These moms are truly the products of ignorance, assumptions, misconceptions and myths. AG Bell and the AVT people have done a helluva of a job keeping a thick wall of ignorance in place, (just exactly as Deaf Chipmunk has so eloquently indicated by using the metaphor of the Berlin Wall) to prevent Deaf children from using a natural signed language, ASL. For them to claim that "kids develop language and cognitive skills by speaking only are superior to those who learn ASL and spoken language simultaneously" is absolutely far-fetched and so untrue.
I am going to share a glimpse of my personal experience growing up deaf and present my arguments about the research document link that these poor moms have been getting the impression that learning ASL as a "second language after childhood outperformed those who acquired it as a first language at exactly the same age. In addition, the performance of the subjects who acquired ASL as a first language declined in association with increasing age of acquisition."
Like some of my Deaf friends who shared a similar background as mine, I came from a Deaf family and ASL was my first language but I grew up in a public school without interpreters/notetakers for many years and acquired English as my second language. If you know Mark Drolz by reading his entries at Deaf Culture Online, he and I were practically neighbors living in a close proximity to each other. Our Deaf parents knew each other and we both used ASL while growing up. There are other Deaf families who raised kids like us acquiring both languages (ASL as a first language) and are we fine? You betcha! Here we are, not only writing our blogs but practicing our professions after obtaining our master's degrees. You rock, Mark! One more thing I want to add is that my Deaf sister and I are the only ones who have master's in the extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who are all hearing) and yes, for me, there was "easy conversation with my pals down the street and the school around the corner… with my Sunday School teacher or my grandfather" without having undergoing AVT and to be shunned away from ASL.
Anyway, I wore one hearing aid and I managed to grasp spoken messages well since I was auditory trained and engaged in frequent speech sessions when I was younger. But like CI kids, (yes, I compare myself to CI kids since I was very capable of hearing almost everything thanks to high frequency when I was younger) it is never 100% when to comes to understanding speech especially in a large group setting. But I had ASL in hand since it was my first language and thank God for that! It came to my rescue in reinforcing concepts when it comes to reading, writing and expressing in English. Later on, before I became a sophomore in high school, I finally got to transfer to the school for the Deaf where Laurent Clerc, America's first Deaf teacher, founded and taught there. That was that school what we know as American School for the Deaf (ASD). For the first time, I had two Deaf teachers, one teaching reading and one writing. It was a first time that I had ever experienced a true bilingual educational classroom and from that point on, my English and speech skills skyrocketed! I am not even exaggerating and to prove that, I actually skipped two years of high school from that point and enrolled Gallaudet College at the age 16. My neighborhood friend widened her eyes when I spoke to her after not seeing her for a while when I was gone to ASD. She said, "Barbara, my gosh, you speak better than before!" She was simply speechless for a while.
Take my word or sign for it, ASL DOES NOT hinder language development and it is NOT true that Deaf individuals who speak only are superior than those who use ASL and spoken language. These moms presented a research document that has been published in 1993 written by Rachel Maybery. It stated that:
"Subjects were 36 deaf adults who had contrasting histories of spoken and sign language acquisition. Twenty-seven subjects were born deaf and began to acquire American Sign Language (ASL) as a first language at ages ranging from infancy to late childhood. Nine other subjects were born with normal hearing, which they lost in late childhood; they subsequently acquired ASL as a second language (because they had acquired spoken English as a first language in early childhood). ASL sentence processing was measured by recall of long and complex sentences and short-term memory for signed digits. Subjects who acquired ASL as a second language after childhood outperformed those who acquired it as a first language at exactly the same age."
Let me tell you something about this author. Rachel Mayberry wrote this piece in 1992 that was later published in 1993 that may be outdated. In 2000, she became a part of the editor group to write the book, Language Acquisition of the Eye. I haven't read the whole book yet but I am going to order it for sure! However, by taking a peak in each of the chapters, it looks like her perspective has changed drastically since she justified bilingual studies in this link titled "Reexamination of Early Exposure and Its Implications for Language Acquisition by Eye": "These studies demonstrate that individuals who are exposed to language at earlier ages consistently outperform individuals exposed to language at later ages for first and second language acquisition of both signed and spoken languages. " Now did you notice the title, "Reexamination?" Mayberry no longer stated that those who acquired ASL as a second language after childhood outperformed those who acquired it as a first language at exactly the same age. The recent statement said that language at earlier ages do better than those who were exposed to language later and it did not exclude ASL. Oh wait, there's more. In Chapter 9, A Piece of the Puzzle: ASL and Reading Comprehension in Deaf Children, the very same author stated in her book that:
"Literacy skills in ASL have only recently begun to be identified ( Bahan & Supalla, 1996). Within the education of Deaf children, language and literacy skills in ASL have not been recognized as having the potential to impact the acquisition of English literacy skills."Mayberry also included that "their study and the others cited here all provide consistent and strong evidence of a correlation between ASL skill and English literacy ability." It looks like that Mayberry's perceptions have really evolved because she has been immersed in a research field for almost a decade that leads her to justify bilingual approach. For this mom to say that "restricting them by ASL and/or lack of implantation would be a shame" is NOT a shame at all! First of all, restricting them by ASL is no such thing. We tend to expose Deaf children in both languages. If they have spoken abilities then they can go for it when appropriate. If they have residual hearing abilities, then they can go for it with hearing aids when appropriate. If they don't have residual hearing, it doesn't mean one must feel the urge to implant them. It is the parent's choice and it is none for us to judge one who should or shouldn't and who are selfish or ashamed. Just stop with this attitude or the madness!
Speaking or signing of restriction, in the same chapter, it stated that "the reception of spoken language for most Deaf individuals is extremely limited, which restricts the learning of English via the auditory channel. For many Deaf individuals, this restriction has resulted in great difficulty mastering reading, which is based on English." It even stated that "there are many Deaf individuals who are able to attain excellent mastery of reading English even without oral knowledge of English."
In conclusion, restricting Deaf children with or without HA/CIs to spoken language actually restricted English development.
In conclusion, restricting Deaf children with or without HA/CIs to spoken language actually restricted English development.So I rest my case and I want to move on to Part Two in a response to these same moms about AG Bell in the next blog post.