Saturday, February 16, 2008

Using ASL Certainly is Part of Leading a Normal Life!

I have stumbled across a blog when someone said "one that relies solely on sign language will never lead a normal life like I, and many other CI users, have." I have to admit I was taken back with this arrogant quote and realized that this sixteen year old with a CI may be naive. She may be only sixteen years old but I get the feeling that this kind of misconception toward Deaf people has been heavily influenced by adults who surround her. This is why I am writing this blog to clarify that it is perfectly normal using ASL. I mean come on..I don't think there is a such thing for one who relies solely on sign language (and that is ASL), don't you? We all who use ASL tend to use either spoken English and/or written English to communicate with hearing people. However, it does exist that many Deaf people have actually grown up without ASL and some, if not most, of them have reported that they finally feel normal and "at home" when they discovered ASL.

Thanks to the commenters who shared their feedback with constructive dialogue, I can see that it led this girl to turn around by adding that she is not implying that if you do not have a cochlear implant, and if you use ASL, you are not ‘normal’. This is a definitely different statement than what she said earlier. She added in a more positive statement, "For those of you who sign, or use hearing aids, of course you lead normal lives, and live in and contribute to society." It turned out that her definition of leading "a normal life" means being "able to listen to music, to play in the percussion ensemble, to dance in my high school’s dance company, to perform in musicals and theater, to win awards for performing Shakespeare monologues, and to give speeches in front of thousands of people. This is what I choose for myself and I’m certainly not judging those of you that do not have these aspirations." So it turns out that her definition of normal is different from the others so the question remains; what exactly is normal? Does it mean that listening music and playing instruments qualify the definition of normal?

Anyway, we know very well that there are Deaf people without CIs are involved in the music and dance world. Look at the Wild Zappers, an all male dance company founded by Irvine Stewart, Fred Beam, and Warren Snipe, is under the auspices of the National Deaf Dance Theatre. Also at Rathskellar site, click on media since you can see how well they dance and sign in ASL with harmony. And of course, my finacee who plays the electric guitar in Beethoven's Nightmare, the only Deaf band in the world. My point is that you don't have to wear CIs in order to be normal by appreciating music since it is open to anyone who has this passion regardless of their hearing level.

Here is another statement that this girl said, "I’ve seen so much success for those who have the CIs that it is difficult for me to understand why a profoundly deaf person would refuse to get one." For my case, I am satisfied with my hearing aid and even if I am not, I would still not get it anyway. I think it goes both ways, for people with or without CIs having success since it is not only limited to those who have CIs are the one who have success. Again, the question: "What is success?" is like the question "What is normal?" What I am talking about success being the ability to have a decent job and own a nice home, which has nothing to do with one's level of hearing. In order for success to be in the picture, one simply needs the right kind of personality and right amount of drive. It is not necessarily true that all people with CIs or all profoundly Deaf people can be successful. Now to approach her question why a profoundly Deaf person would refuse to get it, reasons may vary. For my case, my Deaf children actually begged me not to give them CIs.

I would never forget when my son, aged four, came home one day looking terrified and asked me if he would be next getting a CI. I asked him why was he expressing so much anxiety. He replied that his six classmates were getting it, one at a time, and saw the stitch wounds on their heads after they returned from a long period of absence. It wasn't the wounds that worried my son. He also told me that they were not happy about being implanted and that their moods changed a lot. They had been crying and became withdrawn.

I understand that children at that age undergoing such changes must be confused. I assured him that I would never force him to get one so I kept my promise. Now my son is ten years old and he is grateful to be the way he is today. He felt that he is the luckiest Deaf boy to be blessed in a family that doesn't force him to become someone that he is not. I can guarantee you that he is not alone feeling this way. It is truly a blessing that not all Deaf people have to go though this procedure and to experience the beauty of the visual language.

You know when this same girl made a statement like "I have numerous friends who use hearing aids and ASL and I respect them a certainly consider them to be normal, but that does not take away from the fact that it is more difficult to communicate with them, than with my normal hearing friends or other CI users." To me it is like saying, " I have numerous hearing friends and I respect them a certainly consider them to be normal, that does not take away from the fact that it is more difficult to communicate with them, than with my normal Deaf friends or other hearing aid users?" I guess there are always two sides of the coin when it comes to life.

Nevertheless, I encouraged her to learn ASL and read more about bilingual education for Deaf children. I also added that there are former oral Deaf people even those with cochlear implants who are still incapable of developing intelligible speech and that their English skills are not as advanced than those who grew up with both languages. I just hope she and other people are able to keep their minds open about these things. I have nothing against oral communication as long as it fit Deaf child and that the child also be allowed to use ASL. Here is a research document stating that using American Sign Language can facilitate the development of skills in spoken English for the Deaf and hard of hearing. Using ASL is perfectly normal. This is certainly true!


David said...

Hi Barb,

You did a great job by eliminating false and misleaded information about ASL and Deaf people.

The 16 year old girl may be naive by making inappropriate statement. I think older people have made very poor judgement by feeding her negative energy. That is the one I am concerned about. I hope she realizes what she said is inappropriate.


cnkatz said...

Awesome post. Something new for me as you put video between your text. You did not sign the text into ASL. I do in some of my blogs too. A different kind for you, probably.

I, as a deaf educator, most definitely highly recommend this post to be referred to parents and educators of deaf children. Using natural testimony of a deaf child observing his peers being implanted! Not many, (maybe few or none) we see a deaf child of deaf parents explain and shown in public like that. Great!

Not only that, but using another cochlear-implanted deaf child's testimony, wonderful. Deciding what is being normal is highly cultural and relative. The two deaf children contrast nicely.

Barb, you are one of the soldiers fighting for and marching toward a better world for the deaf child within yourself and for the deaf children everywhere.

Cap off and hand wave!

brenster- said...

thanks for bloggin' about this. it irritated me when i saw repetitive usage of "normal" term, e.g. "my normal hearing friends" or "normal hearing people" in one blog. gee, hearing people are not normal! if they were, they would not even exist on the earth, duh!

everyone has different perspective of what is "normal." heck, i am normal! many times when my hearing friend (she is far from being normal, fyi!) complained to me about hearing noises, i felt blessed for the gift of silence! seriously!

i did wear (by force) hearing aids and the sounds were so awful - not the same as what NORMAL (ha) hearing people heard! I couldn't understand what is so great about having cochlear implants.

That is my perspective. Not understanding why we wouldn't want to have cochlear implants is their perspective. Thus, we have DIFFERENT CENTERS! Nothing wrong with it, but if that made one feel superior over another on the basis of one's ability to hear and speak, that's where the LINE is drawn! And we must speak up.

i appreciate having your son share about his friends.

Susan A said...

hi Barb,

the research document link doesn't seem to work on my end?

Thanks for sharing the infos.

Barb DiGi said...'s fixed now so thanks for alerting me about the link!

Will respond to you the rest soon!

Deb Ann said...

Hi Barb,

Oh, your son is so smart! I'm so glad that you brought it up and shared it as well. Your son is the key to open the truth what he has learned from his friends who are implanted. The hearing parents need to see it. I believe in letting them to make a right decision themselves when they're old enough to be ready for CI. Not all for CI.

Yes, I'm in a complete agreement with you that using ASL is perfectly normal!

DE said...

Another home-run entry, Barb.

I am increasingly using your blogs & vlogs as a study tool for my teachings, work, etc.

It bothers me that there is a purposeful disinformation campaign against ASL and the "Deaf way" of living in this world. Where did it all come from?

Just yesterday a family who just started learning ASL with their implanted 3-year-old boy shared that their audiologist had told the mom that the Deaf community would reject her son because he had an implant. Fortunately, the family decided to see for themselves, took up ASL, and now are very happy to have full dialogue with their son. They say that the Deaf community is VERY welcoming of their son and the family.

We need to nip the disinformation campaign in the bud.

Anyway, thanks, Barb.


Penny said...

NAD is still not doing anything about millions of Deaf infants and children who are forced to have objects in their ears. It is against their human rights. NAD finally announced that ASL for babies and children. Yes...ASL for them. Why are they saying that now? It is solely because of Mr. John Egbert who formed a new organization to fight rights for infants and children. And now NAD say...we are too. No. They do not want to lose members and money. They did not stand up for them for YEARS until recently. Something is wrong here. Drs are putting objects in infants and children ears daily...against their human rights. They used objects for patent purpose and to destroy our culture and language. NAD needs to act now and that is what NAD is all about right? Get busy NAD! NAD can hire civil right attorney...send out researchers about children with CI...information about patent on CI etc etc. There are many ways NAD can do something about this. Please do not say...easy to join as a new member...easy...just click the button and join...easy...No...Please act and no more talk talk talk.

GalaxyAngelz said...

Impressive your son speak it out about his friend who got cochlear implanted and not happy his ci. That facts proven why can't his parent listen their son's reacts?

Really hits me and big concern about so young tiny babies, toddlers and children. I was discovered and learned about "Risk of Bacterial Meningitis in Children with Cochlear Implants"

So you can check it out this url.
That really concern about this one.
Terri Watts~

Anonymous said...

Way to go Barb! You have done a well written post exposing the truth about ASL users and what your son has witnessed. We need to stop and listen to what is really going on!

This girl has a lot to learn and it is unfortunate how she perceived deaf people without CI in a negative way. I hope that she will get to open more of her mind.

I can see that your son understands how people feel through his eyes. It is amazing how kids at that age remembers what it was like seeing when others get CIs. Also I notice that he welcomes kids with CIs not reject them because they got it. He is showing his concerns about them, wow!

Jean Boutcher said...

Hi Barb,

Well-pointed. I think that the girl in question has been brainwashed all her life. I hope that sooner or later she will eventually have an independent mind of her own and will no longer
obey them unthinkably. They iinstilled a false image.

Look at Beethoven who struggled and did not become the greatest
Romantic composer until he became totally deafened -- so great that
England's biographer said, "I wish there were 4,000 deaf composers like Beethoven."

Meaning what? The girl in question does not know what
"normal" means. There is a long
way for her to learn more about
life if she is not out of touch with the reality of the world.

Jaymie said...

Hi. I agree with cnkatz. This is not to override our Deaf Culture by not putting up subtitles, but to merely get the message across to ignorant folks out there. This message is targeted more for hearing audiences who have no, or little, idea about the Deaf-World. However, us, Deafies, enjoy reading about your premise. I'm with you all the way.

Jodi said...

10 years ago I was on the verge of having a CI at that time I was in my late 40's.. the money was not an issue, my mom, and her two brothers were to pay what my health insurance would not pay ( which at that time was 75% coverage) I went in for testing,, no problem,, went in for the mental stress test or whatever it was called to see it I was mentally ABLE to handle the stress that came with it,, sooooo every thing was set,, but after having a long soul searching discussion with my only child ( who is hearing ) I canceled the operation( sort of the 11th hour thing) even tho I miss all the things I used to be able to hear ( I was not born deaf ) but realized, that this operation was only a quick fix or should I say a bandaid job,, NOT A CURE..
As much as I wanted to be able " to hear" again, I was comfortable in my own zone,, I have one foot in the deaf world and one foot in the hearing world, so I can function fine. Why do I want a robotic device in my head that does not feed me pure sound but distorted or robotic sounds..nah I would be able to tell the difference and I would be extremelly unhappy and quite depressed,, so my decison was a good one as far as I am concerned.
the 16 yr old is naive, and is only speaking of what SHE WAS TOLD, not what she probably REALLY FEELS,,
Barb I salute you for opening up yet anothe can of worms that we all need to stand back and examine. Because if we are not educated on this,,loads of childern and infants will be IMPLANTED ..
THANKS for sharing your sons views of what he witnessed. No child should go through the horrors of an unneccessary major operation..

ASL is here to stay as long as we the DEAF keep it with us ALWAYS...

Jodi in the Netherlands

Anonymous said...

no more transcript, please. ASL is going to be no money.

Barb DiGi said...

Hi everyone!

David: Yes, this is our job to continue to point out the fabrications about people using ASL. I share the same concern since these ideas conceived are warped.

Cnkatz: Yeah, since I couldn't vlog at this moment, I had to be a bit creative. Besides the message is for everyone that I wanted people who are ignorant about ASL users and Deaf culture to understand more about it. My son sees what he sees. He never rejects any of the kids who wear them. He embraces them and respects them. He is just concerned about their happiness. Actually, I am working on getting their testimonies. I would like to think myself as an eye-opener type of b/vlogger to expose the truth what is happening around us.

Brenster: Yes, the terms normal and success have been overrated. We all are entitled to our perspectives as long as we respect each other's differences, not to put them down.

Susan: The link is working :-)

Deb Ann: It is his generation that he is dealing with kids who have CIs and he is expressing what he is observing. He cares deeply about them and always include them. I am blessed having him as my son. Thank you for your compliments.

Barb DiGi said...

DE: You are welcome to use my b/vlogs as documents to reinforce your materials for teaching. In fact, I am honored! You raised a good question..what did it all come from? I think we can figure this out, wink. Your example how an audiologist is painting the scare of the impression on Deaf community to this family is evident that they are being shooed away and encouraged to develop misconceptions about us. Deaf people don't oppress CI users! It is 'they' who do by portraying us in false light!

Barb DiGi said...

Penny: NAD has its off and on years and it is the matter of the root of Deaf community members to take the stand. NAD is starting to reach out and represent the pulse of the Deaf community. NAD always would need help because they themselves cannot do it alone. The more people are involved, the more action will be taken and the more resources will become available due to membership.

The Deaf community had been dormant for decades until we are starting to wake up to record what is going wrong with the Deaf community. I know that you may have some ideas and please do share it with NAD. Make proposals and get involved will make a difference, I believe. It is never easy though.

As this moment, parents are entitled to make choices for their children and it is not against the law. Yes there are risks and benefits that need to be weighted and told to the parents. Too often, one of the options about ASL and bilingual approach has not been thoroughly explained and understood. We need to make the options presented to the parents with a much more balanced view.

Barb DiGi said...

Terri: His parents use "ASL" and strive to have his son in both worlds. I respect that they wanted the best for him however he is not finding this path suitable for him. He is still young and he will find his own path someday.

About the link you provided, that was discussed before here in my blog since FDA reported about 13 deaths so far relating to CIs. Those who have CIs are more at risk in contracting meningitis that they must take more cautious steps to take vaccines in order to prevent from death.

Barb DiGi said...

Anon: Yes, it is crucial that we keep on spreading how ASL and Deaf culture are in a positive light. It is important to gather a variety of testimonies, whether it is positive or negative, relating to CIs. We can see it clearly that it is not for everyone and that there are risks involved not only physically but emotionally.

Barb DiGi said...

Jean: Yes, I just hope that people like her will open their minds that it is perfectly okay to be Deaf and still can function "normally" in this crazy world. We have wonderful Deaf contributors that particular products and inventions would not have existed if it weren't for them.

Jaymie: Yes, it depends on the topic of your blog and whose audience do you want to reach out to. Normally I would vlog the whole thing that was written here but since I am under the circumstances that don't permit me to, I had to chose this avenue. Nevertheless, this topic is mainly for ignorant individuals but to the Deaf community members as well to give them empowerment (I hope). The other advantage about writing instead of subtitling will show up in Google search more than those who offer subtitles. This will allow me to reach out the audience much more effectively.

Barb DiGi said...

Jodi: Thank you for sharing your story. I believe that it is crucial to gather stories like yours and the others that should be made required for parents before they consider having their child implanted. For you as a late deafened person having the desire to hear again must be going through a difficult moment to make a major decision about the surgery. You followed your instinct and found your way to deal with the adjustment. I applaud you for finding your way! It is up to us people how we want to educate the world and this is only the beginning.

Barb DiGi said...

Anon: This is not a transcript by the way. The video clip only shows what my son has shared about his experiences about his friends getting CIs and how it affected all of them. I am not able to vlog for the next month or so since I am not able to right now so I just blog for now. I am not sure what do you mean by ASL is going to be no money? It doesn't cost anything to use ASL in blogosphere, you mean?

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, this girl must be Elena La Quatra who is Miss Teen Pennsylvania. She does have a lot to learn! I hope she will meet more Deaf people and realize that oral deaf education is not for everyone.


cnkatz said...

Barb! The comments you made here weighs the same as this brilliant blog (now as a whole). How interesting. Thanks for the good read and visualizing this blog times one hundred or even more to battle the slumbering giant of the general public.

And finally transform that ignorant mass of the public eye/mind to improve the "environment" to raise the deaf child - environments nurtured and maintained mostly (90%) by hearing parents, educators, and the world. Look at the children raised by deaf adults, our coda and deaf children - that is the avenue to change and improvement.