Last week I attended an AV training for our School for the Deaf employees. They was some great discussion and I learned a lot. While we are in no way an "AV family" we do use some AV-style techniques to help Miss Kat learn to use her hearing. We use that approach because I believe it is the most effective way to teach a deaf child to learn to listen and speak.
All that is really beside the point of this blog tonight. I am writing about a conversation that happen after our meeting. The new superintendent of the School for the Deaf (a big oral advocate, he used to run a private oral school in another state) was having a discussion (read: argument) with a SLP that was trained at Gallaudet. (A little background for those who don't follow Utah Deaf education- the new superintendent is changing the focus to early intervention with an emphasis on Spoken Language OR ASL-English. Parents must decide and then they will get the services for that particular path) So, I asked, "What about parents who want both?" I was told "Too bad" (AGAIN!!)
So, that day I was presented with two paths. One, fluent spoken language, the other ASL-written English with "oral skills". I was told by both professionals that the ASL bi-bi school would never be able to provide the kind of environment and services needed to help a child become a fluent spoken language user, BUT that the oral program will also never be able to provide the opportunity to use and learn age appropriate ASL skills.......So, where does that leave families like ours, and our intended bilingualism??
They said that each bilingual person has a primary language and we must decide what Miss Kat's primary language is going to be and proceed with our choices from there. We were given two scenarios for how Miss Kat would turn out as an adult, given our desires and path:
1. She would be functionally hard of hearing using her CI. Spoken language would be the language of her life. She would listen and speak and live in the hearing world, but use ASL and the Deaf world as a support.
2. She would be Deaf. She would interact with the hearing world everyday, and use her oral skills to do that. She may even talk on the phone and things like that, but ASL would be her language of comfort and at the end of the day, she would always return to her Deaf world.
We are fine with either choice, but are those really our choices? Is there no one who feels equally comfortable in both languages and worlds? And is it possible for us to make that choice?? Isn't that her choice regardless of what we do in her schooling?