Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Misconceptions, misconceptions and misconceptions: In a response to Rachel's blog

When I read Rachel's blog on "Why am I on DeafRead?", a lot of red flags came up in my head. I felt obliged to write a response since I wanted to share my point of view. Patti's blog made excellent points and I found her approach very diplomatic and eloquent. I admire her for that and I try to learn her example and apply it as much as I can but I am not her. The most challenging part is that I am trying not to be offensive as much as possible when sharing my opinions but it is hard to avoid the fact when you wanted to say something straight from your heart. Every person has a right to their opinions and I appreciated that Rachel is opening up the dialogue in her blog.


Your point of view as a deaf person growing up with a CI seems to be positive and I am happy for you, really. I feel that you may not have experienced the ultimate ASL environment but you seemed not to be interested at this point and that is your choice, of course. I just want to clarify some misconceptions you just wrote in your blog.

1. "I told my mother about it and asked her why some people sign. She just simply told me that it was a language for deaf people who don’t have cochlear implants and/or can’t communicate via speech, hearing, and lip-reading."

Nah, that is not even true! Your mother obviously has not met enough Deaf people who master in speech, listening and lipreading and still use signs. My sister and I are one of them..we grew up in public schools with no interpreters/notetakers and we could get by but it was not the best way to go because we got to miss out group conversations and lectures but who cared? We were lucky enough that we were able to survive because of ASL usage at home where we had already developed a strong language foundation that enabled us to learn a second language more effectively. Yes, there are plenty of them who are like us who can communicate via speech, hearing and lipreading but incorporate signs because of the benefits of bilingual approach. In addition, we are fortunate that we are able to express ourselves in ASL, a visual language, since it is not the same in English. We just had a choice to communicate in both languages. I am proud of you learning French and I suppose it is a neat thing to learn as well but please don't go around saying that you have better things to do than learning ASL.

2. "my mom wrote an article about the deaf community spreading misconceptions about CIs..."

I cannot say if they are since I need to read what was said but I can tell you that there are real stories here at DeafRead, elsewhere and from what I have seen in my profession that have been shared by individuals who don't find it as positive as you do. We cannot ignore and brush away their stories and declare that those are misconceptions.

3. Re: Sound and Fury "That’s when I began to really think that the deaf community was full of selfish people. My mother never told me when I was growing up that the deaf community were bad people. It was this film that formed my opinions about the deaf community."

I am glad to know that your mom never said that about Deaf people and I really hope she doesn't look down on Deaf people using ASL. But allow me to focus on topic #3 about your thoughts on Sound and Fury. As we know, it was a documentary film on one Deaf family. It should not reflect as a whole about the Deaf community though. It is hard on every parent to make such decision to cut open their Deaf child and that has nothing to do with being selfish because the surgery is considered invasive and it is not 100 percent guaranteed. Parents who don't consider CIs for their Deaf children are not selfish! They have a right to choose just like your mother chose to implant you. Should I shout it out that your mother was selfish doing that? Heck, no! For whatsoever reasons parents chose to have or not to have CIs are not for us to judge them. However, I can talk about why I decided not to do it for my Deaf children and I would appreciate you or anyone else to refrain from judging about my decision. For my view, it is more of why go through the invasive procedure if I can raise them to be fluent in both languages and have them perform at or above grade level thanks to the success of bilingual approach. There are advanced digital hearing aids that they can choose to enjoy sounds but one of my children decided that he no longer wants to wear them. He doesn't like hearing sounds although he had years of auditory and speech therapy. Who am I to force him to be the kid that he does not want to be? For children, either hearing or deaf, who grow up in an ASL and English environment, tend to be successful in academics and there are research documents to prove that. To call them selfish by not implanting is not acceptable! Do you think it is acceptable to call the parents selfish by not using ASL in their homes by the way?

4. "... to have time for ASL club, and plus, as I said, I just didn’t find the reason or the need to learn it. I communicated with these deaf people often through their interpreters. They were very nice and lovely people, but from what I saw, they they were very isolated from the rest of the school. They were in self-contained classrooms all day."

Since I have no way of knowing if these Deaf people actually use ASL but allow me to point out that it is typical that in mainstreaming environment that PSE, SimCom (signing and voicing at the same time), Signed English, etc. are commonly used. There is no way to experience a true bona fide language unless they have been immersed in an environment with true ASL users. It is typical for a mainstreaming setting that not all students come from a Deaf family and that they have not interacted with actual ASL users in the community on a daily basis. Let alone not having a teacher who is Deaf and being exposed to plenty of Deaf role models. If that is the case then they are isolated from the Deaf world as well. But allow me to ask, what is your definition of isolation? Just because they are placed in self-contained classrooms that they are automatically labeled isolated? Just because they don't have CIs that they are isolated? Just because they use interpreters that they are isolated? I find it interesting that you didn't even bother to include them in your circle and I wonder why? Did you ever invite them to your social gatherings outside the school? When I was in a public school, there were no Deaf students until I was in 8th grade. This Deaf girl entered two grades apart from me but I welcomed her and made her feel like a family with other hearing friends during lunch. Ever since she made so many friends that the ice had broken for her to feel comfortable to interact. It has nothing to do with being deaf but it has to do with being warm to make one feel welcome. I can't help but wonder if you ever do that with these Deaf students making them feeling welcome and building bridges?

5. "... I googled “Deaf History” and I then began studying about deaf history as I was curious about it. I was really amazed by what the deaf people had to go through in the past hundreds of years. I just simply thought, “I’m fortunate that I’m living today, not yesterday, as I have the technology that allows me to live in an easier life”

So you got the information from googling Deaf History? (**chuckling**) Perhaps it may be sufficient to look into technology part but Deaf History is much more than that. I just hope you will consider taking a class taught by a Deaf professor someday! It will help you open your eyes, big time!

6. "This past summer, as I was traveling throughout Europe, I received an e-mail from my mother telling me that she found a deaf blog and had been debating with them. I took a look at that blog and became so irritated when people told my mother that she should wait until I grow up and that I will resent my parents for choosing to give me a cochlear implant. "

Your mother, Melissa, debated at my blog, yes, and boy you were not the only one who was irritated. Although my focus on the blog topic was not about when and who should get CIs but about the positive aspects about ASL and Deaf culture. It started out how this mother, Amy, dissed ASL and Deaf culture and that irritated me. Naturally, I had to blog about her dangerous point of view by belittling ASL and that CI children don't need it which is not always true. Somehow, the discussion lead from one topic to another. But what did we learn from this, may I ask? All I want is for the non-ASL CI community and the ASL community to respect each other but I felt that the ASL community didn't get the respect from them and you may have felt so vice versa. Is this like a Middle Eastern war zone that there will never be a solution? I hope not.

Anyway, it is your life and frankly, I don't care whatever you do since you are adult enough to make your own decisions. Like I said, I am happy for you that you are finding success for yourself but please acknowledge that not all CI people feel the same way as you do. I just hope that you are able to stop and think that what works for you doesn't necessarily mean that it will work for them. I am all for whole approach and will just go along with the flow that the child desires it.

All I care about is the respect since it bothers me when you have this standoffish attitude about ASL like you have better things to do than learning ASL. Learning ASL is not only about learning a language but about Deaf people, heritage and culture. Ok, to put at it this way, it is like saying that I have better things to do than learning about CI people. But no, since they are part of the Deaf community and I try to make the effort to learn about them and make them feel inclusive. One more thing, you just cannot simply turn your back on Deaf culture just because there are misconceptions made by them about CIs that lead to your appreciation that "parents never sought to introduce you to the Deaf culture". Humans are entitled to make mistakes and I do commend you for establishing your blog to clarify the misconceptions BUT I don't support your accusations making them the "bad guy". Yes, trying to be a bit more sensitive, you and I. We just need to continue to build bridges to make the betterment for the posterity, the Deaf children. Just think about it.


Anonymous said...

Way to go, Barb! You nailed every word!

Anonymous said...

Good one, but remember they are "hearing" that will never understand deaf world nor never tried. That is okay for them. This is deaf blog not hearing blog!

Aidan Mack said...


We need people like Patti and We need people like us.

Some situation, we must confront with bold. Some people do not get it until we show them about the real issue loudly and clearly.


DeafRoger said...

A wonderfully diplomatic and well thought out response as usual :)

The ASL Deaf community continue to reap the benefits of having you as one of our outspoken leaders.

I look forward to the day where more and more of us are following your lead on how to approach the whole stand-off between the two camps.

With lots of respect and understanding.


chillygurlz said...

right on Barb!!!

Dianrez said...

Great response, Barb!

There is a huge gap between Rachel and her mother, and you, an experienced teacher of the deaf with a wide background in working with all kinds of Deaf people, including children with CI's.

You are in a great position to state facts and perhaps to neutralize the misinformation that some successful young CI implantees spread...which works to the detriment of most Deaf people when hearing people buy it wholeheartedly.

The truth is frequently not acceptable to most people who want to believe that medicine can cure everything.

kw said...

I have learned so much in DeafRead. I'm on the fence about a CI, though I don't expect to become fluent in ASL at my age either. When I saw Sound and Fury for the first time I didn't think anyone was "selfish"-- I felt sad for everyone because it didn't seem there were any easy answers and all the adults cried at some point. No matter what decision is made for our kids, I hope we can all agree we all only want the best for them.

What looks like isolation to seem is more like membership in an exclusive community to others. It's possible the Deaf kids at Rachel's school feel sorry for her too.

Aidan Mack said...

Thats what I wrote the comment at Jodi's blog addressing my concern to Melissa:

Melissa, You amaze me. You are trying to put words in our mouths and scold us. I suspect that you and both of your daughters are having a hard time being able to see things from other people's perspectives. Do you realize that there are many children with cochlear implants who are failing, even though they were implanted when they were very young? I spoke with a few teachers who work in a CI program who are saying that there are only a small percentage of implanted children who are succeeding and that many of these CI children are being left behind and now it is too late for them to develop a proper first-language foundation. They will have to start from scratch now and be exposed to ASL in order to receive a proper foundation in language. Why aren't all Deaf babies allowed to learn to sign so that they have something to fall back on if their implants are not successful?

Lastly, "What I don't agree with, though, is those few extremists who to this day refuse to acknowledge that the CI can be a good thing and that it can work and provide young deaf children with excellent auditory comprehension."

What about the pro-CI extremists who to this day refuse to acknowledge that ASL will be a good thing that WILL work, and will provide young deaf children with excellent futures and strong linguistic foundation?

You say: "It's when I start to hear the kind of anti-CI rhetoric that I heard so many years ago that I still get angry because it's not fair to children born deaf today nor to their parents."
But actually, it is your problem that you seem to be unable to see the point of view of those who are opposed to your point of view. I am willing to listen particular views of people who are generally opposed to my views, and then it's my prerogative to decide whether accept those particular views or reject them. I have considered the evidence and have decided that I do NOT support the concept of implanting deaf children, because I see that many children are failing with their CI's and only a few children are succeeding. You are telling us to look only at your daughter's apparent success and forget about all the children who are failing with their CI's. THAT to me is gambling, and I do not accept any type of gambling with children's futures. Children are not play things to be used as pawns in a childrearing gambling scheme.


John Critser said...

You wrote an excellent and very rational open letter to Rachel and even better than I can ever express.

I am thankful for other Deaf leaders who rise up and express what is so hard for some of us to express to bloggers like Rachel because such standoffish attitude is quite provocative...

I somehow feel the need to argue some points and I do face Rachel and her cohorts blitzes. I feel like a quarterback trying to make precise throws but face a blitz every down. I hope to do well on the red zone, though.

brenster- said...

Barb- Excellent post.

Aidan- great rebuttal comment to Melissa that you said you left on Jodi's blog. I went there, but I do not see it there. Anyway, good thing you copied that comment and posted it here. People need to see that.

drmzz said...

Thanks for putting this chronic snottiness into perspective. A peek here 'n there, all I can say is good riddance.

Anonymous said...

I’ve been struggling with my own response to Rachel’s recent blogs, wanting to be supportive, respectful, and informative at the same time.

I learned ASL to communicate with someone I care about a great deal . . . the first deaf person I ever met . . . my daughter.

A common language is like a bridge between people. Without that bridge, people can remain isolated from each other. Isolation is usually a two-way street. Each is isolated from the other. Without a common language, I am as isolated from you as you are isolated from me. When I see a group of people who communicate in a language I do not know, I also see that I am the one who is isolated.

Sign language is not just for people who do not hear well enough to develop sufficient listening, speaking, and other skills to communicate fluidly face-to-face in a spoken language. Sign language, like any language, is for anyone who has the desire to build a bridge – to connect, to build a relationship, to get to know and understand another person who also knows and uses sign language.

We can learn about each other using written English as our common language and mode of communication, but can we build strong bridges in this manner? Take a look at the role that a common language and face-to-face communication plays in the development of your relationships with other people. When we say we are too busy or don’t need to learn another person’s language, what does that say about how we value even attempting to develop any kind of relationship with that person or group of people? Yes, it’s impossible to learn every language in the world. But I would rather say of myself that I need to learn other languages because I want to know other people. Learning new languages opens up new worlds. Until I do, I hope we can find other ways to build bridges and get to know each other better.

Mother of Bilingual Deaf and Hearing Children

Kelly87 said...

Beautifully written! I agree with you!

Anonymous said...

That post is a bridge.

Yes, we all have better things to do than learn about CI people. But we're here and they're here, opening cracks in the doors very cautiously. We are part of something much larger than just ourselves.

Thanks for taking the time to write a thoughtful response.


todos la vie said...

If we really look at it, the deaf community is actually not voicing out against Rachel but rather at the gaps Rachel's whole experience presents itself. She is young and had a condescending tone in her post, and so does my son who is 16. She has not yet experienced life (she's still in college and hasn't taken deaf studies I'm sure) and seen what the whole deaf community is like. She's only speaking from a narrow point of view - her own life. I don't mean that in a bad way. We are reacting here.

I currently have a lab student and see some CI kids in the classrooms. One has been out sick for about 9 months due to an infection of the CI and he was already re-implanted twice. He's only five years old. The second time, the magnet inside kept falling off, and he was having rough red skin and his whole body became infected. He's going for the 3rd time, and his parents do not take him for training or mapping. It's ridiculous to see him suffer these operations and he has no clue of the other side of the coin - the total access to language is not there for him.

And that's where you and the Deaf community come in. We mean well.

Jean Boutcher said...

To be perfectly honest, I do not know from where Rachel and her mother, Melissa, have gotten the notion that Deaf people are hostile towards the implantées.

I am not against implantées.

As in my usualness, I am merely a sceptic person about cochlear implant per se. I have developed my own sceptism based on my own] observation for the last fifteen years -- all the way from Paris, France, to New York City to Washington, D.C.

The first implantée in Paris had a horrible paralysis on his face following the CI surgery in 1957. Subsequently, other Frenchmen had the same facial paralysis. The French deaf people had the last straw and human-chained around the hospital protesting against cochlear implantion in Paris in 1994. Another demonstration took place in the South of France (Grenoble, not far from Lyons). It was all over in Le Figaro and Le Monde. Then in Ontario, Canada, a girl got the same paralysis on her face from the implantion. A demonstration was held near the parliament.

A protest or a demonstration against CI has never taken place in the USA. Americans are not -- I must repeat -- NOT hostile towards implantées. Americans are much more tolerant and embrace diversity whilst some of them do not wish to be implanted.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that Rachel's mother is the ones who doing the writing and using Rachel and her sister as her marketing tool to parents. It is so sad to see that Melissa as mother would encourage her to develop this audist attitude and to deny her as deaf being. Rachel would not learn on her own. She must adopt this attitude from somewhere and it is obvious that it was from her mother.

Many hearing people are thrilled to take ASL class so they can communicate their friends through ASL. Rachel refused to take ASL and only selected hearing people involving her life. I think it is totally f**ked up.. It reminds me of skinhead family who only selects pure white people involving their lives.


Anonymous said...

Very nice, Miz Barb, very nice.

Anonymous said...

You wrote eloquently and right to the point...yet one thing is missing...from what Rachel said, in part, truthfully, that turned me off and which showed me who she really is...the part where she wrote: I just didn’t find the reason or the need to learn it. I communicated with these deaf people often through their interpreters. They were very nice and lovely people, but from what I saw, they were very isolated from the rest of the school.
What?! She needed an interpreter to communicate with other Deaf people...oh come on, I can communicate with hearing people just fine but when their minds are "closed", then it becomes difficult to communicate...I wonder how the Deaf people that met her that day felt AFTER their communication...was Rachel warm and friendly or was there some air of arrogant, snobbish and high pride coming from Rachel. I, honestly, would have walked away from people like her...most of us have always kept our hearts and minds open to all diversity of people. It's a shame that we have to deal with, thankfully, not that many, people, like Rachel. Honestly, it will be hard to open a bridge with people like Rachel.
You and Patti Durr wrote beautifully and I thank you both for sharing with Rachel and the world!! Keep it coming!

Anonymous said...

The omission of the hearing status in Rachel's self-introduction is interesting. This is a Freudian slip.

Albeit with the CI, her voice is still unescapably detected as a deaf and monontonous voice. She went on to say that she is a French speaker. Where are her French accents? She would have to live with different families in different regions of France for six years or so to become a French speaker.

Abbie said...

This is really a great response!