As I said in my previous post, as Miss Kat aged, we had some struggles. As I have talked about before, she eventually lost more hearing and we decided to look into a cochlear implant for her. As part of that process we were introduced to whole new groups of people.
When we first discovered Miss Kat's hearing loss, I read A LOT of books. I read several by Harlan Lane (including Mask of Benevolence in which he claims that no child has ever learned spoken language through cochlear implants ) and I read one called "Deaf Like Me". It was another story of how oralism fails so many children (I actually like the book, but it is very outdated) but the parents mention that they have a correspondence course for parents of deaf children, to help teach them spoken language. I figured it wouldn't hurt to look into the program....that was my first contact in the "oral world", the John Tracy Clinic.
After Miss Kat's first cochlear implant was activated we took the opportunity to go to California and participate in the John Tracy Clinic's 3 week summer session. The JTC summer session is unique because while they work with the children in the preschool classrooms, the parents also have classes. JTC believes that parents are the first and most important teachers of deaf children. They teach parents how to teach their children. In a few short weeks we learned about audiology, the acoustics of speech, language development, cognition, literacy and so much more. It was an amazing experience that I would encourage ANY parent of a deaf child to seek out (oh, and did I mention, it is free?!?)
So, while I was at JTC, I had my first interactions with real, live, oral parents and their children. They parents were amazing! They were active, involved, and extremely well informed. They weren't lazy or ignorant. They were seeking what they believed to be the best course of action for their child and that was spoken language. And you know what, it was working! Their children were thriving! These weren't kids with no language, they were laughing and telling stories and they could understand what their parents were saying. JTC also arranged panels for us. They had both a teen and adult panel. They had 15 or so former JTC students come and talk to us. It was very enlightening. These were oral deaf teens and adults. They were happy with oralism and the choices their parents had made for them. They were here, advocating for spoken language for a whole new generation of deaf kids......but I thought that didn't happen......
At JTC I even met a deaf teacher of the deaf. She was deaf and was raised orally, but as an adult learned ASL. She still advocates for listening and spoken language. She works everyday to help parents teach their children spoken language. Then I looked around even further. I started meeting Deaf parents who implanted their children and sent them to oral schools. My whole perspective started to change. These weren't lazy or evil people, they wanted the very best for deaf children. They want early, fluent language. They want the kids to excel and read well and achieve their dreams. They just happen to think that it is best accomplished a different way.
I forayed into an AG Bell conference locally. I was TERRIFIED to go. I thought that we would be looked down on for signing, or that people would judge us, think we were lazy (hmmm, isn't this all the things *I* was doing to the oral parents?) or whatever. So, I sat down and learned....I learned a lot! The first thing I noticed was that NO ONE was advocating against ASL. They didn't say or even imply that ASL was a bad choice, that just isn't where their expertise lies. They were simply advocating and teaching about one area, spoken language.
So now I was very confused. I was seeing what I had once considered impossible. I was seeing happy, healthy, thriving deaf children and adults who choose to be oral. They have great language, they read well, the go to college, and then, as adults, they advocate FOR oralism....
Over the next year, Miss Kat's spoken language blossomed. Her spoken language soon outstripped her signing. She began to drop signing, even though we continued to sign with her and expose her to the Deaf community through events, her friends, and our weekly church services. There are definitely times where she struggles and needs clarification through ASL, but there are other times when she glares at us when we sign and says "I know, I heard you!". I would say that ASL is no longer her primary language. She actually prefers to speak, and we were told this was impossible. (And there will still be people who comment on this blog saying that it is because we put too much emphasis on spoken language and she is just trying to please us, but we, and anyone who meets her, knows better).