Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Why can't there be more Gideons out there?

We all cannot forget how Gideon, an articulate, vibrant-signing eight-year-old deaf boy from an art of truest form of a deaf masterpiece produced by Mosdeux has captured our hearts and formed a desire for the likes of many deaf children. Using his natural language, ASL, he has offered a precise explanation on what an atom is and how magnets work that is loud and clear. It is not only about how he uses ASL , it is about who he is as a person. He greets his sister with affection putting his arm around her and being able to remember her sister's birthday date. This is so natural and compassionate. Gideon has also captivated us making our jaws going awed on how he signed a storm telling stories. Have you noticed how he has mastered as a storyteller when shifting into different roles, how he uses classifiers and how he describes the subjects/objects using long-shot signs and close-shot signs? On top of everything else, he definitely loves to play with language. Play is powerful in language development because it goes beyond effecting children's direct experience of the world to facilitate meta-cognition and meta-linguistics, that is, thinking and communicating about direct experience (as when the Gideon talks, smiles, and tells stories about motion rides on a boat and in a bus). His ability to express in this clear, visual language is like music to our eyes. There is no evidence in struggle when he answers the questions as he has replied fluently in ASL. Gideon has adopted a role as a master of play whereas he has demonstrated a formidable authority on the subject. He is able to display resonant signs on jaw-dropping and added a drool sign in the end. That is an example of language play. He is just taking an opportunity to create and experiment with some of those ways to explain how he feels when learning the way magnet works or how he narrates the story in motion. He defintely plays to experiment with linguistic and cultural routines. Play provides an opportunity to pick apart received structures, and to reframe, reformulate, and reorganize the material into new categories and combinations. Gideon is able to transport learned material into the realm of his imagination, where he can be free and able to re-shape and re-express it. Here he can digest the learned material about science topics and make it his own using his natural language, ASL, that is. He plays to escape English rules, and to assert his own control over the material using a high degree of ASL fluency. Afterwards, he can return to English's rules where he is able to derive his knowledge of ASL foundation to apply in reading and writing fashion. According to the article, "The relationship between literacy and ASL", written by William Vicars mentioned that Michael Strong and Philip Prinz had conducted a three year study of 155 deaf students in which they found a statistically significant positive correlation between a high degree of ASL fluency and English literacy. Gideon is indeed the future of the order of deaf people only IF we continue to fight to preserve the value of bilingual-bicultural education for ALL deaf children including hard-of-hearing children (when I say deaf, it means hard-of-hearing as well). We must continue to overwhelm more research findings to support this concept and to show living proof how deaf children are able to master English skills who already have acquired ASL since birth. This is the most critical learning period where a language is to be acquired fully in an immersed environment. We all know this but why isn't there a law to push for deaf babies to be exposed to ASL immediately? Take a look at Deaf Educational policy Scandavian policy and how changes in teacher education curriculum in Sweden. "Swedish educational materials center has produced a new book in English about process writing and process signing. It is also accompanied by a video. This insight, into how to develop the Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency and literacy levels in deaf children's first language is consistent with all the bilingual research (the highest achieving students are those who had their first langauge supported throughout their education and developed literacy in their first language as well as their second--in fact these children score higher levels in high school than monolingual children). This approach to teaching very young children to compose on video and do school assignments and creative "writing" in sign language, supports an easy switch to process writing (like writers workshops) in written Swedish and later English. I don't even see discussion of this methodology in the U.S., yet they have been using it long enough and with so much success that the book written by these two teachers was translated into English." Where were we in this? Why is it that here in U.S., we continue to struggle to implement such programs in deaf education? Perhaps there are some discussions of this methodology that have taken place in some schools for the deaf but it is not determined as a unified decision-making on how to better educate a deaf child as there are too many controversies in America. We continue to prove, prove and prove using countless research journals and articles on the benefits of providing biglingual and bicultural deaf education. The practices and applications of this theory have only scanted in deaf education field across America since most schools for the deaf and mainstreaming programs are not even steering in this direction because of this obsessed priority to focus on speech and hearing which is considered a "selling point" to parents. This has been a common traditional path that is comfortable for educators, administrators and staff who have been trained in programs supporting this practice. We need to question more about how deaf education programs prepare teachers for the deaf. Imagine if we unify to continue to give more pressure to the legislature in the state level and eventually the federal level to adopt this practice and policy that is mandatory for all deaf children to receive such methodology where they are able to master English starting with well developed ASL skills since birth (there are ways to make this work as I will comment in my next article). Then imagine from the outcome of this poltical action, there will be more Gideons out there! ASL gloss: Deaf Education Unity Same! English : Unity for Deaf Education!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've noticed that no matter how much proof we've come up with, people still think that English and oralism is the way to go. When in reality, the oral method is failing many many deaf children... I don't want a failed future. Do you? Of course not... So we need to keep on fighting and not give up. Once again, it'd be amazing how far we can take this fight if we were to unite together. Unity works!

Carrie Gellibrand

Carrie said...

Yes, I've noticed that no matter how much proof we've come up with, people still think that English and oralism is the way to go. When in reality, the oral method is failing many many deaf children... I don't want a failed future. Do you? Of course not... So we need to keep on fighting and not give up. Once again, it'd be amazing how far we can take this fight if we were to unite together. Unity works!

Carrie Gellibrand

Lantana said...

This reminds me of a wedding I went to, where there were 3 very young deaf children, 2 sisters and a brother sitting in the front row and discussing the wedding among themselves, all in ASL. The youngest was less than 2 years old!

Carl Schroeder said...

Well written and well researched. Gideon represents our hope.

Betty Broecker said...

Good early morning. I enjoyed this one very much. I would like to know if you are the daughter of Anna Marie who lived in Oreland, PA years ago? -Betty Broecker

DeafProgressivist said...

Yes, absolutely true about how one research tends to contrast with another which is why this side of the research supporting a strong relationship between ASL and literacy is not taken seriously.

We just need to start to look at other ways such as using state of the art films (Audism film by Ben Bahan for example) to make much more impact to parents, educators and administrators to digest this philosophy.

Betty, what a nice surprise! It had been ages not seeing you since I was a child. Hope all is well with you!