Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Right of the Deaf Child to Grow Up Bilingual

Quicktime This video talks about why it is not a good idea to have oral-approach only.


Hi! I would like to share about the article written by Francois Grosjean who provided his perspective by researching Deaf children. The article mentioned that ASL should be the primary language of a Deaf child. Despite the use of various technological aids ( i.e. cochlear implants), sign language is mandatory period. Why? I will explain the reasons for you to think about it.

When hearing babies are born, they normally acquire language in the very first years of life that their parents communicate with them and that babies receive information by listening to surrounding sound environment such as T.V., radio, people having conversations, etc. Even some parents sign with their hearing babies making it more accessible. “Language in turn is an important means of establishing and solidifying social and personal ties between the child and his/her parents. What is true of the hearing child must also become true of the Deaf child.”

It is crucial for Deaf children to see a visual, 100 percent accessible, natural signed language that they are able to completely comprehend the information as they grow up.

But is this really happening for all Deaf children? Unfortunately, no. Why? Organizations like AG Bell, AVT (Auditory Verbal Therapy), etc. think it is not necessary to include ASL but focus on listening and speaking ONLY. That only approach HURTS! I will explain to you why.

First of all, we don’t know for sure if a Deaf baby will grasp information completely through auditory. All cochlear implant users don’t pick up the information in the same way. We know that some hearing aid users have developed strong listening skills and some of them don’t at all in spite of having the same decibel loss. Too often, people assume by exposing one language (oral) would do just fine until the moment they realize that this approach did not work. So what happens to that child? “He or she falls BEHIND in his/her development, be it linguistic, cognitive, social, or personal.” It becomes TOO LATE!

This issue is disturbing to DBC that this oral only approach is GAMBLING the Deaf child’s life away from academic development, social development, healthy emotional development, etc. We need to advocate more strongly on having both languages, ASL and English, for all Deaf children.

The responsibility, the duty and the goal of DBC are to make sure that ALL Deaf babies from the start have access to natural sign language that is acquired naturally as much as possible where two-way communication takes place. For a Deaf child to bridge to English (spoken English and/or written English), the most important part for academic success and future professional achievements is to master written English. Once a Deaf child has the ability to write well, he/she can do anything!

By using one language (oral) approach and excluding ASL with those who use listening assistive devices, is it a right way? No! We know that obviously oralism involves RISK! BET! GAMBLE!

Having the ability to develop cognitive/personal skills will be minimized when using oral only approach. Why limit the Deaf child’s ability? He or she would have developed much more advanced in these areas (linguistic, cognitive, social and personal). Oral approach with most Deaf children is not perceived as communicating in a two-way street in a natural way. Research states that for a Deaf child to use oral only approach impedes communication and that the daunting effort to develop speech skills is consumed rather than focusing on developing cognitive skills. When using ASL, “it allows the young Deaf child and his/her parents to communicate early, and fully, on the condition that they acquire it quickly.” ASL play an important role in the Deaf child’s cognitive and social development and it will help him/her acquire knowledge about the world. They can express about anything that is much easier and clearer for them to communicate.

Hearing parents can learn signs and they need to get more support. What DBC wants to see happening out there is the establishment of ASL Therapy Centers. We don’t even have one here in America but we always have numerous speech therapy centers even hotline phone numbers where immediate attention can be given. More fund is needed to establish such centers where support to facilitate hearing parents’ signing skills will be much more possible in the future.

In the meantime, DBC has been sharing an important message that every Deaf baby has the right to sign. Why is this so important? There are numerous benefits and opportunities using ASL when a Deaf child grows up. In this case, opportunities are more of GUARANTEES.



drmzz said...

I agree with that stance - including signing regardless of child's level of hearing loss.
Early mental health development in a child is first and foremost.
Do not distort the process and make language acquistion as accessible and natural as possible, indeed.
Too bad, many many do not get it. We can only continue to educate!

Aidan Mack said...

First.. Your message... I agree with you. You said it beautifully.

Second... I love the way you edited the movie... Good job.

Third: I love your hairdo... SMile...

Keep it up with good work. You rock as usual..


Anonymous said...

I agree.

ASL should always be an option for deaf children.


So should CI, TC, CS, etc. etc. etc.

I do wish oral schools would incorporate more ASL for those deaf kids, but I'm not going to protest them. I am not in the business of telling parents how to raise their children.

I'd rather be a happy, productive and positive example of a Deaf person.



John Egbert said...

AGBell and AVT are the BIG business of telling parents how to raise their children!!!

Many parents want to hear and learn more from those happy, productive and positive Deaf people.

This is what DBC is all about. To teach the parents, fair and balance informations with no biased ideology.

DBC does not ban CI, TC, CS, etc. etc. etc.

But AGBell and AVT bans sign language, ASL. This biased ideology needs to be stopped now.

Bilingually yours,
John F. Egbert

todos la vie said...

Looks like you said amen at the end and I amen to that! :-)

I love how you organize your thoughts and reflections in your vLog.

kg said...

It is what they (hearing parents, avt, agb) think is "mircale" for Deaf child to hear fitting in hearing society.

Deb Ann said...

CoOl~ I LOVE the way you created your vlog!

Oh, I strongly agree with you.

I'd give you a trophy for that =)

Anonymous said...

Hearing parents are gambling their deaf children away from succeeding literacy by raising them orally only indeed!

AnnaMarie, your loving mom

LaRonda said...

Hi Barb.

Great vlog as usual.

You look mah-velous! I second Aidan!

~ LaRonda

Anonymous said...

I never miss your vlogs. Go DBC, Go DBC!

Barb DiGi said...

drmzz: Exactly..we need to recognize what is natural for a Deaf child, that is, provide a visual language that is accessible for them.

Aidan: Thanks! It is a nice compliment coming from you about my editing work!

Paotie: Glad to see your perspective about having ASL in Deaf children, however, I am getting the impression that you are on the borderline by saying this and that rather than taking some looks like you rather mind your own business than getting involved to educate the parents. You may be not a teacher like me who consults parents on a daily basis but you, apparently a successful Deaf person, can be influential to parents by stressing the importance of bilingual approach.

I consider myself as a positive person as well but I don't know how can I be happy watching Deaf children being deprived of linguistic development by standing there and doing nothing about it. It is like being selfish if you just sit back and allowing it happen before your eyes like what a bystander does when witnessing a situation that is not acceptable. You know, children cannot speak for themselves so us Deaf activists and hearing advocates need to educate and make the difference. Why won't you?

John: You have described the truth of who and what DBC is all about. I need not to say more :-)

Todos la vie: Lol, I actually said guarantee but it does resemble to amen so either way works!

kg: It is unfortunate..that is why we need to take our accountability to educate clueless parents.

Deb Ann: Thanks..what can I say!!

Mom: I am always grateful for your wonderful upbringing in dual language enriched environment. I love you!!!

LaRonda: Gee, thanks!!

JMA: Thanks! Yes, rah rah DBC!!

Anonymous said...


Oral should always be an option for deaf children.

not all of CI, TC, CS, are not working.

Did you have homework?

Dianrez said...

Well said, Barb! What sticks in my mind is the occasional hearing parent that is saying, "It stands to reason that Sign is the best way to go."

We have quite a few of those enlightened parents inserting similar comments in the blog universe. Why do they say that, and other parents say oralism (auditory methods too) is the only "sensible" way?

One parent is keenly perceptive that Deaf children are visual; the other parent is thinking of self and cannot imagine how it can be any other way. One can put himself in the child's position, the other cannot think outside one's box.

We need to promote "putting oneself in the place of the child" and encouraging these parents to think accordingly.

IamMine said...

That was an excellent speech, Barb! :)

I only have ONE minor complaint.

You signed cochlear implant really funny! ;)

I'm touching my jaw, wondering if it really moved there? *jaw cracking*

It's all about education and support.

Handiologists? Hmm. ;)

*calls a dentist for an appointment*

Great job, Barb!

DeafKathy (Wilson) said...

So true! Im afraid that one day after the child had its CI and didnt learn ASL then 20 years later still have struggling to catch up with the society, will the parents feel guilty and regretted that they should have offered more choices but it is kinda "too-late" after the child are fully grown and become "divorced" from their family and no longer love them. That is the most scary moment I kept on thinking inside my mind about their futures.
I loved how you created the effects on your video. By the way, I dont know if anyone noticed this or maybe some of you knew this already.. Barb's wearing a ring on her left hand... Was she been proposed? Smile ;D

Aburnred said...

Well said...however we should set up tent cities across the United States to protest against deaf education programs. We should stand up and speak for the deaf children. Yeah schools listen to parents. But misinformed parents can go on forever if we dont take a stand. We did it with Gallaudet Protest, why not this very issue at heart?!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Barb,

This was a great vlog you made there! You should caption it for hearing parents out there but it's up to you.

You know what I am realizing right now, the teacher that I work with uses TC, I am finding myself having a hard time understanding her even though she signs well, I think my lipreading skills have gone downhill and I am depending more on ASL. Now I can understand why it is difficult for some children to understand TC communication because so much information is missed out.

As for AVT, I don't understand why ASL is forbidden, it does not make any sense. They can use ASL and then help the child learn how to listen like switching back and forth. I've heard of some deaf children who were exposed to ASL and have excellent speech because their speech therapist used sign language to work with them.

It is too bad that some people think that ASL is a "forbidden language" and that hearing parents are so desperate for their children to talk and listen that they forget about their well-being. I liked the idea that you brought up about setting up ASL therapy center. MJ Bievenu had her BiCultural center a couple of years ago and it folded, I m not sure why. We need a lot of wealthy benefactors to donate money to make our ASL stronger than ever.

Barb DiGi said...

Dianrez: Interesting question you have raised..I think it is a matter of belief of what the parents think it is the best for their Deaf child and what they want to see for them to become. I couldn't disagree with you more!

IAmMine: Oops, I didn't realize that I signed CI close to the jaw..thanks for the heads up. I guess I was just doing a short-cut version of sign, you know like when you sign good morning into GOOD-MORNING with one hand..ahh that handiologist idea of yours surely resembles the ASL therapist center. I believe this kind of pressure by the Deaf community especially with the increase of 400% of ASL class offerings in post secondary programs can put in a good use of their career.

Kathy: Yes, that is why we need to reach out and share testimonies to educate parents by thinking twice to incorporate ASL with their Deaf child. This is what DBC is trying to do.

(smiling) You surely have sharp eyes! Yes I just got engaged last week!! I am really excited to have this wonderful man in my life!

Aburnred: I agree with you that it is too common for schools to bow down to parents to what they want rather than consulting them what would be the best for their Deaf child. The experts are supposed to give this support by taking the steering wheel to guide the parents through the light. Actually, the DBC is making waves lately in local areas such as VA, FL, CO and recently IN so this is a way of approaching this issue to the heart of the core where parents and professionals who are persuaded by AG Bell ideology get the message about the importance of bilingual education for Deaf children. However, I do like your idea for fundraising purpose since DBC needs help to collect more donations. Please go to Thanks!

Anon: I can consider making it a voice over. Captioning is not my strength as it takes away so much of my time (I don't know how Seek Geo does it!) and my patience. Providing a transcript is the best I can do for now.

When you mentioned about the teacher using TC, are you referring to simcom or ASL-like signs in English word order? These are known as artificial languages that cause the mixing up of ASL and English like those who speak creole. This is what should be a threat by combining both languages at the same time and it is often misunderstood that ASL is to blame for this mix-up. What most teachers of the Deaf don't do is to keep these languages SEPARATE. By doing TC method, it deducts the grammatical features of both languages and that is when the red flag comes in.

Davy said...

Yes I see the average deaf people were behind about "six years"..... trying to catch up level with hearing people ..... it is sad..... In that time between 1960 to 1970 were heavy those hearing teachers taking away our sign and force us to speaking our voice in mainstream school.

It is our DEAF life with only our eyes is Powerful VISUALIZE to see everyday in everyday with ASL that is only count on it period!

WE need the Powerful spread word DBC up by telling them in our best way to wake them up. We have Enough is Enough by hearing control us telling what to do.


DeafKathy (Wilson) said...

Congrats for you both! My hubby and I have known Steve for almost 20 years (through WDT) and he's a great guy! Im sorry if I was off of this subject posted, eh, it just got my attention and was so excited for you both. Smile

B.A.D. said...

OMG - I TOTALLY L-O-V-E your energy/what you said/and how you edited this! THis is very strong! YOU GO GIRL! :-)
I so agree with you - BEAUTIFUL!!!

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wahoo said...

I being told it is not worth to argue with Alexandria Graham Bell org. since they have money and clout. I think it is time to focus on establishing ASL Theraphy and have someone to interview on TV with different program. It would be nice if the Deaf have their own cable to expose. That is I had told the Deaf community why black and spanish have their own cable. I would like to see a person like this woman above to go to different deaf or public school to address this matter. I dont know if they would allow you to do that. I total agree with everything you said. When I was in SC school for the Deaf I was not allow to use ASL in class. I know the frustration. What I couldnt understand if they allow us Deaf to communicate and socialize in the dormitory. I dont know if this will help. What is wrong with NAD, they suppose to be our advocacy? Can we make US Congress have a bill to protect the child. During 1980, the organization grew stronger and stronger. I dont believe anyone should prohibit a child to communicate ASL. It is our beautiful language. Another thing write article in every newspapers thruout U.S. I am just giving some ideas, you can diagree or agree. I want some way to fight this matter.

wahoo said...

If there is a petition I would sign it. I learned it is difficult to fight against giant org. like Dept. of Education. They have the clout. If we can get all the Deaf or HOH to support this then we can really fight this battle. I am tired of hearing Deaf or anyone I like your ideas but not doing anything about it in action. We all are involved with this big issue.

Barb DiGi said...

Hi Wahoo,

Thank you for expressing your ideas. By the way, that lady in the video is me. First of all, I couldn't disagree with you more about taking more actions to make bilingual education mandatory. This is what I have been doing behind the scenes. Since I am an educator, I am able to make daily contact with parents and outside professionals to discuss about the importance of bilingual programs.

I am happy to announce that my abstract on making parents feeling comfortable about bilingual program just got accepted in the EHDI Conference. If you know me more, I ain't that woman who just sit around and complaining in my vlog, heck no. The purpose of my vlog is to give empowerment for people who can better justify the value of bilingual education and hopefully someday it will reach to the legislative level.

Let me assure you that the new organization, DBC, is on the roll. DBC is challenging AG Bell but at the same time focusing on spreading the message through media channels. Media likes conflict, unfortunately, so for DBC to challenge AG Bell draws mass attention.

You are right, AG Bell will not change their mind or so but if there are some members and parents thinking twice because of DBC campaign (some already had as evident from DBC Indiana campaign), then it is worth it.

I am just happy to announce that DBC has exciting plans that will share to the public in the year of 2008. People like you joining the bandwagon sharing your testimonies, being involved in promoting awareness and making changes in the law is crucial. We shall prevail!

DE said...


You never cease to amaze me with your demeanor, ability to frame things, and the goodness of your heart.

You said you couldn't just stand by while Deaf babies are being deprived of language, education, and happiness. That's the point of all our activism-- we must not forget our babies.

As for AVT- I'm starting to believe that the real motivation behind their increased push is... money. Oppressing ASL sure keeps 'em rich! (See their stocks rise...hmm... can't be an coincidence, but a real correlation.)


Barb DiGi said...

Please allow me to correct this statement:

... "I couldn't disagree with you more" about taking more actions...should be "I couldn't agree with you more about taking more actions..." which means I agree with you 100%! Thinking that by mentioning double negative makes it positive like saying, " it is not uncommon or it is not unusual would mean it is common or usual but for this statement, it came to my attention that by saying "couldn't disagree" statement does not apply! Boy, English can be funny, heh!! (now this statement is peculiar knowing that I am not talking about a boy and not talking about funny in a way that makes you laugh!) English can drive you crazy!! (ahh, here I go again with drive!)

DE, what you just said also reflects on you knowing that your leadership and involvement in promoting the value of bilingual education have contributed greatly for the sake of Deaf babies' future.