Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

vendredi 20 juillet 2007

For All Hearing Parents of Deaf Children

This is a message directly addressed to Amy and other parents of deaf children who do not support sign language. Amy, I've read your comments on Barb DiGi's entry that responds to your comments on John Egbert's site. I know you love your sons dearly and would do anything for them. I believe that you weighed everything very carefully before making your decision and that you truly believe you did and are doing the right thing by your sons. Your passion and the strength of your convictions come through very clearly when I read your comments. Thank you for loving your sons so much.

I have some thoughts and questions for you and for all parents of deaf children who do not want their children to sign. I'm not questioning your choice to implant them, nor your choice to provide auditory and oral training here, just the choice not to sign with your children.

One, do you realize that your children are not hearing? How will they respond to an alarm clock? I imagine that for now, you are waking them up. But eventually, they will need to take responsibility for waking up on their own. It's rather unlikely that they would wear their implants to bed just to hear an alarm chirp, buzz, or blast out the latest Hilary/Britney/Christina song. Have you considered this? Also, they are not going to have their implants on all the time. Shower? Swimming? It'd probably be a good idea not to wear their implants when they're playing sports. How will you or anyone else communicate with them then? Lipreading has its limitations. Studies have shown repeatedly that the most skilled of lipreaders has only a 30% success rate.

Two, do you understand that you are placing all of your hopes and dreams on pieces of technology, which fail? Your sons will outlive the devices in their skulls. They have no back-up means of communication, except for lipreading, which is difficult. What if an implant short-circuits, dies, or gets broken from a blow to the head? How will your children interact with the world in the intervening days and weeks between device failure and surgery? What's Plan B here?

Three, hearing babies who learn to sign have far better language development, their IQ scores are higher, and their spoken language development is not hindered at all. Why can't we do the same thing with deaf babies? Why can't we give them both languages and modes of communication? What's wrong with that?

Four, you believe that your children hear a lot. That may be. That may very well be. However, we deaf people can adapt amazingly well and we do fool hearing people many times. A new water aerobics instructor didn't know I was deaf for close to 3 months. (And I was in the water, so amplification wasn't happening in this situation.) The only reason she found out in June was because I had my head turned away once. She was stunned and after a bit, she said it was sooooo cool that she had no idea that I was deaf. I told her not to do anything differently, except to make sure she faces me when she talks to me. I could go on and on with examples and I'm sure many people in DeafBlogLand have their own stories that prove how well we adapt. I invite them to share their stories. I'd like to talk with your children in 15 to 20 years and have them share their stories about how well they adapt even though they don't hear everything.

Five, why are you so willing to ignore us deaf adults? Your children will become us. Many of us from all walks of life and from all educational backgrounds have weighed in on this topic, asserting that ASL or a natural signed language needs to be part of the package, regardless of whatever else the parents decide (implants or not, spoken/auditory training or not, et cetera). We are the experts on deaf children, not the doctors, audiologists, and cochlear implant companies that are in this to make money. Why are our voices going unheard here?

Six, I feel your desire to want your children to be just like you. I agree with you - you should be able to transmit your culture, your traditions, and your values to your children. I just don't understand why you aren't willing to share your children with us. We don't want to take them away from you. We just want to let them know we're here for them when they're ready for us. We don't mind sharing at all. Why do you mind? (just wondering, not accusing)

Please don't deny a part of your child. Please allow your child to be deaf, while giving your child everything you can. Please continue to expect your child to be part of your family and your culture, but acknowledge that your child is different. Please give your child the most precious gift you can - bilingualism. It's only to their - and your - advantage, after all.

12 Comments:

  • At 04:50, Anonymous Aaron Valentine said…

    You certainly made strong points and that's what we are trying to tell hearing parents. You are right. The question is "Who are the real professionals?" Wait, better question, "Who are true professionals?"

    But I like to add another point for you.

    Deaf people learn ASL much faster because they're strongly visual people. OLDER Hearing people learn ASL much slower because they depend heavily on hearing. This is why hearing parents are encouraged to learn ASL as soon as they can rather than they learn in later life.

    I believe that the more young, the more faster learning will take place.

     
  • At 05:37, Blogger Amy said…

    Wonderful post!

    Alexander Graham Bell was quoted, and it was documented on Fred De Land's book, called "Dumb No Longer: Romance of the Telephone."

    See the link and his quote was printed on page 264, third paragraph.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=
    r5oWAAAAIAAJ&dq=%22dumb+no+
    longer%22+fred+de+land&printsec=
    frontcover&source=web&ots=Vy NZRtszr2&sig=
    xzGoNqWKbdygze13XlRLsycAEBo#
    PRA1-PA264,M1

    Bell said, " We should try ourselves to forget that they are deaf. We should try to teach them to forget that they are deaf."

    It reasonates for some parents, that it is their belief that "we" should try to forget their child is deaf, and treat them as hearing as possible.

    My mom, may G-d bless her, was taught with this kind of belief and she always instilled her belief in me that I am a hard-of-hearing, not Deaf, with my severe-to-profound hearing loss.

    Hearing aids helped with my residual hearing, to hear something, but I knew that I am deaf, because I take them off while I was asleep, or taking shower, or going to swimming. My mom would prompt me to put them on. I realized, I was not accepted for who I am, a natural being as a Deaf child.

    When I was 13 years old, my dear Dad (G-d bless him) brought me an article about cochlear implant. That was over 25 years ago...

    I read the article, then I saw my Dad's hopeful eyes seeking for my approval. I glanced at him with my love and desire to please him, but I turned my head back to the article mumbling to myself, "13 years of learning how to accept myself for who I am, and still, my parents didn't accept me for who I am? How much more should I have prove myself that I am not PERFECT like anyone else and all I wanted to be accepted!"

    Yes, that were my personal thoughts.

    Alexander Graham Bell Association's belief is so pervasive and very effective to the parents who desire to have their children to be more like them. Parents want to give their children best opportunities by giving them with devices, tools, skills and support.

    The greatest gift that all Deaf children desire the most from their parents - is an unconditional acceptance of them being Deaf.

    It's all about embracing and accepting the child's unique differences, that'll make the world of difference for everyone.

    Amy Cohen Efron

     
  • At 05:42, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Well said, Moi.

    Let the children be themselves and identify themselves for who they are.

    I do not completely understand what Amy is trying to say about her children.

    Thousands of unwanted children from other countries came here to be with their adopted parents. They are different children but they will know who they are and come from.

    See, life is a such precious for the children's lives.

    White Ghost

     
  • At 05:54, Anonymous Dianrez said…

    Perhaps parents like these fear losing their children to the adult Deaf culture and try to keep them away from it from the start, instilling their own values including an attitude that "we aren't like THOSE people..."

    This backfires. When their children grow up and discover the ease and acceptance of people like themselves, and the beauty and satisfaction of ASL, they will have less to do with the culture that attempted to obliterate, minimize and deny their deafness.

    This is so unneccessary and tragic. Acceptance of all cultures begins in early childhood, especially those that one is born into.

     
  • At 06:54, Anonymous Mark Drolsbaugh said…

    Wonderful post, and wonderful responses.

    Amy Cohen Efron (Im saying your full name so as not to have anyone confuse you with the hearing Amy who is against signing), I wish all parents would read and understand what you just said.

    I will never forget the day I was asked - at the last minute - to do a presentation with a group of hard of hearing kids at a family learning vacation. I decided to just go with a rap session and those kids touched my heart with their comments. They were HOH kids ages 10-13 and they pretty much echoed everything you said in your response.

    They admitted faking their way through interactions with their families and other hearing people because well, thats what they thought their families wanted: for them to be hearing.

    I did the same thing myself for many years. I much rather would've had unconditional acceptance, as you so beautifully pointed out.

    But no, I and countless other deaf/HOH kids had to put on not just our hearing aids, but our hearing MASKS.

    If only people in the hearing world could understand how much hard work it takes to be something we are not. In fact, let me hop off this soapbox and leave you with this powerful quote (one of my favorites) from e.e. cummings:

    The hardest fight a man has to fight is to live in a world where every single day someone is trying to make you someone you do not want to be.

    Best regards,
    Mark

     
  • At 09:11, Anonymous Dawg said…

    Point well taken! Many times I have to look around on how to rebuke the hearing people's comments against signing. This will be another tool I will use.
    I also would like to add to your point...
    Imagine this...
    I am father of 15 years old son. I am deaf and he's hearing. I taught him how to sign when he was tiny toddler. Now, fast forward to 15 years old. Often he and I have time to sit down and have a normal conversation about everything including sports, politics and general.
    Now, I ask you this...Can hearing parent have same conversation with their kids when they're 15 years old? Or they are spending a lot of time trying to talk to their kids for which they probably getting in one eye and out with other (just like hearing, in a ear and out other ear).
    Not only that, I have seen oral school spend half of day trying to teach kids to speak and spent another half of day ACTUALLY EDUCATING the kids. Deaf children, in other hands, was able to absorb all education thur sign language for which they already learned, naturally.
    Hope all is well with you

    Dawg

     
  • At 13:07, Anonymous Amy said…

    Thanks for understanding that we are doing what we do simply out of love for our children and true understanding that their personhood does not revolving around the fact that they were born deaf. Their interests and unique personalities are what make them who they are.

    Companies do make alarm clocks for the deaf. They are used by implanted teens all over the world. Some prefer lights, others vibrations. There are also special smoke detectors, as I'm sure you know. Bath time is surely far less than 1% of my kids' day, but I feel fairly certain that by age 9 they will no longer want me present during their bathing, so that's pretty unimportant. My 6 year old can indeed lipread now to some extent, but that was not a big obstacle to water play or washing up, even when he wasn't good at it (and he wasn't, because he fully uses audition rather than lipreading the rest of the time). I would love to see waterproof or fully implantable devices in their lifetime. Parents of teens do report a few minor modifications to their lives, such as girls not being left home alone while sleeping, but that would be the same regardless of their implanted status. My own MIL (deafened in her late teens) was raped while sleeping on a couch, not having heard the intruder come into her home.

    While we do worry about failures and reimplantations, they are successfully taken care of when they arise in families with cochlear implants. In particular, we chose to bilaterally implant so that any down time will be less difficult. Having lived around my MIL who could speak clearly but not hear, I know that having that advantage is huge in life. So, their having learned to speak (even when their CIs are off) is an advantage.

    Even if my 6 year old was without his CI forever, he has now a good grasp of language which will serve him well. Without his CI, he can't hear. With it, all day, all week, all year, he hears. It's not about a culture for him. He can be friends with anyone he meets, whether or not they were born with sight or hearing or the ability to use their legs. But he has been allowed to have all 5 senses, and for this we are thankful. As you know, without our sense we cannot communicate with the world; each one is precious. Hellen Keller was missing 2 of them, and I'm sure she contemplated the fact that she needed the sense of touch in order to be able to finally communicate and have others communicate with her.

    Thankfully, in today's age, we have been able to allow our boys to have all 5 senses. Their lives are easier because of it.

    Deafness is not a unique difference which is akin to being a different skin or hair color. We would, of course, never seek to change these things. Unfortunately some deaf adults focus on their deafness as if it is something all of our kids should embrace. I guess that having never heard, they don't see what the hoopla is all about. But I can guarantee that educationally and professionally, all lives are easier when their senses are intact. I would say exactly the same thing if my boys were lacking eyesight, and indeed I believe many deaf people might agree with that. I doubt that all deaf adults agree that life is just fine, their job status is just fine and they can easily communicate as they go about their lives in their town, when they travel or when someone calls on the phone. I am not criticizing-- simply stating that we hope it will be easier for our boys than it was 100 or even 25 years ago.

    Teaching ASL to a hearing infant (who can hear the entire time) is vastly different than teaching signs to a deaf child who is implanted. My boys were not yet making much eye contact or hand to eye contact when implanted (at 9 months and at 6 months of age) and so they would not have been utilizing much if any sign had we chosen to do so. I confess that we made a brief foray into SEE with my 6 year old which was not successful at his age (3 or 4 month old), and shortly afterwards decided that our modality would be English. This was also our reason for early implantation, as it makes the most use of the brain's plasticity and desire to learn language.

     
  • At 23:51, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Amy,

    Yes, a light bulb, an alarm clock, radio, refrigerator, television, computer,

    BUT

    Not INVASIVE skull surgery,
    touching the membrane of the
    brain. Never, ever!

    Think about consequences FIRST!

    Symptons may not show up
    until 20, 30 years later.
    So please think TWICE!

    Accept a deaf child
    GRACIOUSLY. The child is
    a blessing in disguise. He
    would not have to go to
    Bush's Iraq war!

    Hearing people hear less
    than animals. Does that
    make hearing people less
    human?

     
  • At 04:54, Anonymous VB said…

    Amy Efron, "The greatest gift that all Deaf children desire the most from their parents - is an unconditional acceptance of them being Deaf." I don't want any misconception that we as hearing parents don't give them that acceptance. I don't want to speak for the other Amy either. But as a hearing parent of two deaf children, my son can readily tell you he is deaf and that he has an implant and that his sister is deaf as well. He can hold a conversation w/a hearing person but he can't sign. He can read lips very well. Let me try and explain why he can't sign. And I want to preface this by saying yes, Moi, we are all somewhat selfish when it comes to our kids, hearing, not hearing, no disabilites, it doesn't matter. All parents want their children to be somewhat like them. As a parent, it makes me proud when I see my three year old hold her purse the same as me, and check herself to see if we are walking the same. I imagine as a deaf parent, teaching your hearing children to sign whether or not they are hearing impaired is so that they can communicate with you and your family as a whole...it's passing part of you onto them. Well technology has now allow us to do the same with our children, and I realize your question is about signing not a CI so let me get to that. We now have the ability to pass on verbal language and speech to our children. The type of therapy we use to get the "best" speach is strictly auditory training w/speech. In order to get the most (in my opinion) out of your hearing aid or ci you have to sort of deny the visuals in the beginning and teach them to strictly use their implants. This can be used for anyone who has great access to sound, not just CIs.This type works very well w/proper training and asuming the kid has no other underlying issues or delays. This is not done in a cruel way, Moi, as you stated before you know we love our children and I too was a little skeptical when hearing how it was done. My initial thought was that it sounded cruel. Well, luckily, I investigated and watched it performed and learned ways to do this therapy w/out being cruel. We don't withold milk if our kid can't say "I want MILK". What we do is thru lots of praise, encourage our children to make a sound, any sound for milk. When they use their voice they gets lots of claps and cheers so they learn that their voice can get what they want. For a while they just make sounds and we model the correct words for them so they can practice making them correctly. They aren't in anyway punished for using a gesture but instead cheered on when they use their voice. It really doesn't take that long for some people, for others it may take a few years. At this point, my kids are six and three and we now have incorporated some sign. As a hearing adult, when we think about suddenly going deaf, it's scarey for us. I realize our children were born this way and most deaf adults probably were too so just like an adult all of a sudden being able to hear everything at the normal levels after always being deaf, it would really be scarey. So this is why you are eased into the implants and the world of sound when given a CI. Teaching a deaf child to hear and speak really isn't as cruel as some may think...some people choose to never learn sign and that's fine...they are parents and we all make choices for our children. We have chosen to add some sign now, we learned a minimal amount (alphabet, approx. 10 vocab and 5 phrases) when our son was younger. We are slowly going to add to that and practice just because it's a choice and I think since they are still young and have no speech delays that it's not going to interfere with their abilities to understand speech w/out visuals. I think that parents, no matter what, beat themselves up about differnt issues that come up over the years with their children. Will all deaf children learn sign, no. With technology as it is, and parents teaching their kids to hear and speak, all deaf children will not learn sign...as hearing parents are offered other alternatives now. Our children do function and are fine and not scared when the implants come off. I realize that the concern here is what if it breaks or what will they do if they spend the night w/a friend. It is my job and Amy's job just as a parent to educate others associated w/our children and to make our children very self sufficient. My kids are truely just as happy w/out their implants as they are with them...this is because they have been raised to be that way. We are in fact a very low income family so we instill these beliefs in everything. They are just as happy to get a .97 hot wheel as to recieve a 97.00 item. We are just thankful for what we have and we don't focus on what we don't. My kids are completely aware that other kids hear w/out devices and they are aware some people speak w/their hands only and that we can't run off to the beach just because we want to. But we love our kids just like most people and I'm very thankful that we have made the choices we have. They were most successful for our situation and looking back at videos of my son pre-ci...he has the same smile then that he has now. I think we all just want our kids to be happy and a happy home life is really the best environment(whether you speak Spanish, or sign or English, or combination). So I try not to focus on what are people teaching their kids or not teaching them...but how happy are the kids? I can only speak for my family, but they seem pretty happy.Hope this helps.

     
  • At 15:45, Anonymous ella said…

    Amy the hearing parent and VB the other hearing parent,

    You may be hearing but you are NOT listening.

    I've interviewed Deaf people who have CIs and what struck me was that no matter what age they got the implants, most of them said the implanting was FOR their parents and they said whenever their parents learn sign language, they know its FOR them. Yes its evident you love your children a lot but I wonder if you love yourself more? If you truly want your Deaf children be like you, maybe it won't be a bad idea to be implanted yourself. Dear VB and Amy, you are not the ones we are protesting against but I protest the evil enthocentric, audistic influence AGBAD and AGBell has on you and us all that prevents you from really working with us Deaf adults who love your children just as well.

     
  • At 19:19, Anonymous Amy said…

    Ella, let me ask you this. Why do you love our children? Because they were born deaf? Why would that even matter... what about other children? In my eyes, I love all 4 of my boys. Two are hearing and two were born deaf. They can all talk together. These kids are not YOUR kids. They are OUR kids. They love their own families. Hopefully they will treat all people with dignity and respect. I have two hearing boys, and unless you show the same interest in them it seems very strange. This is not about selfishness unless it is selfish to want your kids to be able to communicate with ALL people around them rather than just a few distant people who happened to be born with less cochlear hair cells. Yes, I want to be able to talk to my kids. I want them to talk to their teachers, too, and their priest, and their grandparents. Oh, and the neighbor kids. All of them. And they do!

     
  • At 17:37, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Great Topic..I am the hearing Father of 3 Deaf children. After listening to all the "professionals" I decided to meet Deaf adults and ask them what was the best way to raise and educate my Deaf children. We chose to learn ASL and have my kids go to school where the teachers also sign. My kids learned in their native language and thrived. I don't want to seem boastful, (just a proud Dad) but my 2 youngest kids (twins) graduated First and Second in high school, went on to college and they both have wonderful jobs. My son had 3 jobs offers before he graduated in Computer Science and Math. My Daughter is a Biologist. Your kids can do everything except hear. Give them the best opportunity to be the best they can and want to be. By the way I became an Interpreter and my Wife teaches at the school where they went. Just so you know, many Deaf teens remove cochlear implants because they are not effective and they dont like the scars, and how it makes them feel. Just a thought. The real point is..meet Deaf professionals who you want your children to emulate, and then form your opinion. Thanks

     

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