ongoing without incriminate themselves from discrimination laws. The ability to grow (advancement) within their employment is very limited, only deaf-friendly companies would be able to promote this internally.

Not only to the employment, but it applies to our everyday lives – going out for dinner, shopping for clothes, playing in park, you name it. We all continuously to face discriminations & fear in interacting with hearing people 24/7 due to being deaf.

I’ve seen many oral (deaf people who uses spoken English primarily) people who seem to fall into a huge void between deaf & hearing worlds; they seem not to be able to adopt one or other easily. I don’t know why – but they seem not to want to learn ASL because they would be ridiculed or whatever. Ugh! Hearing people immediately identified there’s something wrong with orals due to their accents when speaking. They are clearly spooked about these. It’s a lose-lose situation for these people.

I could go on and on. The bottom line is, I want my son to continue in learning ASL and be able to grasp all available options being given to him, that includes cochlear implants. I do not want to be hypocrite by giving him everything except cochlear implant. The biggest question is, is it all about him or me? Should I be a parent to him by nurturing him with the best of my ability, or protect him from the horrors of implant technology and it’s social upbringing which I am clearly aware of (exposed to) that have not been documented in any research papers? Also, my fear would be – 1) deny him CI, he grows up and turns to me and blames me for not giving him opportunities. I get to be a bad parent. 2) Implant my son, he grows up and turns to me and blames me for differentiae him from others, especially me while he is clearly deaf just like me. I get to be a bad parent.

Enough with my ramblings… :-)

Last, I wanted to thank you for this blog. Please continue to blog about the impact of ASL and Spoken English to implanted children and their social welfare etc. We all need to be exposed on what’s best way for parents to raise their children. Keep it up.