Monday, November 1, 2010

Myths and Misunderstandings? (Part 2)

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 It was another story of how oralism fails so many children (I actually like the book, but it is very outdated) but the parents mention that they have a correspondence course for parents of deaf children, to help teach them spoken language.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).

So, where does that leave us?

16 comments:

xraevision said...

I can't believe how much controversy your blog generates. I have met a LOT of hearing parents of deaf children now and can say for certain that these parents are all doing what they truly believe is in their child's best interest. Of course, I met some of these parents at JTC!

While we were there, I worried that we would be judged for doing some ASL with our son (he used 150 signs fluently before the age of 2), but people understood that we were doing everything we possibly could to teach him language.

Thanks for summarizing Miss Kat's story and sharing it with us. Our son just turned 3 and his oral language is delayed by over a year. A CI is not entirely out of the picture, but we are waiting and teaching and doing AVT until the decision becomes clear. He also attends an oral deaf preschool class, similar to JTC, 4X a week. Your story reminds me that we are trying to do our best and that we have options and therefore HOPE!

Ann said...

You're going where Miss Kat is leading you. She seems to have a preference for listening and speaking, even though you as parents have given her a base for learning language through sign language. In the meantime she was implanted and started to really hear sounds and speech, good golly, the kids pick it up so much faster at an early age than later on.

We adults have a much harder time comprehending how quickly children can pick up so much in so little time, lol.

My parents actually had much lower expectations of me picking up speech as rapidly as I did, starting at age 2 with hearing aids and speech therapy, that they ended up moving up my education goals on par with hearing children at same age by the time I reached 1st grade.

Kids are surprise packages all by themselves.

Ann_C

Candy said...

You sought out the deaf community first. You ate up a lot of things they fed you. What is sad is that you were fed oralism of days old which is nothing like it is today. I'm glad you were able to discover other options.

What really got me was the exaggeration you were fed about oralism and AGBell. A lot, if not all, were not true. You said, ASL is not AGBell's area of expertise. Exactly. And, AGBell didn't put ASL down. Why are the ASL advocates putting AGBell down?

Only if more parents are going the route that you are, the deaf community will be much more richer.

Enjoyed reading your post.

Dianrez said...

Actually, the child takes the lead despite what parents do or limit themselves to. The timetable may differ: it could be as early as two or as late as twenty after belatedly finding his own best communication.

Given all possible resources early, however, the child will choose the best avenues of learning and communication for himself and the wise parent will keep up with him, taking direction from him in supplying him with education and environmental input.

This pathway may meander back and forth between the visual and the auditory; ideally there should be a balance between the two but frequently it will lean to one or the other eventually according to what input makes the most sense.

In the adult deaf/hoh that I know, the leaning was toward the visual after a lifetime of oral/auditory learning. The transition began with late discovery of ASL, sometimes junking of hearing aids, and growth in the ASL community.

This isn't to be considered a failure, rather a gravitation toward what works best. A few, after similar experiences, stayed on the auditory HOH/hearing side but value their ASL friends as well.

Their parents who stayed with them and learned ASL as well are still in the picture and are often seen at Deaf functions long after their kids have grown and gone. We cherish these people especially.

Anonymous said...

Miss Kat's Mom, I continue to learn from you daily. I had no idea the JTC was free! and I had no idea such a wealth of information was being offered to parents at this crucial stage in their language learning years. Thank you for your courage to continue to share your experience.

as for Harlan Lane, he's very well respected, but you should know he's not "all that." I recommend reading a book called "ASL: Shattering the Myth" edited by Tom Bertling and published in 1998. there's book review of "Mask of Benevolence" by Dr. Donald F. Moores at Gallaudet that will give you an entirely different view of Dr. Lane's scholarly integrity.

kim said...

When Harlan Lane wrote the Mask of Benevolence back in the 1990s, he might have been partially right about the ineffectiveness of cochlear implants. The first person I ever met with a cochlear implant was a late deafened woman who had gotten her implant in the mid-1990s. She really couldn't hear all that well with it.

This past decade, CI's have improved tremendously. Almost every post-lingual deafened person I know who was implanted in the 2000s does really, really well with it.

I wanted to tell you that I have met many oral deaf people my age who went through years of speech therapy, and they are HAPPY they can speak. These are people my age (50+) who didn't have the benefit of digital aids or cochlear implants as children. Some of them do have deaf speech, but they are happy they can speak and they are bright, successful people.

So I guess it depends on the person, and their hearing, and the parenting or speech therapy. Many variables.

Bottom line-- love will lead the way. TRUST it. You can't go wrong. It sounds like you're tuned into Miss Kat. That's the main thing.

Candy said...

Reading what the other commenters said, it comes to the same thing at the end. And that is to keep the parents informed of every possible communication/language options that are out there without putting it down. Allow the parent and even the child when he/she is able to, to find the right path.

I know people are sidetracking things by not really addressing the ugly part of Miss Kat's post. And, I guess that's ok. Some people have a hard time digesting the ugly truth.

It's time for people to stop badmouthing one option over another. There is no one right way to raise a deaf child.

leah said...

Thank you for posting your experience- we have found the same thing. The oral schools are not "anti-signing," they just focus on what they know best. With today's technology and education, our kids can do it all. You are an awesome mom, because you follow Miss Kat's lead. You tune into her, and follow what she desires- you have her best interests at heart! She may place less emphasis on ASL now, but will probably always retain it as a second language- in any case, she has the opportunity and the ability to speak OR use sign language- it is her choice. Way to go for giving her so many options in life!

Paul said...

Hello Miss Kat and her mom:

You do have interesting point about misunderstandings.

It is a communication choice. I respect your choices and I have read your postings. I understand where you are coming from.

I agree with Dianrez about how things are going. From generation to generation, our views may change or differ.

When I was in teens, I asked my mom about her acceptance of my "hearing loss". It was hard on her. My grandmother told me that she tried to kill me as she thought I was defect.

She tried to jump out of car with me, but my dad stopped her. There were ups and downs with her but what is called now "post partum" something.

So there have been a lot of controversies while I was growing up and the pressures between oralists and manualists (old term for ASL).

I have been to many meetings where there are often angry parents arguing over interested parents in respecting deaf culture. That was 1950s and 1960s.

The rest is history.

Keep b/vlogging!

Have a good one!

Paul

=)

Sue said...

When I read Part 1 and Part 2, I felt some of your anger coming through and directed at those that you encountered in the Deaf community so far on your journey. I hope this is temporary.

Please keep in mind that there are those in AGBell and JTC that lean towards the extreme sides of oralism. That's what keeps their organization strong. Many Deaf people have grown up in home environments that reflect that extremism. Extreme oralism was also how Deaf teachers were taken out of Deaf education after 1880 until approximately 1960. And even today in mainstream programs, Deaf teachers are the minority and are rarely hired. And there are some in AGBell and JTC that are more respective of ASL, but they don't ever mention ASL...they just leave it out and say we are focused on speech and hearing. Or like you said they say that is not our expertise.

Remember Miss Kat is still very young. You are giving her both...ASL and English. Keep that up. You can never be quite sure what she will internalize. Let her lead. Keep her connected to the Deaf community and Deaf peers. Believe me in the future, she will thank you. Because no matter what amplification she has, she needs to know herself and feel connected to others that she can relate to.

finlake said...

Wow. My upbringing is somewhat parallel to your kiddo. Only difference is the CI and hearing aids. Hearing aids worked real well for me over the years. I do both communication modes, depending on with whom. I have a preference for ASL because of the facial expression. Hell, I'm a fan of animation, so go figure. :)

Anyhow, as for spoken language, it's the language I'm "stuck" with via my family. I have no qualms about it, but there are times my hearing aids aren't working. Those times, I'm definitely S.O.L. So it has its own pro and con. Auditory stimuli is a heavy influx with my family for fiddling/music/dancing runs in our family for several generations.

Anyways, well... I believe I have mentioned a comment on one of Candy's blog or somebody else's -- the oralism of the past is way different than it is as of today.

AliciaD said...

To be fair - there are a large amount of myths and misunderstandings on both sides of the coin. And there are those on both sides who take a more extreme stance.

Personally even though I'm a strong bilingual advocate, I'm all about giving both options. ASL as a first language, hearing aids and/or CIs to develop spoken English, and developing English literacy skills. Afterall, using spoken English is just another way of becoming bilingual. I'm not against CIs or hearing aids or speech therapy or auditory verbal therapy. In fact, with my own kids if they are deaf I would write off hearing aids or CIs as an option.

I know plenty of kids with and without CIs and hearing aids and with and without speech skills who are bilingual and they are doing great.And it's possible to have both and be both. Unfortunately, there are those on both sides that insist on one or the other.

As others said just keep following Miss Kat's lead.

Karen Mayes said...

As I have said several times in the last few years, follow your child's lead. If Miss Kat feels more at home with oral method, be it. There's no right nor wrong...

Both of my kids are pretty fluent in both languages (spoken English and ASL)... none of them showed any delays in either languages due to my making sure that they were exposed to both of them. No delays in education either...in both deaf schools and mainstream schools.

It's all about parental involvement and you have struck me as a parent who's deeply invested in Miss Kat's life so she's in excellent hands :-D Kuddos to you.

Li-Li's Mom said...

Your level of commitment is wonderful (and you've got the most adorable incentive :) ). I am not surprised by what you've discovered, I'm uncovering so much of the same as I go along.

I'm so glad that our 'First Contact' was on the ASL / Deaf side as well, or we might have lost the wonderful opportunity to instill languages in two different modalities at such a young age, and I LOVE the bi-bi learning environment we've got available.

But I'm just astounded, on a daily basis, at the misconceptions about CIs and spoken language acquisition that persist in communities that include and support the deaf. To be honest, I think the continued denial of what a CI can provide undermines credibility in general. And the insistence on a hardline either/or philosophy based on some antiquated cartoonish notion of oral learning that doesn't exist now, rather than acceptance of multiple approaches customized to an individual child's needs -- maybe bimodal language development, maybe signed language only, maybe AV only -- is just incredibly narrow-minded and self-centered.

I have to find a way to get out to JTC with the wee one next summer.

tammy said...

I like the word one commenter used - EXTREME - and I too believe that you have extremists for oral vs ASL (there's extremists for everything now a days). It's finding that balance and feeling good about what works best for your family, whether it's purely oral, purely ASL or a combination of the two and then immersing your child in whichever communication world chosen. What irks me, is how some people feel they can judge a family's choice of communication no matter what that choice may be, and most of the time without even knowing the family, the situation, or circumstances. I call that ignorance.

Although we are an AV family, we are not "strict" AV - we use some signs with Aiden and one of his favorite shows is signing times. I have noticed he's actually picking up more spoken language through these videos and anytime he uses a sign, he uses his voice too, even when he doesn't have his CIs on.

I remember when Kat got her first CI and it's just amazing how far she has come orally having such a strong ASL foundation. I love how you have both languages and I hope one day we will too. I think ASL is a beautiful language. Kids definitely prove to us nothing's impossible. They truly are amazing ... their minds are like sponges that just soak it all up.

PS - We are trying to get into JTC for the 2011 summer session. So excited to hear how much you and Miss Kat benefited from the program.

Anonymous said...

So you're annoyed with the Deaf Community's warning you that Miss Kat's screaming and resistance to her newly turned-up Advanced Bionics failing-hot implant is a sign that you are forcing her to do things your way rather than doing what is genuinely in her best interest. That your dreams were guiding what should have been more rational decision making.

Now you find out that her implant really WAS causing her to scream because it had failed hot, and that Miss Kat was trying to tell you, but you wouldn't listen.

It's not too late to admit that you were wrong, and that Miss Kat was herself trying to tell you a Deaf Truth... That hearing people want hearing so badly that they will force deaf people to pretend that the interventions are "not that bad" when they ARE every bit that bad; that they are just endured out of love, and faith that a parent would not do something to hurt their child.

But these 2 posts seem to show you busily burning the bridges to the Deaf community over what turned out to be your own mistaken decision.

Or are you hoping just to quietly reimplant her before anybody notices that your decision to continue to force Miss Kat to endure the effects of a bad implant caused your daughter unnecessary pain and suffering to which YOU were far too long DEAF, because you chose to believe the medicos over your own daughter's cries for help.

Maybe time to LISTEN when Deaf people try to warn you? Even if they do not articulate their warning to your liking, perhaps TRY to understand that they are not only trying to HELP your daughter, but that they are too often RIGHT.

- AndyJ