I was on Facebook for the past couple of days and noticed an interesting trend amongst my Deaf friends. They were all upset about something that the AGBAD (Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf) had posted in response to a Washington Post article about Nyle DiMarco, a very successful Deaf individual who is a winner of America’s Next Top Model and is now a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. He has a very admirable aspiration to give deaf children earlier access to ASL in schools, and I applaud him on it.
I did a search online to find out what exactly they were upset about.
I found it…
I had to read it twice to believe what I was reading.
Now, let me get this straight. They said, “… deaf children are able to learn spoken language by listening.”
I don’t know what planet they’re on, but a DEAF child cannot HEAR in the first place. They only can by way of technology, as in hearing aids or in a Cohlear Implant.
There was so much in their response that made my skin crawl.
Let me tell you why.
I was born deaf. I am profoundly deaf in my right ear and severe in my left. Without my hearing aids, I can’t hear much of anything. You might drop a pan on the floor. I’ll hear that and jump, but if you talk to me, I’m not going to hear anything.
My parents didn’t know I was deaf until I was three years old. So, for THREE years, I had no language. Granted, back in the early ’80’s, they didn’t have hearing tests for babies at the hospital when they were born. So, when I was found to be deaf, my mom wanted me to have any kind of communication available. I was placed in an awesome school in Tucson, Arizona, that went by the name of “C.H.I.C”, Clinic for Hearing Impaired Children, and I was taught Total Communication, which is a combination of sign language and speech therapy.
I learned how to talk, listen, and SIGN. I have friends who went to the same school, and they function fairly well in both worlds. Yet, a lot of my friends have more profound hearing loss than I do, and hearing is not possible for them, even with hearing aids. So, to take away the one language that would give them 100% understanding, that would be cruel. Even I, who has a lip-reading score of 86%, don’t get everything even with hearing aids. I hate it when I don’t get everything, so I depend on interpreters when I can get them. I even ask for them.
I even went to Gallaudet. Oh, God forbid!
But I blossomed in that world! People understood the frustrations I had with being at a hearing party and missing out on the conversation going on around me. Oralism isn’t going to fix that. I don’t have the super powers to read everyone’s lips and understand what everyone is saying. What I read in AGBAD, it seemed to me they wanted that. When I was around my deaf friends signing, I UNDERSTOOD everything.
I told my dad about the whole situation, and he’s hearing. He was flabbergasted that a group of people thought that way. “If they so badly want deaf people to talk, they should think about preaching Total Communication!” He knows how well sign language works, as he works with several deaf people and even taught some of the hearing people signs that worked in the loud working environment they’re in. He even said that ASL was great for communicating to me and my hearing brother in a crowded room without raising his voice. Yes, even my hearing brother and hearing parents learned sign. I consider myself extremely blessed to have grown up in a family like this. They accepted me for who I am and embraced it into their own life.
I’m even working towards my Masters in Special Education, and I’m going to be supporting my students to learn to their upmost ability. I will even support using sign language for those who struggle with communicating orally.
Okay…. I think I’ve stood on my soap box long enough. Thanks for “hearing” me out.