Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One Less Deaf Mentor

I was reading one of my favorite blogs today, and came across this comment from a reader:

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.

It brings me back to a message received from a friends brother0in-law who is also Deaf: Here is that message as well.

As a Deaf person, a professor of ASL/Deaf Culture, and an expert in the field of Deaf culture, I will advise her not to try CI. Yes, CIs could restore some hearing and some deaf children with CIs are able to speak. Parents need to remember that CIs do not make deaf children hearing and deaf children will still have to be trained to identify sounds before they could begin to learn Spoken English as their first language. CIs will not make deaf children proficient in Spoken English. You can see that CIs do not guarantee anything. I know that some deaf children with CIs still struggle with their social identity even if they are integrated into the mainstream world. Such struggles could lead to cognitive, emotional, and behavioral issues. Getting a CI requires an invasive surgery which is highly risky.

In addition to the attached document, being Deaf is not broken and perfectly normal. Many Deaf people like myself are living proof that we have a healthy and successful life and this is due to the fact that we acquire ASL at an early age. Studies have shown that once a child acquires ASL at an early age, the child will have no problem acquiring English as a second language. My friend, Trudy, who is profoundly Deaf and has never used Spoken English, owns a company (TS Writing) and has edited thousands of documents written by hearing clients. She is not an exception because there are many other Deaf people like her who share a similar background - acquired ASL at an early age.

If one is worried about having to deal with barriers then s/he shouldn't. We have laws that protect our civil rights and the public awareness is much improved. More and more people and places recognize and accept Deaf people, their language, and their culture. Yes, Deaf people will encounter a barrier at some point but it is no different from other people (women, blacks, native americans, and such) who face a similar barrier.

Parents need to remember that ASL and Deaf culture DO NOT isolate/separate Deaf people from their families and the mainstream world. I know many Deaf people are very close to their families, have hearing friends, and are well integrated into the mainstream world.

Lastly, the only difference between hearing and deaf is the way of receiving/expressing information - one is through ears/mouth and another is through eyes/hands.

Hope that helps. - From John Pirone

These are the things I am pondering on today.

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