Friday, July 27, 2007

AG Bell Protest: Day One, My Deaf Daughter Harmed

From Barb DiGi's side of the story:

Since we were told by this hotel assistant manager, Jenny, that it was permissible to distribute the flyer outside only, not inside, so we followed the crowd walking toward out of the building during a lunch break. As my daughter, Brianna, and I walked to the curbside where the participants were loading on a bus, we saw Rachelle tussling with Jenny who attempted to swipe the flyer out of her hands. We then walked briskly to the sidewalk area thinking that it would be better since we were not on the premises. As we passed out the flyer, some individuals happily accepted it and some declined. What I noticed was those who declined tend to be well dressed white women.

One thing I wanted to add (that was not included in my video clip) was that when I approached to a Puerto Rico woman, her eyes lit when she saw the word bilingual. She gave her thumbs up.

Before I know it, this Jenny snatched several pieces of flyer from Brianna then from me. I confronted her that we are not breaking the policy as we are outside on a sidewalk. She said, "No! This is MY property!" She then shredded the paper into pieces and walked away from our location babbling to herself.

A few hours later, Brianna and I had down time where she was able to review what happened earlier. She expressed how scared she was and mentioned that Jenny scratched her hand. I said,"WHAT ? " had I known this earlier, my reaction would be totally different. I didn't even realize my daughter was intimated and scared by Jenny who conducted unprofessional, unreasonable reaction. It was suspected that Jenny was ordered by AG Bell leaders to confront with us. I felt furious and dismayed making my daughter a victim. She had no right to scratch my daughter and make her scared.

This transcript was composed by two people, Jenny Cantrell and Brian Riley who graciously offered their transcription services.

((Footage of Raychelle Harris being accosted by the hotel manager))

RAYCHELLE HARRIS:

We’re outside!… (after the manager leaves) whoa.

RAYCHELLE HARRIS:

We were outside the hotel and I could pass out our flyers. Hey, it’s a free country, right? No problem there. I was outside and conference attendees passed me on both sides as they were leaving the building. I passed out the flyers with a smile on my face and people took the flyers, seeming to accept them just fine. I kept passing them out as people walked out past me and it was peaceful. Suddenly, much to my shock, the manager was in my face, a woman with shoulder-length hair, approached me and seized my flyers. It happened so fast. She forcefully grabbed the flyers. I was holding them as she tried to pull them out of my hands. She was trying to speak to me while tugging and yanking on the flyers. She suddenly let go and walked away. WHOA. I, stunned, couldn’t help but WONDER… would she do this to hearing protesters? I mean, she might approach hearing protesters and talk to them. But would she actually grab onto flyers in an attempt to confiscate them? Would she rip them, like she actually did to someone else?

BARBARA DiGIOVANNI:

I was walking outside and I looked over and noticed something happening — I saw Raychelle’s tussle with the security guard, the very same security guard, um, manager, named Jenny. After the struggle ended, I told my daughter to come along with me to the sidewalk area, because I remembered very clearly that this was specifically where we were permitted to distribute flyers. We, happily, were right by the bus area where conference attendees were lined up to board. We seized the opportunity to pass our flyers out to the people in line. My daughter and I were passing out flyers peacefully. Everything seemed to be going fine. But then wouldn’t you know it? All of a sudden, the woman came up to us the minute she saw us, Jenny I mean, and GRABBED the flyers from my daughter’s hands. My eyes flew to the manager. She then snatched the flyers from mine and I was so confused and stunned. This was totally unexpected and it happened so fast. She just came up from behind and yanked them from us. Bewildered, I said, “Wait, what are you doing? What are we doing wrong? We’re here on the sidewalk area.” She said, “No, this is my property! You all just get out! You’re not allowed!” And the she began ripping up all our flyers! I couldn’t believe what was happening. I just felt that she completely shut us out. There was no attempt to discuss it with me or try to initiate a dialogue. NONE. She totally jumped the gun by snatching the flyers from my daughter, confusing her and me too. Then, as we were still reeling from what had just happened, she just up and left without finishing the discussion. She walked away like this very angry woman, just walking around like that. You can see how crazed she looks on the video. That’s evidence.

I pondered the recent events. Later on, yes, I was still stunned. I talked it over with my daughter to make sure she was all right. We discussed feelings at length, and she shared that she was stunned and afraid. This went on for a while. Some time passed after that discussion. But it wasn’t until only one hour ago that she finally shared something, y’know, during quiet time, just the two of us bonding and sharing. My daughter told me, “That woman scratched my hand.” I was like WHAT??? A SCRATCH? If I had known this in the first place, I would have reacted much differently at the time. With the knowledge that she TOUCHED her, I became furious, unhappy, and heartbroken. It grieved me to think of what that woman did to my daughter. What will my daughter think? Will she hate this hotel and hearing people because one treated her this way? This was so completely unnecessary. She should have approached me first in a calm manner and talked it over with me, not simply grab and yank the flyers out of our hands. I was actually following their policies! This just threw me off and she was trying to be mean and squash us. When my daughter told me all this, I put my own feelings on hold and focused on supporting her. I’m feeling down and I’m grieving. These feelings will fade with time, but at the same time, I will do something! I will have to. I’ll write letters, tell others my story, let it out. And all of you can add your own contributions to the effort. The process will gain momentum. What right do they have to do that? Scratch into her hand like that? Is that right for them to do that? No!

BRIANNA DiGIOVANNI:

Today I was at the AG Bell convention. We were in a group, passing out flyers to people. Everything was fine when I saw Raychelle trying to keep her flyers from the woman. I watched, shocked. We walked fast to the sidewalk. It would be better. I was just passing them out with my mom. We were just passing them out when I saw; I had no idea, the manager, behind my back, grabbed my hand and scratched it. It hurt. Ow. I watched her grab my mom’s papers. I watched, scared. She grabbed the my papers out of my hands and then ripped them up into pieces! I felt really scared. I watched, uh-oh. What’s wrong with her?

__________________________________

From Amy Cohen Efron:

The morale of this story: Deaf people uses our hands to communicate, and we desire that all Hearing people to use THEIR hands to communicate with us. We do not tolerate having THEIR hands to control us, by touching, pushing, snatching, hitting, grabbing, but not using their hands to communicate.

Why cannot people just try to use their hands to communicate, instead of using them on us?

That is a very serious communication breakdown, but sad, very… very… common for us to be controlled by their hands all of the time.

The irony is… hearing babies are encouraged to use their hands to communicate before they can speak. Deaf babies are not allowed, and will not…

Think about this.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

It is a No Crying Shame to be in the Protest at AG Bell Conference

The purpose of the upcoming social awareness protest at AG Bell Conference on July 27th and 28th, 2007 at Arlington, VA will be discussed.

There has been a strong interest to form a Deaf Bilingual Coalition (DBC) expressed by the deaf community along with a list of goals shared by the participants to ensure that every deaf child has the right to access to American Sign Language from the start. For the focal point of this social awareness protest, the public needs to know from the media that there are eight benefits of baby signing that is used generally by hearing parents and hearing babies.

But the question is: why have a social awareness protest at AG Bell Conference? Play Quicktime Play YouTube

AG Bell has formed a partnership with Audio-Verbal Therapy group (AVT) group that advocates deaf babies who receives cochlear implantation to focus on unisensory stimulation only, and shuns American Sign Language throughout the process. Baby Signs are a growing phenomenon with research-based benefits and the greatest irony of all is that Deaf Babies are not allowed to sign during AVT sessions.

Now let’s look at why Baby Signs are being used to hearing babies. You may wonder what made it attractive for parents to use signs even though they can hear and that they have to learn signs?

Derived from the website,

The intellectual benefits of baby signing include:

1. Baby Sign Language increases the speed of the development of verbal language.

2. Baby signing increases vocabulary.

3. Baby signing reinforces the use of verbal language.

4. Baby Sign Language promotes language learning through concept.

5. Baby Signing reinforces a child’s communication attempts.

6. Baby Sign Language promotes early literacy.

7. Baby Sign Language increases interests in books.

8. Baby Signing promotes the early use of complex sentences.

Baby sign benefits extend to children over 3 years old also. Older children who used Baby Sign Language as infants and toddlers have better verbal and reading skills. Many parents use books along with teaching sign language. When you point to a picture and then show the sign for the word, both reading and communication skills are improved. Vocabulary is developed earlier and grows faster. The kinesthetic elements of signing reinforce verbal skills.

But what about speech delay if AG Bell asks?

Research shows that learning sign language does not delay speech, but in fact aids speech development. Most baby signers speak earlier than babies who do not learn baby sign language.

You can actually teach an infant Baby Sign Language, and it will promote the use of speech sooner rather than later. Language is conceptual.

Why are we not saying anything about poor deaf babies who are denied to sign language?

Now I hope you can see that this is a clear message that the DBC group is able to point out to the media.

This will be one of the demonstrations that will allow the concerned public to open up the dialogue and raise public awareness that will eventually get this table brought to a legislative level.

Now it is the time to protest for the sake of deaf babies who suffer the language deficiency just because organizations like AG Bell whose partnership is with AVT continue to spread the propaganda without the benefits of using signs.

It is evident that they are not being inclusive on explaining to hearing parents on how using signs with their deaf babies ages 0-4 years old are able to benefit greatly based on 8 points listed above. It is evident that there are multiple benefits for hearing babies using signs and that deaf babies are missing out these opportunities based on 8 benefits. Now we need to ask: Why is it that signs are still not part of deaf babies lives?

Never mind that lame excuse when parents were told it was difficult to learn sign language or that it was considered a foreign language to them. Because of today’s access to technology allows interaction online and with DVDs and that more sign language classes and Shared Reading Projects are provided to parents for free, this is no longer an issue. If hearing parents can do it with their hearing babies, why is it not possible to learn for deaf babies? It is only 80 dollars for DVD set. On baby signs found on Missy Keast's website. The quotes are taken from websites listed in the resource list below:

"The whole point of baby signs is not to raise IQ's. We're not in this for better babies in that sense - we're in this for better family interaction."

“Baby signs might also satisfy the great curiousity about what your baby is thinking.”

"Baby Signs" help brain development and problem-solving skills.”

Imagine being able to communicate with sign words before the age 1 or so. A stronger communication bond will occur between family members. It makes more sense to communicate first with signs since babies, hearing or deaf, have yet developed motor speech coordination skills. Why delay communicating with babies? Why wait for the baby to develop speech?

DBC believes that engaging in a social awareness protest can strengthen their campaign, attract press coverage and raise funds. It will also help open dialogue between our campaign and anyone opposing it.

Here’s what will happen in the protest:

Each participant will be wearing a shirt with the slogan on it. It would be:

“Why Hearing Babies sign BUT Deaf Babies Do Not?”

There will be no picket signs or posters since it interferes with our need to use hands to communicate. There will be leaflets that list the facts on the benefits of using signs in babies and how oralism failed most deaf individuals.

The participants will “chant” the slogan and they will be advised not to be offensive.

There will be a variety of media (newspapers, radio, television, internet) coverage taking place where social awareness of this conflict will be raised and shared to the public. Thanks to Aidan Mack, she will be filming the demonstration that will be shared on the internet through a variety of video servers also it will be made accessible to hearing viewers.

The idea of this demonstration will be small and simple since it is the first one. There will be no marches or permits required. There will be no abusive argument, or a fight.

The DBC is hoping to grow to make it more visible and larger in the future. Giving a deaf child language during the most formative developing age (between infant to 4 years old) increases their chances for communication and comprehension success in the world. As a non-profit political and advocacy organization dedicated to protecting Deaf human and linguistic rights, California Association of the Deaf has generously made it possible for you to make your donations tax-deductible. Visit www.cad1906.org and click on "support for Deaf Bilingual Coalition" on the left side of the home page. The success to make DBC to grow depends on your support. Please forward this link to your friends. Thank you.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” Edmund Burke

“The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment”. Robert Maynard Hutchins

Sources:

http://www.babies-and-sign-language.com/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/actionnetwork/A4288999#top

http://hana.freedomblogging.com/2007/07/20/guess-who-keast/

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/TurningPoints/story?id=521213

http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/pulse/scripts/99_00/baby_sign_lang.html

http://www.brightminds.us/series/044/index_h.jsp

http://losangeles.urbanbaby.com/community/momsabouttown/momstown0700_cont.html

http://clerccenter.gallaudet.edu/Products/Sharing-Ideas/afirst/different.html

Update: Please view Amy Cohen Efron's vlog on the Greatest Irony with voice-over

Thursday, July 19, 2007

In a response to a hearing mother of implanted children

I would like to share you my response to Amy who is a mother of two implanted sons found on John Egbert's site.

These are my opinions based on my experiences and observations as a parent of deaf children and a professional. Although the upcoming demonstration is not about cochlear implant but knowing when reading most blogs, the topics can go off a bit from the main idea. When reading this mother's comments, I was a bit sadden about her attitude toward sign language and how deaf people without implants are not perceived normal. Read on..

Same here Cy..I am usually a nice person but when reading Amy's comments I became a bit annoyed and here is why:

1. ".. those of us with deaf children of our own would perhaps have chosen to teach our children the English language starting from birth..".

Sorry Amy, chosing to teach our deaf children English as a first language is not as complete and accessible as it is when teaching ASL. Deaf babies don't usually receive a cochlear implant until the age 2 or so (average speaking) missed out the critical language learning period that they are already delayed not only in language but cognition. Even CI and hearing aids will not correct the problem. I have seen so many of them with CI coming to school with no language during preschool age but got to gradually develop a language while my deaf children, now ages 8 and 9, already have language when they attended pre-school. They are already advanced and ready to learn to read and write since they already have content knowledge.

Actually to learn a language naturally, it has to be acquired, not taught. My two deaf children whose first language is ASL were able to go through smooth transistion from L1 to L2. This theory has been supported in multiple research findings. They excel in English through reading and writing and are making great progress. Their percentile scores are 99% as indicated in the SAT. Their reading level is above grade level and writing level at par. As a teacher of the deaf, for them to acquire English starting from birth is not realistic because the communication access is not 100 percent. Babies cannot learn to read and even lipreading yet. These components have to be taught, not acquired, hence making it not natural.

2. "Signing with hearing babies, while a fun fad that the bored suburbanite mother does with her time, is not the same in any way as encouraging a deaf infant to overemphasize his or her visual sense when the auditory sense is the one which is needing stimulation".

Actually, it is not a fun fad. It is becoming popular because research shows that there is an increase of 16 points in I.Q. tests. Let me tell you that I noticed hearing children of deaf adults (CODA) tended to make advanced academic progress than children who know one language. Also why limit to one language? Cognitive thinking skills are much more advanced in bilingual children as studies have proven.

3. "Fortunately, with today’s technology, deaf children can become hearing all of their waking hours "

This is a red flag because if you took cochlear implant consultant's advice like Mary Koch who mentioned that parents who think that having their deaf children implanted mean they will be hearing are not making this choice for the right reason.

4. " The statistics show that hearing parents (who study hard) reach about a preschool level of ability in sign language. This would be terribly stunting for a deaf child, who would never be able to discuss philosophical issues that come up even in the preschool years.".

Where did you get that? This is not true at all. I have come to know hearing parents who are motivated and immersed themselves in ASL environment mastered in ASL. Even several of them became teachers of the deaf and interpreters. It is even more terribly stunting for a deaf child not to have complete access to a language, especially English that is not a visual language, so exposing them signs help them to pick up English eventually. As a teacher, I have come to known wonderful hearing parents making a great deal of effort to communicate with their deaf children that they are able to discuss philosophical issues. God bless them!

5. "Our kids talk like any other kids and frequently astound those who meet them because they can live their life just like any other kid, without concerns for translators, captioning, TTYs and all of the other things which previous generations had to worry about."

My deaf children can live their life just like any other hearing or implanted kids, too. There is no way that any implanted kids can understand 100 percent when watching TV with no captions, talking with people in a group, and on a phone. CI kids are not getting the message 100 percent like hearing kids especially when they get older as language becomes more complex. I know for sure that my deaf children get 100 percent when discussing in a group, talking on a TTY or a videophone, and watching TV with captions (captions helped them develop vocabulary and they are terrific spelling bees.)

6. "So go ahead, protest, but I guarantee if the media interviews a kid like mine, they will convince almost every TV watcher out there that organizations like AG Bell are doing a great work. You can’t fight the great progress that they are doing, or the wonderful successes of thousands of implanted kids who hear whispers and score nearly 100% in the soundboot".

Don't be so sure Amy. I also have successful deaf children who are not implanted that will convince every TV watcher out there that bilingual is doing a great work. Oh yes I can show it to the world and you can't fight that either. For implanted kids who hear whipsers, so what? It is not as important as being skilled in literacy. By the way, didn't you know that a 7 year old CI girl died last January according to CBS news article? As far as I have known, there are already 14 deaths among deaf children with implants. I don't even think it is worth the risk! I hope nothing like this will happen to your sons but you can't guarantee that it won't.

7. " can easily locate and show you studies which show the exact opposite of what you are claiming. Bilingual education results in poor literacy skills and educational levels. I have seen the listening and speaking skills of kids in BI-bi and TC programs, and there is no comparison to the language and vocabulary of orally educated kids."

I can easily show you that orally educated kids are way behiind than bilingual kids. Bilingual education results in poor literacy skills? Where do you get that? First of all, bilingual education is not common across America since most deaf education program just had a jump start and statistics are not out yet about the studies of bilingual education. However, as a teacher, I have already seen the positive results. We need to be careful to identify which program is bilingual because some of the programs actually don't meet the definition of bilingual education. For example, if you go in a classroom where a teacher is using simcom, that is not bilingual. Bilingual education has certain strategies and practices that most teachers of the deaf are not trained well. If you look at deaf ed programs, there are only two programs (as far as I know) in America providing bilingual instructional methods. Gallaudet University just started to offer bilingual training and workshops just a few years ago. This field is starting to be out in the open so we cannot jump to conclusion that it fails.

8. "I am against my sons using sign language because I am a proponent of them having the most opportunities in life. Simple as that. I don’t want them to have to be griping on some blog someday about how mean the movie industry is for not captioning, or how the doctor they chose didn’t have an interpreter worth a darn when an emergency arose."

This is really sad for you to be against your sons using sign language. You are treating this language like it is a taboo. ASL is a beautiful language and it is a terrible thing to waste. I am not against anyone who is able to speak. My daughter (who is profoundly deaf) is motivated to learn to talk with her hearing aids while my son is not. Every child is different but to snatch ASL away from them is inhumane. Like Cy, I don't know which planet you are from but there are FCC and ADA laws making communication access possible especially here in America.

9. "I know thousands of kids just like mine, who every day talk and listen and enjoy movies and phone calls and music… and were born deaf."

I know thousands if not millions of kids who don't use cochlear implant have the same opportunity to enjoy movies, phone calls and even music. It doesn't have to be a CI person to enjoy these only.

My non-implanted deaf children are leading completely normal lives too. Although they are still young, I have taught them ways to communicate with hearing people and it is not even a problem. They know that writing becomes so important to master since they will be able to order anything or even have a dialogue with people who don't know sign language. I am just grateful that there are nice open minded hearing people who want to learn sign language or who attempted to use gestures to communicate with them. Literacy, not speech, is the priority for my deaf children. Thank you for listening.

Readers, feel free to add your comments to either disagree or agree with Amy and/or me. I just want to know what you have to say about this since I am only sharing my opinions and experiences.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

How could it be UNBIASED as claimed by AG Bell?

Sorry, it is a bit blurry due to the use of digital camera since the camcorder is not available so please bear with my vlog. quicktime YouTube, click here

Hi viewers/readers,

A variety of blogs/vlogs concerning the upcoming demonstration at AG Bell conference have been popping up from time to frequent time leading us to think thoroughly and to look back what AG Bell has done in the past decade. We already know who AG Bell was and the kind of philosophy it carries in the organization. But how much do we know about its function since the turn of the 21st century?

Found on the AB Bell website, here is the statement in "5 Best Practice Criteria" claiming that AG Bell is providing UNBIASED information about all available communication options when a child is diagnosed with a hearing loss. Now isn't that what really happened? So come and join the memory lane as we go back to September 2002.

It mentioned that:

"In September 2002, the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) initiated a legislative outreach program to establish educational policies that incorporate auditory learning and spoken language options for children with hearing loss and their families through an early intervention Best Practice Model.

The following spring, AG Bell developed five “best practice” criteria based on data collected."

Goal:

To increase awareness of auditory learning and spoken language options and education by ensuring that parents receive UNBIASED information about all available communication options when a child is diagnosed with a hearing loss.

Five Best Practice Criteria:

Parent(s) who have children identified with hearing loss must receive a printed, standardized resource manual that includes clear, objective, explanatory information on each communication option:

a. Auditory-Verbal (Unisensory),

b. Oral or Auditory/Oral,

c. Bilingual/Bicultural (ASL/ESL),

d. Cued Speech, and

e. Total Communication

2. Parent(s) must receive a standardized, printed resource manual from a state-designated representative trained to present the information on communication options in an UNBIASED and impartial manner.

3. Designated representatives who provide information to parent(s) must participate in annual trainings and workshops to develop knowledge of all communication options and topics relating to hearing loss.

4. Interagency agreements, state guidelines and task force committees will provide the mechanism by which parent(s) and children receive cooperative visits and information sharing between early intervention providers, early hearing and detection programs and non-profit agencies providing services to children with hearing loss.

5. Criteria are mandated to be provided in each state as a Best Practice Model.

Now my next question is how many workshops were provided about bilingualism? ASL? They claimed that they are unbiased but we obviously know that the information provided is not well-balanced.

I have looked for the past seminars of this year and here are the topics:

March 29, 2007 - Advocating for a Cochlear Implant Child Throughout the Education Process

July 19, 2007 - Back to School with Cochlear Implants: The Top 10 Things Parents Need to Know

August 30, 2007 - Partnering with Your CI Audiologist: How to Get the Best Possible MAP for Your Child

September 13, 2007 - School Bells: Supporting Children with Cochlear Implants in the Classroom

September 27, 2007 - Maximizing Outcomes with Minimal Resources: Tips for CI Kids Without Access

October 11, 2007 - Hearing with Two Ears: Bimodal or Bilateral

UNBIASED? Come on, who do you think you are fooling?

Now what did AG Bell exactly say about ASL on their website? Here, I found one mere passage about ASL that stated:

“American Sign Language is a manual communication method taught as a child’s primary language, with English taught as a second language. American Sign Language is recognized as a true language in its own right and does not follow the grammatical structure of English. This method is used extensively within the Deaf community, a group that views itself as having a separate culture and identity from mainstream hearing society.

For more information, contact the National Association of the Deaf."

Note that NAD lists almost everything that contains pro-AG Bell methods (cochlear implants, listening devices, etc.) in their website showing that NAD is more inclusive than AG Bell. So who is UNBIASED here?

When you click on the bookstore site, do you see any ASL materials? Heck, no. So how could they claim that they provide UNBIASED information on communication options? I am getting a bit confused here (**scratching my head**).

About scholarships, it only awards to deaf students who are capable of speaking and listening regardless there are non-aural/oral deaf who would be qualified for a scholarship, too. "The AG Bell College Scholarship Program offers scholarships ranging from $500 to $5,000 for students identified with moderate to profound hearing loss since birth or before acquiring language. Scholarships are available to students in any field of study who use speech and residual hearing and/or speechreading (lipreading) as their primary mode of communication." Do you call this UNBIASED?

Even here in the same website, it spelled outloud that "through publications, outreach, training, scholarships and financial aid, AG Bell promotes the use of spoken language and hearing technology." UNBIASED?

In addition, they did mention something about Children Legal Advocacy Program (CLA) that they complained that there is not enough oral practices (exactly the opposite of what you just presented). They said:

"Access to spoken language education is denied as a result of inappropriate placement.

These cases involve either public or private school placements where the school district refuses to place the child in a program that will enable the child to acquire a spoken language education. Instead, the placement offers an ASL-based program, a Total Communication program or a mainstreamed classroom without needed support services."

This tells us that they are advocating for every deaf child that they deserve aural/oral practice instead of using ASL only. Of course, AG Bell is clever and careful enough not to bash ASL on their website. However, action speaks louder than words and this is what we can hear. It is amazing that they are taking on this platform since there are far off MORE deaf children deprived of ASL than ORALISM especially today. I couldn't even identify that many schools who deny spoken language education to begin with unless I am mistaken.

AG Bell slogan is, " Hear from the Start, Talk for a Lifetime". Knowing that hearing babies sign from the start then learn to talk, why should it be other way round for deaf babies? It just doesn't make any sense to me.

So if they are advocating for auditory/oral practice, why can't we advocate for ASL instead of using speech only? I have yet seen any stong organization to advocate ASL instead of speech alone and this is why the birth of the Deaf Bilingual Coalition is needed. Why should we be silent about this? No one has organized such demonstration at AG Bell Conference for 127 years so it is time to be heard.

Since AG Bell has to do with the influence on educational policies, it becomes our business. It also has the influence to the legislative and us as tax-paying Deaf citizens, it becomes our business. It affects many, many deaf children and it becomes our business.

It is an awakening period for the Deaf Bilingual Coalition to be born! Kudos to JohnF. Egbert to initiate DBC!

Be silent no more!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Plain Old Facts about the Origins of ASL and My Opinions



I would like to explain the origins of ASL to clarify misconceptions as I am sure most of you know it already. Nevertheless, I just feel compelled to clear the air by focusing on the facts that support my opinions. Why of course, everyone is entitled to their opinions but to back it up with factual information makes it more credible, doesn't it?

"Today, linguists estimate that there may be as much as 58 percent cognates for a sample of 872 modern ASL and FSL words." (Lane, 1987:55).

We have evidence that Clerc was fluent not only in OFSL and Old Signed French but also was highly literate in French. It is likely that what Clerc taught Gallaudet was actually the modified system of signs that had been developed to teach deaf children French - old Signed French. The modifications they made were to adapt it to the grammar of English: signs were invented for English verb endings, articles, prepositions, etc. Thus, what Gallaudet and Clerc brought to American deaf education was an early form of "Signed English" based on the lexical forms of Old Signed French, which was itself based on OFSL.When they arrived in America, Gallaudet and Clerc began using their signed language in the classroom. In writings of the time, this system of signing was called "methodical signs." It wasn't long before the teachers began to note that while the students used methodical signs - what we are calling Old Signed English - in the classroom, they used another type of signed language in their interactions with each other."

Gallaudet (1819, quoted in Lane, 1980:126) wrote:

"A successful teacher of the deaf and dumb should be thoroughly acquainted both with their own peculiar mode of expressing their ideas by signs and also with that of expressing the same ideas by those methodical signs which in their arrangement correspond to the structure of written language. For the natural language of this singular class of beings has its appropriate style and structure. They use it in their unrestrained communication with each other, [it is marked by] great abruptness, ellipses, and inversion of expression. To take a familiar example "You must not eat that fruit, it will make you feel unwell" In [the deaf's] own language of signs, literally translated, it would be thus, "Fruit that you eat, you unwell, you eat no."

Gallaudet's recognition that the deaf had their own "natural language" was to be commended; however, it seems that, like l'Epée, he too failed to fully understand that this language was an independent, grammatical language. Gallaudet encouraged teachers to respect and learn this way of communicating, but he still insisted on comparing its structure to English and then noting that it is marked by an ellipsis (leaving out words) and inversion of expression (presumably, the fact that this language did not follow English word order).

This "natural signing" is Old American Sign Language. We may never know whether there was a commonly accepted variety or a high degree of local variation. What is clear is that the early methodical signs with their heritage in Old French Sign Language began to mix with the indigenous language which was already being used by deaf people in America. The result is what we know today as ASL.

In the century and three-quarters since these two languages first came into contact there has been much development. Both went through a period around the turn of the twentieth century when many people feared that the languages might be suppressed by the predominant oral method to the point where they would die out. In a particularly moving speech recorded on silent film in 1913, George W. Veditz, president of the National Association of the Deaf, made an emotional plea for all Deaf people to cherish and preserve their beloved signed languages as "the noblest gift God has given to the Deaf."

"Nora Ellen Groce's book, "Everyone Here Spoke Sign Language" traces the origin of Martha's Vineyard Sign Language (MVSL), an early sign language used on the island of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, where hereditary deafness was common. She traced MVSL back to County Kent in southern England. Groce found in "Samual Pepy's Diary" that sign language was used in the Kentish "weald" (woodland area). Vineyarders called their sign "Chilmark Sign Language" after the village of Chilmark where there was a good sized deaf community.

According to the About visitor, "Chilmark Sign Language was then taken to the Hartford School. It combined with French Sign Language (not De l'Epee's or Sicard's methodical signs). Groce's book doesn't mention this, but another source says that the signing community of New York also influenced the sign language at the Hartford school. So the convergence of Martha's Vineyard Sign Language, French Sign Language and the New York signs converged to form the basis of ASL."

When studying about the origins of ASL, I have read somewhere that Indian Sign Language somewhat contributed to ASL but there is no hard evidence.

"In America, the Great Plains Indians developed a fairly extensive system of signing, but this was more for intertribal communication than for deaf people, and only vestiges of it remain today. However, it is interesting to note some similarities existing between Indian sign language and the present system.

Similarities between ISL and the present system? I am not sure about that. Hey Pure Deaf blogger, you have that book on Indian Sign Language and tell me if you see any similarities.

Then came the infamous Milan effect attempting to wipe out Old American Sign Language and to replace it with oralism. It affected and alternated the thoughts mostly to hearing and some deaf people perceiving that using methodical signs in English is acceptable and that ASL is not necessary. It looks like to me that Lois like many deaf people in her generation got caught in this mentality plantation.

About Deaf vs. Dead, it may sound alike to hard of hearing people but remember hearing people can hear the difference between "f" and "d". When checking on the list of words that sound alike, I have seen you're vs. your, affect vs. effect, too vs. two, etc. The point is there are more hearing people knowing the difference between dead vs. deaf than deaf vs. Deaf so I would not worry too much about mistaking us for dead! But let me tell you this, I have experimented on how people reacted when I said I can't hear vs. deaf. I find that when I said I can't hear, I find that hearing people speak louder as compared to when I say I am deaf, they resort to paper and pen.

Now about teaching deaf children to read, as a teacher, I find that sometimes when deaf students chose to sign word for word and fingerspell a certain word that already has a sign for it, to me, it signals a lack of comprehension in reading. We are responsible for introducing the books by bridging both languages that make sense to the child. Pictures are used as a reinforcement to what the story is saying. It is like handing a pair of chopsticks to a person who never saw it before. You go here eat with it. This person will be mishandling it then attempts to copy by observing but may not get it right immediately. If someone shows him how to do it, he will get it a lot faster. It goes the same with teaching children how to read. They have the tools but we as readers must show them how to use ASL as a language to teach English.


Arrivederci!

Sharing Your Thoughts In Private vs. In Public

I know, I know...I am supposed to be on vacation but heck I am on vacation and this is something that I enjoy, v/blogging, that is. I read a magazine and the poll asked if we should blog while we are on vacation...82 percent said NO! 18 said YES so I guess I belong to the 18 percent of population who blogs on a vacation, oh well, guess you can't blame me for that.

Anyway, I can't help but join in the discussion about what v/bloggers say about respect. I would like to focus on expressing nasty, I mean real vulgar, thoughts in private versus in public. Naturally, my reaction when viewing Lois's vlog was like Huh? What the...? But I don't need to say more because if you don't have anything nice to say about someone then don't say it at all especially in public. I don't think I am alone in this that I do believe it is typical for most of us coming up with opposing thoughts about anyone who doesn't share our views, ideas, beliefs, etc. But I am not being a hypocrite here because I do share my vulgar thoughts to my trusted, loved ones and friends whom I can vent it out about anything or anyone. It is just a matter of WHERE your thoughts are shared.

When people say it is just a matter of respect, unfortunately, not all practices this ethical behavior when one gets provoked. It is a matter of controlling and refraining yourself from harming the others especially in this small deaf blogosphere. I am not talking about what I have witnessed in Lois's vlog but elsewhere and even mine. Name-calling is cyberbullying, folks but sharing nasty comments with your closed ones in private is sufficient if you want to vent it out. You may say it is a double standard but I believe that's how it is in human nature. However, I still encourage anyone to present their perspectives on why they disagree in a respectful way, not what he or she thinks of that person, especially when presenting your views in public.

When viewing vlogs or reading blogs, we may take it with a grain of salt, agree with what was said or defend for what we believe in and present our opposing views. My next vlog is going to discuss about the content of the origins of ASL and bilingual issues where I feel I need to clarify some misconceptions as told by Lois.

That is what America is all about where we are able to oppose any opinions but America is not about allowing name-calling, insulting remarks, and what-nots toward certain individuals. Why do you think the Congress passed hate crime and laws against libel and slander in the first place though?

Arrivederci!