QUESTION 1. Research other than that which is cited, shows that a full language base is helpful to HOH and Deaf children with CIs (Yoshinago-Itano, Mayberry etc …). In addition the research you cite talks about intelligible speech – intelligible speech does not mean language development and it does not mean academic success.
ANSWER 1. The writer has not provided a complete citation and reference for the work to which she refers. She also does not define what she means by “a full language base.” Presumably it means that children with hearing loss should learn both American Sign Language and Listening and Spoken Language. Contrary to the writer’s assertion, Part I of the Choices position paper does in fact discuss the bilingual/bicultural approach used at DSD (see page 6 of the position paper) in a nonjudgmental way. It states that: “there is general agreement among researchers (Strong, 1988; Cummins, 1989) that literacy in one language supports acquisition of other languages”. However, the bilingual-bicultural approach was intended to promote English literacy (i.e., the ability to read English) in children whose primary language is ASL, not to develop the ability to hear and speak English well. Furthermore, scholars have questioned whether the bilingual approach can actually develop English literacy because ASL has no written form.
Auditory-oral therapy—the intensive development of listening and spoken language without the use of American Sign Language—has a strong empirical basis. This does not mean that the bilingual-bicultural approach of DSD should be abandoned, but rather that families should have a choice between the DSD approach and the one provided at Clarke School, a private school in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.
References to language development occur throughout the position paper. Please read it again. Return to index..
QUESTION 2. DSD has actively worked over the last several years to meet the needs of ALL the students at our school. NO CHILD IS EVER FORBIDDEN TO USE SPOKEN ENGLISH AT DSD. In fact, a recent review of the test scores for spoken English in the preschool shows that spoken English flourishes here at DSD
ANSWER 2. The stories that families related about the experiences of their children in DSD should be taken as nothing but what they are represented to be. There are no implications in these stories about what DSD’s policy is concerning the use of spoken English within the school. One question this discussion raises, however, is how DSD makes accessible to Deaf ASL-only students/instructors the contributions of a student who chooses to speak in class rather than sign. Return to index..
QUESTION 3. Despite what a member of your group recently told a parent, learning through ASL is NOT a waste of time, our focus here is on the whole child – cognitive, linguistic, emotional, social and development of English literacy as well as spoken language development when there is sufficient auditory access. Yes, learning ASL is a commitment, but raising a child – any child but especially a special needs child is a commitment and the needs of the child should be what drives all decisions
ANSWER 3. There is overwhelming evidence that intensive auditory-oral therapy soon after early cochlear implantation enables young children to achieve language parity with typically hearing peers before school age. Many experts, believe that focusing on the functions of listening and spoken language is more likely to result in the outcomes that hearing parents desire for their deaf children than investing part of the effort in developing ASL skills that the child of hearing parents is unlikely to use anywhere but at DSD.
Parents have the right to choose the bilingual-bicultural approach of DSD. However, Delaware’s steadfast refusal to offer an alternative other than DSD to families of deaf and hard of hearing children is unconscionable. Return to index..
QUESTION 4. In your recent email, you stated, “Most children who will use ASL as their primary language are the children of culturally Deaf parents.” This is not really true. Most deaf adults use ASL as their primary language, and since (as you go on to state in your email) 95% of deaf individuals are born to hearing parents, the majority of deaf individuals who use ASL as their primary language actually have hearing parents. As far as children with hearing loss, it all depends on the individual child whether or not they are more inclined to utilize a visual-based or auditory-based language. This is usually a result of biology more than their parents’ wishes. I am concerned that you are misinforming your email recipients.
ANSWER 4. It may very well be true, as you say, that a majority of deaf adults use ASL as their primary language and that most of those adults have hearing parents. But it would be wrong to assume that the parents of deaf, ASL-using adults preferred this outcome. Unlike today’s children, individuals born deaf between 1960 and 1990 did not have the option of obtaining cochlear implants and receiving auditory-oral therapy as young children. As Part I of the position paper states (see page 8), as recently as 1995 60% of the parents of deaf children wanted their deaf children to use sign language. By 2005 that number was 15%. A sequence in Sound and Fury, a famous PBS broadcast, comes to mind. In this episode, the grandmother of a deaf girl argues heatedly with her deaf son (the girl’s father) in favor of giving the girl a cochlear implant. It is difficult to see this film and not believe that the grandmother would have preferred a hearing outcome for her son had technology made it possible when her son was a child.
Your assertion that biology more than parents’ wishes determines whether a child is more inclined to utilize a visual-based or auditory-based language would require supporting evidence in order to be believable. Return to index..
QUESTION 5. You also state in your email, “In many other states, programs are available through the public schools to develop Listening and Spoken Language skills in very young children following cochlear implantation or the introduction of amplification. These programs are not available in Delaware.” Again, you are misinformed. The Delaware School for the Deaf does provide such services. In fact, if you were to visit our preschool classroom right now, you would see that most of the students in that class use spoken English and have spoken language scores that are above age-appropriate level. Many of our students develop and use spoken English throughout their careers at the DE School for the Deaf. And we do partner with local schools to mainstream students as appropriate, on an individual basis.
ANSWER 5. An official of Delaware School for the Deaf told a memberof the Choices Delaware project team that DSD prefers to have children signal their language inclinations to their adult teachers and that teachers should follow the lead. If parents want this philosophy, they are free to have their children attend DSD. But many hearing parents know that a lifetime dependence on ASL correlates with lower levels of literacy, lower socioeconomic status, and isolation from hearing society. For this reason, many other states provide families with intensive auditory-oral therapy that does not involve sign language instruction but instead devotes all of the program instruction to teaching children how to hear and speak. Delaware does not offer such a choice.Return to index..
QUESTION 6. In Position Paper 1 posted on yur website, you refernce the Galluadet Reasearch Institute survey results from 2003. You state that the median reading age for 17-18 year olds is 3-4 grade. Does the survey include only children who use ASL. That is the implication in your document. Am I correct in analyzing that data differently? It is my understanding that the survey collects data from across the nation from a variety of institutions using various methodologies including oral/aural, auditory verbal, cued speech, manually coded English and ASL. From that perspective, it would seem that education of children with hearing loss, DESPITE methodology, is not able to close the language and literacy gap for many deaf and hard of hearing children. Is that not true?
ANSWER 6. You are correct. The Gallaudet Research Institute seeks to collect data on students who are deaf or hard of hearing, and who utilize a variety of communication methodologies. This section of the position statement is intended to highlight the importance of providing families with the support that will best match the home language and desired outcome for the child. As you noted, the position statement references GRI’s 2003 study, specifically the reading levels of 17- and18-year-olds. Those students were born in 1985-1986, before universal newborn hearing screening was in place and before the current advances in hearing technology were available to infants and young children. Presumably, many of them were not identified as having a hearing loss until after their second birthdays. Families in that time period did not have the same options that are available now, and they typically did not have the opportunity to intervene during the critical early weeks and months of their child’s life. That is why we are so optimistic when looking at the demonstrated benefits of identification and intervention that occur during infancy – early language development increases the likelihood that we will see improved literacy rates among students who are deaf or hard of hearing.
In addition, GRI studies historically capture data from students who are in specialized programs, and miss many of the students who are in the mainstream and harder to find for these studies. Therefore, the results may not be completely indicative of the full range of academic performance. Return to index.
QUESTION 7. Can you tell me how Clarke school, as a private facility, factors into a free and appropriate public education?
ANSWER 7. Schools that receive federal funds in the operation of public schools must provide an appropriate public education and related services that are free to the families of children with disabilities. If a public school program determines that it does not have the ability to provide such an education through its own means, it may elect to contract with a private school like Clarke. In such a case the public school pays tuition and fees to the private school. The financial impact on the family is nil. Clarke School Pennsylvania helps the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, PA in just this manner. Return to index.
QUESTION 8. What admissions criteria does Clarke school have other than documented hearing loss? Does Clarke school serve children with significant cognitive or physical disabilities (not issues like a weak heart or a single kidney, but disabilities that impact the child’s ability to benefit from instruction)?
ANSWER 8. Students who are deaf or hard of hearing in Clarke School for Hearing and Speech/Pennsylvania meet the following eligibility criteria:
- Have had hearing loss as their primary disability.
- Have parents who are committed to using a listening and spoken language approach in developing listening and spoken language language skills with their child.
- Children enrolled in the early intervention program range in age from birth to age 3. Enrollment in the EI program can be greatly beneficial for success in later years for children with a hearing loss.
- Children who have reached 3 years of age beginning in September are eligible for enrollment in Preschool.
Having a secondary disability does not mean that a child would not be a candidate for Clarke’s program. Clarke serves children with a variety of disabilities in addition to their hearing loss. For some children for whom cognitive or physical disability does not allow for listening and spoken language success, Clarke would not be the correct placement for that child.
QUESTION 9. Does Clarke accept students whose parents are minimally educated, minimally literate and overwhelmed with the parent component of the program?
ANSWER 9. Clarke accepts children from different socioeconomic and educational backgrounds and draws on the strengths of each family in helping children develop listening and spoken language skills. Return to index.
QUESTION 10. Does Clarke school have a policy for dismissal of students who are not making at least a year’s language growth in a year’s time? What about families who do not follow thru on amplification use and care? Can they remain in the program?
ANSWER 10. Progress monitoring is key in early intervention and in preschool. Quarterly progress reports in the preschool involve assessment of auditory, speech and language skill development in addition to assessment of the seven domains of learning. If a child is not making adequate progress, the lack of progress is discussed at the quarterly meetings with the parents and the child’s team.
Parent education is key as well as ongoing communication with the child’s audiolgical center. Often, a family that is not following through with use and care of amplification may need additional support. Use of amplification is key if a family’s desired outcome is listening and spoken language. If a parent chooses not to use the amplification system, then a listening and spoken language program is not a reasonable approach for that child. Return to index.
QUESTION 11. Who, other than Nick Fina, is the team member who has the “personal experience of severe/profound hearing loss?”
ANSWER 11. All of the Choices core team members have life experiences that contribute to their commitment to making a full range of educational options available to children with hearing loss in Delaware, including a listening and spoken option. Whether they are children of a deaf parent (Dr. Teixido), persons who have severe-profound hearing loss themselves (Dr. Fina and Ms. Heller), the parents of deaf children (Dr. Papas and Ms. Mangiardi), researchers (Drs. Golinkoff and Morlet), educators (Ms. Sahadevan, Dr. Golinkoff, and Ms. Mangiardi), audiologists (Ms. Reynolds and Ms. Heller), surgeons (Dr. Teixido) or child/family advocates (Ms. Coker, Ms. Heller, and Dr. Fina), the Choices core team members all want to see Delaware School for the Deaf continue to do what it does well and they want to see an opportunities for families that want their deaf children to listen and speak to achieve that goal in the way that research says works best. Return to index.
QUESTION 12. I am curious about Amanda Mangiardi and her child who is the “bi-lateral cochlear implant recipient who has a master’s degree.” I’m assuming that this person is Adrean Mangiardi who works at D-PAN (Deaf Professional Arts Network) and uses American Sign Language in his work and daily life. I am curious about how Ms. Mangiardi’s personal experiences raising her son impacts her professional opinions.”
ANSWER 12. Adrean Mangiardi received auditory-verbal therapy and oral education as a child. Having this intervention as a child made it possible for him to benefit from cochlear implants, which he received at ages 14 and 25. He became a proficient signer in college. Today, at the age of 30, he is equally at home in both the hearing and Deaf worlds–and a source of immense pride for his family.” Return to index.
QUESTION 13. I am curious what the research says about children beyond 3 years of age. Are there longitudinal studies that show literacy outcomes 10, 15 years after implantation?
ANSWER 13. Geers (2011) reported a study of this important question. One hundred twelve high school students between the ages of 15.5 and 18.5 who had received CIs as pre-schoolers took a battery of reading, spelling, expository writing, and phonological processing assessments. Results were mixed. Many performed at or above the average of their hearing peers. Also, “the majority of <the tested> students maintained their reading levels over time compared with hearing peers, indicating that the gap in performance was, at the very least, not widening for most students. ” However, the CI teenagers were, on average, poorer spellers, poorer expository writers, and poorer phonological processors than their hearing age peers. See Geers, A. (2011). Reading, writing, and phonological processing skills of adolescents with 10 or more years of cochlear implant experience. Ear and Hearing 32(1), 49S-59S. Abstract retrieved on April 21, 2011 from http://journals.lww.com/ear-hearing/Abstract/2011/02001/Reading,_Writing,_and_Phonological_Processing.7.aspx
QUESTION 14. From: David Ballard <email@example.com></firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Message Concerning Making Language Choice Available
First of all, I am disappointed when I received a tweet from @KelbyBrick on twitter.com with the article as following: http://choices-delaware.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Position-Paper-Part-1.pdf.
I want everyone to know that I am Deaf with complete hearing loss and yet, I am able to write English without any issue. English is my secondary language and I embrace the language itself while I love to use American Sign Language. In fact, when I was a child, I used SEE (Signing Exact English) and used oral. I had great difficulties to comprehend the English structure and how it works. When I was exposed by American Sign Language, I started to understand how the English structure works. To me, American Sign Language is like a bridge to English.
From that day, I realized that many Deaf people suffered simply because the parents of Deaf children did not put any efforts to communicate with their own children by using American Sign Language. That should be considered as child negligence because the parents are able to learn how to sign, providing more access toward Deaf children, and becoming more involvement with their educational activities, which are obviously the parents’ job.
I strongly disagree with the “choices” toward cochlear implants and other forms than American Sign Language. After all, it’s the parents’ job to accommodate their needs rather to alter their lifestyles and to interfere their abilities to express their true voices just like I am doing at this moment. I am under impression that the information, “Making Language Choices Available,” is attempting to stigmatize the true lifestyle of Deaf people with American Sign Language, which is our true language.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I recommend you to take up more research to see it for yourself because I know that I am one of many Deaf people who embraces English, thanks to our parents for their involvements with our early childhood years.
Dear Mr. Ballard,
Thank you for writing, and we are sorry for the delay in posting your message and a reply.
Contrary to what you write, Choices Delaware does not advocate for or against cochlear implants. It does not advocate for or against the use of hearing aids. It does not advocate for or against American Sign Language. It advocates for parental choice.
Your experience acquiring American Sign Language and written English is precisely that—it is your experience. Every experience is unique. Clearly, there are Deaf signing people who express themselves eloquently and flawlessly in the written form of languages that people speak, such as English. Some of those people have acquired advanced college degrees. There are also Deaf signing people who do not write well, just as there are hearing/speaking people who use the written form of their language poorly.
Research cited in the position paper tells us that a young child with hearing loss must have a rich and abundant language environment, especially in the home, as early as possible. Research also tells us that if a child is going to acquire the ability to listen and speak, he or she must begin that process very early and have the foundation complete by about the age of 42 months. The brain cannot build the required circuitry much later than that age.
Therefore, parents who think that by not implanting a child they are respecting the right of that child to decide for himself or herself (as a teenager or adult) what language to use are deceiving themselves. Parents who decide not to implant are in fact taking the choice away from their child, because by not implanting, they prevent the child from ever being able to choose spoken language. One can learn to sign at any age. But one cannot acquire spoken language at any age.
Parents have the right to make all kinds of choices for their very young children—what clothes to wear, what room to sleep in, what school to attend, etc. Good parents gradually make more and more choices available to their children as the children become capable of making those choices. A member of Choices has a friend who was born in the United States in 1947 to parents who had only recently come to the U.S. from Slovakia and who spoke only Slovak. That child also spoke nothing but Slovak until he started kindergarten. One can argue that their choice caused him to be at a disadvantage when he began school. But we would never argue that they didn’t have the right to make that choice. You, Mr. Ballard, have no right to declare, as you did, that ASL is the “true language” of everyone born with profound hearing loss. It is just as arrogant as we would be if we were to proclaim that spoken English is the only appropriate choice for such individuals–which we do not.
During the past 35 years Delaware has offered only American Sign Language to families affected by childhood hearing loss. That, we believe, is wrong; and with the support of Delaware’s leaders, changes in public policy here are underway.
QUESTION 15. Several questions from: Timothy Parish, a student at Gallaudet University. Answers composed by Dr. Nick Fina, Project Leader of Choices.
Please explain your position on American Sign Language.
American Sign Language is a means by which individuals may choose to communicate with one another. It has the same status as a language that various spoken languages do, inasmuch as it has its own grammatical and syntactical forms, as discovered by Gallaudet researcher William Stokoe. Those who prefer to use American Sign Language should be free to do so, and when interpreters are required to assist users of American Sign Language in communicating with those who do not use it, then such interpreters need to be provided in accordance with IDEA, ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act.
I want to know what is your organization’s evidences against American Sign Language for the deaf children from “credible sources”?
Choices Delaware does not take—and has never—taken a position against the use of American Sign Language for deaf children. Choices Delaware advocates for freedom of informed choice by the parents of deaf children with respect to what their child’s primary language will be. Parents should know the pros and cons of both visual and spoken language from unbiased sources so that they can decide what is best for their child. We defend the right of parents to choose ASL as vigorously as we defend the right of parents to choose Listening and Spoken Language.
Do you have deaf staff members?
We have no staff members at all. We are a grassroots advocacy organization that promotes free, informed choice. We have no source of income with which to pay staff. We pass the hat to fund our web site and our other minimal expenses. Two members of the group—I am one of them—have severe-profound hearing loss. Two others have deaf children—one age 5 the other age 30. The 30-year-old is a filmmaker who is well known in the Deaf community.
Do your organization want to ban American Sign Language?
Absolutely not! We advocate for a free and informed choice of language.
Do you endorse to close Delaware School for the Deaf? If so why?
Absolutely not! This question and the one that precedes it suggests that you have not read our web site.
I want to know if you are affiliated with Alexander Graham Bell Assocation for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing?
We are not affiliated with any other organization. We communicate with many other individuals and groups, including A.G. Bell, but we are not affiliated with any of them.
What is your stance on Cochlear Implants?
Cochlear implantation is a technology and surgical method that enables many individuals with severe-profound hearing loss to simulate what happens when sound strikes the ear of a person with typical hearing. Cochlear implantation at about age 1, followed by appropriate therapeutic intervention, can allow many children who have been born with no usable hearing to learn to speak and listen by school age. Cochlear implantation is the wrong choice for families in which the parents want their child to use American Sign Language as a primary language. It is an appropriate choice for families who want their child to be able to listen and speak, provided the child has no indications that would predict the likelihood of failure to achieve a listening and spoken language outcome or an anatomical or physiological impediment to implantation.
We believe that parents have the right to choose cochlear implantation for their children. In many, perhaps most, cases if a child has not learned to sense sound in the brain and to speak by the age of 3 or 4, it is likely that he or she will never be able to do so. The choice of whether or not to implant a child is as much the parents’ to make as is the decision of what brand of baby food to buy, whether or not to surgically repair a congenitally defective heart, or whether the family will live in Delaware or Montana.
I acknowledge that many culturally Deaf people believe that babies born without hearing should make their own choice about implantation once they become adults. If that’s what a parent chooses to do, then we defend that choice. (Remember—we are for choices.) However, in making that choice, the parent should know that in many cases, the choice to defer implantation until the child reaches adulthood is, in reality, a choice of ASL over LSL that the parent is making on the child’s behalf, because of the way the human brain develops.
I know that the birth of a deaf baby to a culturally Deaf married couple is sometimes, perhaps even often, a cause for celebration. It is a natural thing for parents to want their offspring to be like them. Can you not understand, then, why two typically hearing people who give birth to a child without hearing would want to provide their child with technology and therapy that would enable that child to perceive sound that has meaning to her brain and to create speech and language with her voice? Are we to begrudge such parents these feelings when at the same time we share the joy of the Deaf couple who have given birth to a deaf baby?
Will your organization encourage high school deaf students to attend Gallaudet University? I want to point out that Gallaudet University’s mission statement is a bilingual, diverse, multicultural institution of higher education that ensures the intellectual and professional advancement of deaf and hard of hearing individuals through American Sign Language and English. Gallaudet maintains a proud tradition of research and scholarly activity and prepares its graduates for career opportunities in a highly competitive, technological, and rapidly changing world.
Which university an individual attends is a very personal choice that depends on many factors such as the university’s academic strengths in the student’s area of study, cost, geographic location, and comfort level with campus life. Our organization would encourage every college-bound deaf or hard of hearing high school student to consider all these factors. Gallaudet would be a fine choice for many young people. What’s nice about Gallaudet is its strong support for Deaf culture, which is an important element in the lives of many Deaf people. In fact, I once spoke with a professor at NTID who told me of a student who turned down admission to Harvard so that he could be in a Deaf-friendly school. I applaud that decision. When I visited Gallaudet about 8 years ago for a project I was doing in my doctoral program at the University of Delaware, I was astonished at how effectively technology was being used there. My jaw dropped when I saw the sophisticated applications in use.
NTID would be a fine choice for others. So also, for that matter, might Columbia, Stanford, Michigan or West Texas State Teacher’s College. A deaf person who wanted to do ballet dancing and interior design might choose UNC Greensboro, which has excellent programs in both of these areas. In short, it all depends on what’s important to the student.
Is your organization aware that Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz is the current member of Alexander Graham Bell Association of Deaf and Hard of Hearing?
The author of these responses was not aware of that fact.
Will your organization go to Gallaudet University and give your platform about making language choices? I encourage your organization to make academic dialogue with Gallaudet University and its students. I may not agree with your organization’s position but I want to know if you can do this? You can contact Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz through his email address email@example.com and his voice phone number: 202-651-5005 and VideoPhone: 202-250-2837.
I am copying President Hurwitz on my reply.
I have composed and recomposed my response to this question several times—uncertain about how I should respond. The challenging tone of the questions you have asked suggests that you and some others at Gallaudet might have an unfriendly, argumentative orientation and no real interest in understanding the point of view of my group. I have experienced that kind of antagonism before in both public and private settings, and others who advocate for parental choice of a deaf child’s language and culture have also experienced it, for example at the 2012 meeting of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention organization. A visit to Gallaudet might well be very cordial; but it’s not unreasonable to think that it might not be cordial.
Therefore, I wish to propose an alternative way of exchanging views on this subject. I suggest that you or someone else (or perhaps even two Gallaudet people) engage in a written debate with me on the subjects that I have addressed here in this exchange with you. Perhaps the questions you have asked me and the answers I have provided could be the starting point. I would invite you and, if you like, one other person from Gallaudet to write comments on each of my responses. Then I would ask for the right to respond to your remarks.
When it’s all done and both of us (or all three of us) are satisfied with what’s been written, then perhaps it can be published. I don’t know whether American Annals of the Deaf (Gallaudet University Press) would consider publishing something of this nature. Possibly not, as I perceive AAD to be a scholarly journal of research, in which polemical discourse would not fit. But I don’t regularly read this journal. Maybe there is some other suitable publication. In any event, with the permission of the Gallaudet participants, I would like to publish the record of the debate on the Choices web site.
I am looking forward to hear from your organization.
Thank you for reaching out, Mr. Parish. I look forward to your reply.
Nick Fina, Ed.D. Project Leader Choices Delaware
QUESTION 16. EDITORIAL NOTE: The following letter arrived shortly after the appearance of a Delaware Voice column in the Wilmington News Journal. The article, by Choices members Roberta Golinkoff and Nick Fina, expressed concern about language in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that does not reflect the rights of parents who want their children to use Listening and Spoken Language. Dr. Fina composed the response on behalf of Choices.
My mother gave me your article, Treaty strikes wrong tone for those with hearing loss. I can’t believe your ignorance. Have you talked with the Deaf people? Have you ever sit down and listen to what the Deaf people went through? I bet not. I grew up in hearing world. I get by wearing hearing aid. It was TOUGH growing up in a hearing world. I honestly have NO respect for those people who have no patience with me when I tried my best to understand the hearing world. I have NO respect for someone who have a high expectation that I can read lips. I was taken to speech therapy in order to speak your language and your world at young age. It wasn’t very successful.
I am technically not a proficient lip reader. My mother wants me to hear for her and your world. Your world wants me to read your lips – just for you. My mother made that choice for me – I suffered because I didn’t have sign language. She never walk in my shoes and never will. She thinks I am a successful person who can talk and hear. She’s blind! That’s NOT true. It is a lie. I have my own perspective of what I went through. I don’t believe parents should have the control over Deaf children’s ears because I believe that child should wait till he or she is an adult to make a decision. I don’t believe in implant a cochlear in a baby’s head. I believe an adult should make the decision if he or she wants cochlear implant or not, not the parents of Deaf children. You need to hear the Deaf world have to say. You need to balance between the hearing perspective and the Deaf perspective.
Your article is stoking more fire than ever between the Deaf world and the hearing world. You hearing world have to accept the fact we Deaf have a culture, have a language and have a life. Think about it. Don’t destroy our world with your bias!
Thank you for writing. I am one of the coauthors of the Delaware Voice column that the Wilmington News Journal published this morning.
You write: “Have you ever sit down and listen to what the Deaf people went through? I bet not.” Well, you lose that bet. Not only do I talk with Deaf people. I AM deaf, or more precisely I am severely/profoundly hard of hearing. I am not culturally Deaf. I do not sign. I use a powerful hearing aid on my left ear and a cochlear implant on my right ear. I have struggled with hearing loss my entire life—all 65 years. I had to work extra hard in school. When I am not wearing my hearing aid and cochlear implant, I cannot converse with anyone. I can be standing next to a telephone and not hear it ring. I sleep through loud, violent thunderstorms. I know what it’s like to have people avoid eye contact with me at work. People may think I’m stuck up because one time I may have not heard them greet me. People may think I’m stupid because I answered a question without having heard it correctly. I have been embarrassed countless times because I misunderstood people. It’s nearly impossible for me to talk at parties and group dinners in restaurants because of the noise—noise that doesn’t seem to stop other people from enjoying conversation with one another. So please don’t call me ignorant, as you did, or uncaring. I walk in your shoes every day.
I think sign language is beautiful. But if you asked me whether I would choose sign language over spoken English as my primary language if I were starting my life over, I would not hesitate in saying no. I prefer spoken English, even though speaking and hearing are hard for me. The reason I choose spoken English is that most of the people I interact with use spoken English and most of them do not sign. As hard as life is in the hearing world, I still prefer to be there.
That is my choice. It’s a good choice for me. I ask that you respect my choice, just as I respect your choice to sign. I call your attention to this sentence in the sixth paragraph of the Delaware Voice article: “Recognizing American Sign Language and Deaf culture as the rights of those who choose them is an important accomplishment of CRPD that we fully support.” You will, if you take the time to read our web site, find the same thing. That is why our group is called “Choices.” We don’t advocate that parents choose spoken language over ASL or ASL over spoken language for their children. We advocate for choice.
In your letter you state that “I don’t believe in implant a cochlear in a baby’s head. I believe an adult should make the decision if he or she wants cochlear implant or not, not the parents of Deaf children.” You are wrong about this, and here is why. If a baby is profoundly deaf, receiving no sound input at all, then parents who choose not to provide an implant or hearing aid and therapy for their deaf baby are choosing that the child will never, at any time in his life, be able to speak. That’s because the auditory cortex in the brain begins to lose the ability to acquire spoken language around the age of 3 ½. Although that fact may change as a result of future advances in science and technology, it is a true statement in 2012. So your belief that a deaf person can choose to listen and speak when they are 21 years old—a belief which I have found to be quite common among culturally Deaf people—is untrue.
I know a family which found this out the hard way. The parents elected not to implant their son when he was very young. When the boy turned 13, the three of them decided to revisit the possibility of an implant. By then, it was too late. The implant center would not accept him as a suitable candidate because he was past the age at which he could learn to speak. This boy is now 17. He is very bright. He is planning to attend either Gallaudet or the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. He will be very successful and we are happy for him. But it’s not likely that he will ever benefit from a cochlear implant.
Amy, I thank you again for writing and I hope that my reply has helped you have a better understanding of the reason why Professor Golinkoff and I wrote our article. People who think that ALL deaf people should speak and hear with technology are wrong. People who think that ALL deaf people should sign and be part of Deaf culture are also wrong. CRPD needs language that recognizes diversity.
Sincerely, Nick Fina, Ed.D.