Friday, October 15, 2010

Another Viewpoint

In an earlier blog, "Does It Have To Be Either/Or", a person added a comment that has stuck with me. I have been mulling it over for a while, and I thought it was important enough to repeat it here in its own blog.

The comment is as follows:
I can only respond to this comment with my experience as a hearing person who learned ASL as an 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 thay 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 envorinment 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 a dilemma. No easy answers in a world where Deaf people are an increasingly tiny minority.

I hear what s/he is saying (the comment was anonymous). I am sorry that the commenter's heart is sad at the growing number of kids who are implanted. It doesn't change how I feel about my decision to have my daughter implanted. My allegiance as a parent is to my child only, and making the best decisions I can for her future. I knew at the time that this would not be a popular decision in the Deaf Community, but they are not my responsibility. My child is. However, it doesn't change the fact that many Deaf, do feel this personal pain at seeing these little kids wearing implants and jabbering away like hearing kids do. Their feelings deserve my respect.

The commenter's last paragraph is very important and relevant to what is happening now. How do we try to integrate those kids with implants who want to learn ASL into the Deaf Community, while continuing to support those kids who use ASL as their primary language, and need the Deaf Community for most of their social support? If there is a Deaf event, it is important for parents and the adults involved in it to impress upon the CI kids how important it is for them to use ASL at all times. The CI kids need the practice signing, and the ASL kids deserve complete access to all conversations that are going on. Your thoughts?

Monday, October 11, 2010


All the recent tragedies in the news about suicides from bullying and harrassment has me concerned. I have seen some nasty bullying in comments over the years on various blogs in DeafRead. It is the biggest reason I won't yet let my daughter participate on this blog. I just can't trust the commenters to behave themselves around a 12 year old girl. The anonymity of the blogesphere seems to breed comtempt. But it is not just here. As noted above, people seem to be getting more callous and hard-hearted everywhere. Somewhere during the "Me" generation, parents forgot to teach their kids compassion for others. The things they can get away with online seem to have blurred the lines with face-to-face interactions as well. People simply seem to no longer care about the feelings of others. It seems that as long as they can justify their behavior to themselves, anything goes. If a teen takes her own life, and the bullys that made her life hell can justify laughing at her during her own funeral, there is something seriously wrong with how those kids were raised.

There is really only one solution to the problem, and it starts with the parents. We must, absolutely MUST start teaching our kids respect and tolerance for others. In. All. Situations.

If we are to teach this, we must first live this. Online, and in real life, we must learn how to respect one another even if we disagree with their opinion. Every human being deserves to be safe, in body and soul. There is no justification for putting somebody else down because you disagree with something they have done, or believe, or how they live. Tolerance for others must become a priority in our lives. Religious, cultural, sexual orientation, physical differences, and for the D/deaf community - choices in D/deaf lifestyle. I don't care how you feel about someone's implant. They have a right to have or not have one, and parents have the right to choose this for their kids. An implant or the lack of one, does not make the person. We all have the responsibility to respect each other and not put them down or bully them because of their or their parent's choices. If kids in a deaf school are teasing another kid because s/he has an implant, it is probably because they learned at home that it was ok to get down on someone with an implant. If you as a parent have allowed that attitude, and your kid has become a bully because of it, you have some serious mirror work to do. Can any of us look at ourselves in the mirror without shame if we have allowed intolerance to fester in ourselves or our kids?

The only thing we cannot tolerate is intolerance. Please talk to your kids. Please look at the message you are sending them with your own words and actions. Please teach the difference between having an opinion different from someone else's and disrespecting them because of it. You never know when it will save a life.