Yet again, oralism and Deaf culture butt heads. This is not a new issue or an issue that has ever been close to being resolved. I would typically not touch this topic, however I read a letter by Cochlear Implant Online that got me riled up. As I proceed with my thoughts, please remember these are my thoughts and I am certainly not speaking for all Deaf across the nation.
In a nutshell the Toys “R” Us issue is this: Cochlear Implant supporters are delighted that Toys “R” Us showed children with cochlear implants in their latest toy catalog. However they are writing protest letters to Toys “R” Us because they dislike the fact that Toys “R” Us donates to the American Society for Deaf Children which supports an ASL and written English education.
The following are 4 quotes are from Cochlear Implant Online’s letter with my direct (though respectful) counterarguments on each. Perhaps before reading the below, you might want to take a look at THIS LINK to learn more about the technicalities and science behind cochlear implants themselves. Also consider reading my article “10 Reasons Why Deaf Cherish ASL” to get an idea behind the Deaf Community’s perspective on education, culture, and oppression.
Alrighty then, let’s get started! Again these are 4 quotes from Cochlear Implant Online letter and my 4 counter arguments against each of these statements.
1. “Thank you for helping to increase awareness of this incredible technology that enables children with hearing loss full access to sound.”
Let me make something quite clear: I would not necessarily have a problem with the phrase “incredible technology that enables children to hear sound” but I completely disagree with the statement “full access to sound”. While yes there are children who are cochlear implant “success stories”, whose parents have forked over the ~$125,000 for the surgery and years of speech therapy afterwards, and are able to hear most sounds, there are many who have lost all their residual hearing from the surgery but have not successfully learned how to recognize imitative “sound”. Take a look at the following link and notice that even this girl, labeled a cochlear implant “success”, in no way has what I would call “full access to sound”:
2. “[American Society for Deaf Children] misleads people by stating that sign language provides better outcomes for deaf children.”
I guess this statement is either true or false to readers depending on what they define “better outcomes” to mean. For me “better outcomes” means a child has access to language immediately upon birth; a language that is natural for the child to pick-up. For me “better outcomes” means that a child focuses on learning about the world around them in school regarding science, math, and history, rather than wasting hours upon hours learning how to hold their tongue just right so they can say “mom”. For me “better outcomes” means raising your children around the Deaf community and a Deaf school rather than in a mainstream school where most likely your child will be the only Deaf person in the entire school. For me “better outcomes” means a child is able to communicate with their parents, teachers, and friends from birth, rather than being deprived of sign language because it’s considered “detrimental” to learning how to speak. For me “better outcomes” means that a child is able to focus on his or her 4 senses that work perfectly rather than the 1 sense that doesn’t work “normally”. For me “better outcomes” means a child feels capable as a whole Deaf person rather than limited or incomplete as a “broken” hearing person.
[LINK: 10 REASONS WHY DEAF CHERISH ASL]
3. “In 2011, 90% of parents of children with hearing loss in North Carolina chose a Listening and Spoken Language approach.”
All I can say to this is, of course hearing parents would choose the listening and spoken language approach! They want their children to be exactly like them like most parents! However, rather than choosing to learn sign language so their children can have language from birth, they choose what seems to be the easier and more obvious choice to them: make them as “hearing” as possible. Most parents make this choice out of ignorance, I recognize that. They simply do not realize that there is another way; that their child can have access to language and information at a young age without having to wait anywhere from 10 years (at best) to who-knows-how-many-years for their children to get used to lip-reading and repeat sounds a million times over before they can mutter “mom” or “dad”. Sweden has a great program where the moment a Deaf child is born, the child’s parents are assigned a Deaf couple to teach them about Deaf culture and a cochlear implant specialist to discuss the medical perspective. Thus parents are able to make a decision based on knowledge, rather than the false assumption that if they choose a listening and spoken language approach that somehow their children will become like them; that somehow their children will be able to hear everything; that somehow their children will learn to speak quickly so that they don’t miss their “critical period” in language development. I don’t blame hearing parents for wanting their children to be like them one bit. However I do blame professionals for not informing parents of the risks and the other option available. Ok, I’m done rambling and blaming, sorry…NEXT!
4. “The American Society for Deaf Children does not represent all children with hearing loss. Not by a long shot.”
And those pressing the Cochlear Implant agenda do? Pfffffft, this is a dividing issue: so while American Society for Deaf Children may not represent ALL children but neither do Cochlear Implant proponents. And that’s all I have to say about that.
EXPRESS YOUR OPINION: WHAT DO
“BETTER OUTCOMES” MEAN TO YOU?
Now, many of you are probably wondering why we can’t have both cochlear implants (so that Deaf children have some access to sound) and full sign language access (so that Deaf children have full information access from a young age). To be honest, I wonder that myself.
However, unfortunately, as of yet, there are very few successful programs that teach both how to recognize cochlear implant signals and to speak ASL fluently. I am open to the idea of children learning how to recognize sound as long as it does not interfere with their learning of ASL as their natural first language, their learning of written English, and their learning of the world around them. However, at this point in time, most cochlear implant specialists firmly believe the following (a direct quote from the Toys “R” Us letter), that “children from ‘oral-only’ environments do much better”. There is no room for spoken language and sign, but rather the “oral-only” method is preferred.
Honestly, in my opinion, I look forward to the day when there does not need to be a division between the two methods but a combination of the two for parents who feel both is the best method of action for their child. Don’t misunderstand me, I still support the bilingual/bicultural method wholeheartedly myself as stated in my last post, however I do recognize there are differing opinions. How I just wish these opinions were not so polarized!
Getting off my soap box yet again to pass the baton.
Comment below; make your voice (or hands) be heard (or seen)!!!
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