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?


Dianrez said...

I agree wholeheartedly that CI kids and Deaf kids need to practice and learn ASL from the beginning. Raising all of them alike, so to say.

There is equality in doing it this way and reinforces the idea that the CI is merely a tool, one of many available to the d/Deaf community; and that the real growth occurs in the intellect.

A common hope among parents is that their CI-kid will eventually function as a hearing person most of the time; and a fear in the Deaf community is that the CI will lead to a generation of semi-hearing people who struggle along under assumptions common to HOH people.

Raising everyone using both ASL and English will prevent leaving some people abandoned in a no-man's-land.

Only truly bilingual people can move back and forth as they choose.

Anonymous said...

This been going on for years.

Make me wonder my mother didn't choose ASL when her very OWN aunts were ASL deaf. Why her heart did not hurt when she choose not to teach us ASL, making them more isolated than ever (and didn't considered that I could too)

Sue said...

I think Dianrez's comment is perfect. I have some concern over a parent's only concern being their child and not about the community that their child may become part of in the future be a part of.

When parents are equipped with all the information then it isn't a one way approach but becomes something that they also want for their child. Another opportunity for connecting with other peers and language role modes bilingually. Another good support network for their child besides the family and the hearing world.

Miss Kat's Parents said...

I think the comment is judgemental and prejudiced.

My daughter is Deaf. She is culturally and linguistically Deaf. ASL was her first language. Who is this "outsider" (hearing person with no ties to the Deaf community other than for monetary gain) in a position to have their "heart break" for my child?

First of all, if a parent chooses ASL for their child, they better be damn well ready to learn it and use it at all times. It is irresponsible and DESTRUCTIVE to put your child on the sidelines (another good argument for implantation...).

Secondly, the only thing that the CI's did for my daughter was ADD another dimension to her life. They added spoken language, they added sound and music. They certainly didn't blind her or make her unable to understand or use ASL.

It is crap like this comment that drive hearing parents away from the Deaf community...pity my A$$. My child is thriving, happy and has access to Deaf AND hearing conversations...

Anonymous said...


Because of CI, parents and teacher are more likely put ASL farther down on their priotity for CI kids (about putting ASL on sidelines is a good reason for CI, I wouldn't trust the same "irresponsible" parents to keep up with AVT and mapping and batteries either - My parents were one of those parents who put our oral-only/hearing aids on sidelines) . And those who can't benefit from CI (or choose not to) are not getting socialization they need to grow up to be well adjusted adults. Just ask yourself "what if my kid couldn't benefit from CI, do I really want her to only communicate a few kids who know ASL/SEE/whatever?"

The only ones who are hurting are the ASL kids who don't wear CI.

Dianrez said...

I reread the original blog again today. Something else seems to be apparent this time: the attitude that ASL kids are somehow limited as compared to CI kids.

Hm, beg to differ. The only difference between them is that the CI kids have a newer type of aid to their hearing. A little more hearing ability. That doesn't make them hearing since they will still have issues with that.

It really, really bugs me how hearing people seem to think that the CI makes a bigger difference than it actually does. No. It's the INDIVIDUAL that makes all the difference. The CI is just a tool, it is nothing without the capabilities of the INDIVIDUAL using it.

Miss Kat's Parents said...

I have to disagree. The difference that an implant has made in my daughter's life is HUGE. It took her from being completely non-verbal to understanding running spoken language of strangers. It took her from being sidelined and left out by her peers to being included and understanding groups.

It was 100% the technology. My daughter should have been a good hearing aid user. She wasn't. She had a MODERATE loss. She was completely unable to understand spoken language. She now has a profound loss and can hear without lipreading, understand me from the basement, and hear and understand on the phone. She hears within the normal range. She is able to understand speech within the normal range. It is a profound change.

The difference for her was, hearing aids = no access to the hearing world. CI = easily understanding speech, even from strangers.

Why does that bother you so much? It is a HUGE change, why shouldn't it be considered a good thing? Why isn't access great?

Dianrez said...

Miss Kat's mom, for your daughter, it made a big difference. But it still is nothing without HER ability to learn and to use it properly.

Don't underestimate your daughter. Who knows, at a certain level of maturity, she might have reached that language breakthrough anyway even without a CI by using her native intelligence to adapt other tools just as effectively.

An example: my good friend has excellent speech and lipreading skills despite being raised as Deaf with a Deaf brother. She used a hearing aid in childhood but gave it up in her teens. She gets along well with hearing people and speaks in meetings, relying on an interpreter for the rest of the meeting.

I guess we will have to agree to differ: by me, the CI is not a complete answer. It is just a tool. How well it is used is dependent on the individual.

There are unanswered questions: how long will it last? How often will it have to be replaced, and at what cost? Are the drawbacks worth it? What is it taking away from other areas of development, if any? What are the long term medical, psychological and emotional effects? How will it affect future adjustment in all areas of life?

Only by experiencing it can these questions be answered, and for each individual the answers will be different.

There is reason to hope that the answers will be positive in your daughter's case, but it already has proved not to be the case for a great number of people. Hence my feeling that the CI is credited for too much and the individual's native abilities, not enough. By half.

Li-Li's Mom said...

By its nature, the concept of bilingual includes two languages. And unless you promote sim-comm among the children, which most educators don't, there will be some conversations / interactions in signed language and some in English-based signing and spoken language. So the situation the originally blogged commenter mentions below is natural.

However, once the CI kids arrive, the number of kids using English-based signing and speech alone rises.

If you brought a group of these bilingual children into a mainstream environment, this statement would still apply, substituting sign for English-based signing and speech. We have children using two languages, it's natural and desirable that they alternate between the two as effectively as possible.

I don't how this marginalizes the ASL-using kids unless the commenter is suggesting that a bilingual education is at odds with a child's ability to interact and learn effectively in an educational environment.

What is the alternative this commenter might propose? To eliminate bilingual education and separate into ASL-only and English-only schools? I think that's been done before. To segregate the children within a school, with resources and teachers/staff in common but not allowing the children to interact? Scary thought on many levels.

Dianrez said...

Miss Kat's mom, thanks for that statement. Yes, oral and ASL kids have been separated and even in the same school, with disastrous effects on the students' self-concept and on the future Deaf community.

Hopefully educators today realize that and avoid such segregation totally. Bilingualism not only enhances education, it unites the community.

K.L. said...

As far as I'm concerned, it all comes back to respect for each other, and teaching that respect to our kids. We want them to be bilingual, but also recognise when they need to alter their communication to include others. If they are in a situation where there are ASL only kids especially if there is no interpreterter, they need to use their ASL language. If they are around people who are hearing only, they should use their voices.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't want to limit my son to the Deaf community only as I am afraid that it could get smaller and smaller in the future. My goal for him is to be able to participate in both Deaf and hearing worlds independently without relying on interpreters. He has all the tools: ASL, spoken English and CI.
I agree that CI makes a huge difference for him as he is profoundly deaf. He s able to speak on the phone, socialize with hearing people on his own, and could understand spoken language without lipreading (behind his back). It s so amazing and I wish I could do those things! However, CI doesn't affect intelligence but gives access to spoken language for those who are profoundly deaf.
It seems that the majority of Deaf children who use ASL have Deaf parents these days.

Anonymous said...

It would work best for my child to use ASL and spoken English separately. That would help avoid sim-com and confusion between two languages. It seems more challenging to learn spoken English than ASL for deaf children. My child is being mainstreamed at a regular school with spoken language while using ASL at home. It works out well so far. However, I wish there is a deaf school that offers both languages for her but there are no bilingual peers. Most of her deaf/HOH peers are either fully oral or fluent in ASL only. Most of Deaf children who use ASL at the deaf school have Deaf parents. Most of oral children at regular schools have hearing parents.

KJackson said...

My son is 3 years old, he is deaf. I decided to expose to all the options that he can have and not limit to his "communication". So his first language is ASL..(He already had CI when we adopted him)and now he is doing both speech and asl..
My daughter is hearing, but since birth she has been taught ASL, and did spoke by she was 1 year old. AND she still use both. I m deaf myself but learned ASL when I was late 20's. I'm more in hearing world because of my life. I think my son is very lucky to have friends in both WORLDS, he can grow up without "conflicts" nor losing his "deaf" identify.
You can read my blog about my son...and what it was like for us.

LF said...

I have a 17 day old son who clearly cannot hear and did not pass his ABR at birth. My wife and I are both hearing people who do not know ASL.

We don't know what the future holds for the little guy, but I just wanted to drop a note of appreciation for the conversation surrounding the topic of this blog post. Many enlightening points have been brought up about a topic which I have had little reason to think about until this point.

While I don't know enough about this topic yet to render an intelligent opinion, I can speak to this from the standpoint of a physician who commonly deals with dilemmas that arise from the application of imperfect technology. From this standpoint, cochlear implants are not unique. The technology is wondrous in many regards, but the consequences and limitations are often unpredictable. In this case, I have a pit in my stomach when I think of the possibility that a child might receive a CI and not learn ASL, only to later have the technology fail.

IF our family is forced to go down the road of considering a CI for our son, I think I will bear the following in mind: I need to think of my son as a native of a foreign country. Even though we may want to teach him our language and culture, we also will want to preserve his native culture as well in case he's ever called to live within that culture (by force or by choice). Furthermore, we'll want to learn his language as well if we want to maintain contact with him if he's ever called "home."

Thank you all for the food for thought.

Oliver's Dad
Oliver's Blog

Anonymous said...

I just want to say that although I am not the parent of a child with bilateral implants, but am the aunt of one i understand why the deaf community feels the way they do. My neice knows sign she was learning it before she got her implants, when her parents were being told they should stop using sign with the child they disagreed. if she keeps signing and does speech as well, she has a bright future ahead of herself! all the deaf children who need the extra help or teaching of sign younger than her she could be helping someday! She could grow up, go to college, and become an instructor and teach sign in various states or communties, and she would still know english as well so the chidlren who know both can get help! this would be a great job opportunity for her as well as she would be helping someone in return. it was hard to find people in our community who taugh ASL and english and could help my neice, jobs like these are short staffed and could use more people to help children.
Also a greast ASL video to help learn sign are the "Signing Time" Videos! I love them and so does my neice