Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A Reminder

I posted a statement to a Facebook group consisting primarily of parents with some professionals and individuals with hearing loss. After some reflection, I thought it would be prudent to share this with the entire community that I am part of as everyone has something they can relate to in this letter.

Some background on this letter:

I recently became a "moderator" (but really admin) of this Facebook forum and have been facilitating conversations for the past few weeks. Much like with deaf adults, passions are stoked from time to time and conversations get heated up, but the reality is there really hasn't been any personal attacks or pervasive negativity. Everyone truly seems to be focused on providing positive feedback rather than criticizing parental decisions or choices made by deaf individuals (much like the "Mommy Wars" and D/deaf politicking). That being said, sometimes people need reminders about the reality they are in. This is one of these reminders.


A reminder about viewing other people's comments. Try to find the positive in each of our comments and think about the different factors that have played a role in each parents' set of choices from diagnosis to decisions regarding educational placement and use of technology.

Hearing loss is such a complex "condition" in the way it impacts everyone's life experience differently so nothing really is black and white. It is so hard to carry out comparative analysis in deaf education because it is difficult to flesh out the different factors that have influenced the academic and social outcomes of each person with hearing loss.

This is why I have stopped comparing the literacy rates of native cuers to the rest of the d/hoh population, since I recognized the biggest factors in native cuers' lives were the involvement of their parents in terms of communication and access to the language of the home. The same can be said for those who are "successful" in their respective mode of communication. Parents truly are the #1 factor in whether a child will have "successful outcomes" as defined by researchers and professionals (of some who could use some reeducation on those definitions).

If you had met me over ten years ago, you would have met a deaf adult who had a chip on his shoulder and viewed ASL in a negative light because of limited interactions with Deaf signers who truly left a bad taste with their attitudes and views (especially at a 4-H deaf camp in NC). Frankly this old Aaron would have been kicked out of many FB groups with the opinions he had.

However, much like some of our politicians today, my views have "evolved" as a result of increased exposure to a diverse population of people with hearing loss, some who still hold onto that archaic view that ASL is detrimental to overall language acquisition (citing research that I honestly could pick apart because of study methods and demographics of participants), and some who still believe cochlear implants are destroying Deaf culture (because they have never been able to positively experience "hearing").

The reality is an increasing majority of today's generation of deaf people are more open-minded than ever and welcome positive dialogue about how we can be inclusive of all communication options and focus on the specific needs of each child with hearing loss. We are all about helping our children (regardless of disability status) develop into well-rounded individuals who are able to pursue their own dreams without fear of oppression or discrimination. We are now blowing away the expectations of old and breaking glass ceilings everywhere, thanks to our loving and dedicated parents and professionals who truly are committed to meeting our needs and not serving their own self-interests.

Today I hold very different views about the benefits of ASL, while still holding fast to the belief of Cued Speech having profound implications for spoken language acquisition and literacy development. From my experience, rather than focusing on which philosophy or approach is the best, professionals need to focus on helping children with hearing loss develop a wide skill set which can include listening, speaking, signing, cueing, writing, and so on. Too many professionals are still being unduly influenced by members of the "old guard" who have not been able to let go of their own bias and accept the reality of today's generation of people with hearing loss.

People may not realize this, but there are many different paths to the same destination, wherever that may be. Some paths may be more difficult than others, but with guidance and support we will get there.

3 comments: said...

I see this generation of adults with a hearing loss as an "AND" community rather than "OR".....(Jim Collins author of Built to Last) Referencing history of educators/communication methods/culture, there was a "Tyranny of the OR" rather than a "Genius of the AND."

Joan Rupert

Ben said...

Nicely said!

Candy said...

You said it well:

"there are many different paths to the same destination"

The more educated one is about deafness, deaf education and the various languages/tools, there will be less misconceptions and more acceptance of the many various paths to the same destination. So, I see folks who are open to allowing their perception evolve as they educate themselves. What is sad, however, are the few who see this arena as a war, as battles that need to be won. I appreciate your moderating that FB page as I have pretty much sit back and watch and rarely get into it unless I feel I can contribute and add information that the parents requested.