14 Responses

  1. Linda Levitan
    Linda Levitan July 26, 2016 at 1:51 pm |

    Dear Ms. Donvito:

    Regarding your wish that there was a community of parents of deaf children who could discuss issues openly, as you’re aware, the arena is pretty painfully politicized. You would do well to connect with the American Society for Deaf Children (http://deafchildren.org/). Tami Hossler, who edits its magazine, The Endeavor, is one of the most tactful, warm, undogmatic, welcoming, people I know. It is a joy to know her. As the hearing mother of a Deaf daughter (now grown), she’s been through it all. She has experienced a LOT of nastiness from the AGBell faction . . . being kicked out of Facebook parents’ groups for asking questions or suggesting that the blanket rejection of ASL, company policy, should be questioned.

    I wish you and Sam the best in your journeys.

  2. Maria Crupi
    Maria Crupi May 31, 2016 at 4:12 pm |

    Hello: Thank you for sharing your story:
    I wanted to share a special story about my brother John, he passed away on January 2, 2014, with a rare form of thyroid cancer. My brother, was my best friend his loss left a great pain in my heart. My brother had the biggest heart and was very kind and special. John graduated from Gallaudet University, he was totally deaf. My brother, John worked very hard to dismiss this notion of being Deaf means you can’t learn. Even when he got cancer people were like you got CANCER YOUR DEAF. Like somehow he was not human to get Cancer.
    My brother was the smartest man, my parents were immigrants from Italy, and spoke no English, but my brother thrived, he spoke Italian and learned to speak English and Spanish, also signed English and ASL. I don’t think it matters if your deaf or not, I think everyone especially children should be exposed to everything that can make them great. Children should learn everything good in the world that can bring them tons of Joy and Love. My brother was full of love and nothing not even being deaf could put a stop to learning and living in Love.
    http://www.forjohnthebigbrofoundation.org.
    (Thank you for sharing your story)

  3. Julie
    Julie May 31, 2016 at 4:07 pm |

    I am not normally moved to write responses to articles I read, but I am so pleased to read your article on line…I missed it in the New York Times. I am an ASL interpreter and have worked with the Deaf in all kinds of settings for over 20 years. Those children who cannot hear need language. Please don’t be misled by “professionals” who say sign language will prevent them from speaking. It is not true! I have met so many Deaf adults who were forced only to speak and lipread and were SOOOOO frustrated as children. It doesn’t have to be that way. Give them both, give them everything! Hearing aids and cochlear implants do not work like glasses they don’t restore normal hearing the way glasses can with vision. Rachael Coleman has a wonderful TedTalk if you get a chance.

    Good luck and thank you for bringing up this topic in a nonjudgmental way.

  4. Kym Meyer
    Kym Meyer May 26, 2016 at 7:39 am |

    I’m so glad that someone else posted the link to the Clerc Center video. After reading your article in the New York Times on my phone, I swooped onto my computer to send you the same link.

    I’m an audiologist and a certified teacher. I’ve worked at a school for the Deaf (that is bilingual – ASL/English) for the past 22 years. I run a program within that school, that provides consultation to hard of hearing children in public schools (my audiological definition of hard of hearing is mild through severe hearing loss). Some of those children learned sign language when they were little. I work with kids with CIs, hearing aids, and who do not wear amplification devices.

    I am also a PhD student and read every bit of research on language development (both spoken and signed). While the professionals in your son’s life have their hearts in the right place, their opinions are not based in research (and not what I’ve observed in my professional life). There is very little “signed English” research (even though it’s been around for 30+ years). Most school program have dropped the use of signed English, because it was not found to help the reading of Deaf children. Also, when you sign and talk at the same time your first language takes over (I’ve corrected the signs of more hearing people when they talk, because your brain can’t accurately do two motorically different things at the same time).

    The research is clear that sign language will NEVER prevent a child to talk, if the child wears their hearing aids consistently. I’ve seen that children who are well amplified and sign first, many of children decide to drop sign themselves when they don’t need it.

    Language development is language development.

    Go with your instincts. Follow his lead. Sign to him. Talk to him. Read to him. Play with him. Find like-minded parents. The professionals don’t have all the answers. None of us do. You have to find what works for your family. And nothing you do, if you do it consistently, is wrong.

    I’m another voice in this process. If you would like a sounding board, feel free to contact me.

    Best wishes to you and your pumpkin.

  5. Evelyn D.
    Evelyn D. May 26, 2016 at 5:59 am |

    Hi! I’m a mother to two boys. Paxton is 5 years old and was born deaf. Kalvin is 4 years old and was born hearing. Paxton was implanted at 17m old although we’ve been learning sign language since he was 6m old. Not long after Paxton was implanted we noticed he was learning language faster visually.

    I believe the Deaf community’s view to cochlear implants is open if the child isn’t “robbed” of a visual language. What’s upsetting is when a professional offers only one method of language to parents. Often parents have never met a deaf adult. Parents don’t know what their child will grow up to be. Hearing technology is not a one size fits all. Some children/adults do well with hearing devices and others do miserable.

    We feel like we’ve given Paxton both options. Right now he chooses to not wear his cochlear implant. And we are OK with that. This happened once we moved to MD because ASL was completely accessible to him. My opinion when professionals say “don’t sign because the child will use it as a crutch and not speak” – Why would we want to make learning difficult for our child? Why wouldn’t we want our child to express himself? We want Paxton to be who he is not what we want him to be.

    I think back to our visits in Vermont with our TOD (teacher of the deaf). She had us focusing on Paxton’s listening and speaking skills more so than his signing skills. Activities upon activities for him to say The LING 6 sounds (ah, oh, ee, sh, s, m) Even after we made it clear we wanted Paxton’s first language to be ASL. Why was she so concerned about his hearing and speaking skills? We would’ve been jumping for joy if he signed “I love you”. Why wasn’t she working harder to help him with his signing accuracy? Thank heavens for our Deaf Mentor!!!

    Our family moved from VT to MD so Paxton and Kalvin could attend the Maryland School for the Deaf. Kalvin attends the sibling program (2 mornings a week) It’s so important for children to build a foundation language. Especially ages 0-5. If you’d like more information pertaining to a bilingual approach for your 2 year old I’d encourage you to watch this Clerc Center video. It gives insight to maximizing language acquisition: Both ASL and Spoken English.

    http://www.gallaudet.edu/clerc-center/learning-opportunities/webcasts/maximizing-language-acquisition-webcast.html

    I completely understand how you feel. You’re being pulled in both directions. Stop and watch your son. Watch how he communicates. Give him BOTH options and Ina couple years you will see which he feels more comfortable with. My goal is to keep watering Paxton with as much language as possible. To nourish him with love and support in both languages so he can blossom into the person he wants to be.

  6. Susan Marquis
    Susan Marquis May 25, 2016 at 7:32 pm |

    Dear Foggy Mommy, I am so relieved and satisfied to read Tom’s response here. I read your NYT article, and I had an emotional panoply of reactions. I know the grief and anxiety of having a child with a challenge defined by his physical reality. My child’s multiple disabilities had nothing to do with hearing, but the realities are similar.

    I understand, but am astonished at the controversy you have encountered. As a parent, I am on the same page as Tom. DO EVERYTHING THAT IS POSSIBLE TO DO ON ALL FRONTS. It benefits everyone to learn as much as possible, so OF COURSE, the whole family should learn ASL. Lip-reading is beneficial, so hearing and non-hearing people should work at that skill. (What makes a hearing person think that hearing is guaranteed the rest of their lives?) Parents, educators and physicians have a responsibility to children to do ALL that can be done. If a cochlear implant helps…GET ONE. If it helps only 10% of the time, then YEAH for that 10%! Making a disability of any kind an “us versus them” situation is completely absurd. Thinking and living that way is yet ANOTHER DISABILITY.

    It is foolish and resentment-driven.

    For many years, one of my children needed leg braces. One of the docs worried out loud that he would be bullied. My reply? “You straighten his legs and protect his knees. I will take care of his spirit.” I convinced him that the braces were very cool and would succeed in making him much faster. He was sweetly fascinated by those braces. We called them Rocket Braces. When the kids at school asked them about them, he proudly and somewhat conspiratorially told them what they were all about. Other kids at school were asking their parents for Rocket Braces so that they could be fast when they grew up. My son learned the power of shaping other peoples’ perceptions and being immune to anyone else’s contrary definition of a situation.

    Reality is perception. It is our job to teach our kids to be resilient–to have the skills to deal triumphantly with adversity and with garden-variety jerkiness that they will deal with no matter how perfect their bodies and performance might be.
    Dealing with the dangerous, world-class jerks are OUR job as parents. Even then, the projection of no-nonsense strength and the assurance that the child did NOTHING to cause cruel responses provides a learning, strengthening experience no matter how dark it gets.

    I told my son that every human being has disabilities, and we are all terminal. I explained that physical disabilities are not even in the same universe as disabilities of character, personality and moral values. He learned to feel sad for the jerks who don’t even know they are jerks.

    My son played Little League wearing leg braces. When he cried at the time I suggested the possibility, I pointed out that a person who hits the ball OVER THE FENCE does not have to run. At all. That person can even mosey around the bases if he wants. When he pointed out that if he failed to hit a home run, he would automatically be called OUT, I pointed out that rich and famous baseball players are called OUT the majority of every game that they have ever played. With a new perception, he decided he would give baseball a try. He hit so many home runs that a little pitcher once sat down on the mound and cried at the prospect of pitching to him again.

    My son played in the high school state championship for the state of Texas (no longer wearing leg braces but far from being a speed demon). His batting skills almost dominated the game, and his high school won the crown.

    We shouldn’t let our disabilities get us off track or confused. We should never create a world for ourselves OR our children that is defined by a disability of one kind or another. We should triumph OVER the disability. We do what interests or inspires us in spite of any disability. Gone are the days when people who could not hear were regarded as simpletons (thank God!). Helen Keller’s astonishing life alerted the world that a genius could be beneath the surface of a person cut off completely from the world. Marlee Matlin and others have shown that a human need not be dictated to by her disability. Barriers have been mowed down all over the place. The Governor of Texas is a paraplegic. Charles Krauthammer is a television personality, a prolific author AND a quadraplegic. He habitually DRIVES to see baseball games with friends!

    WHY would we work hard to rebuild the barriers, or make social shibboleths of ANY kind of disability? That would be just crazy. The Deaf community needs to realize that discrimination of any kind is wrong-headed and counterproductive. Mutual respect of one another has to rule the day.

    If I were deaf, I would throw the resources of EVERY community at my deafness. I would constantly look for solutions and therapies and all the ways to just connect to LIFE in its richness.

    I am glad you are confused by what you have encountered, Foggy Mom. Ignore all that noise and advocate for your little guy in every possible way, just like Tom
    advises.

    Do it All.

  7. Tom Mentkowski
    Tom Mentkowski May 25, 2016 at 12:04 pm |

    Hello. I’m 61 year old white male who has a Profound Loss. I
    was in an oral deaf class until Third Grade then tossed into a hearing class. Note I did not use the much maligned term mainstreamed. In Sixth Grade, I got a small Trophy for being the smartest kid in the class. I was amazed to receive it and felt I only got it thinking people felt sorry for me. Then I was blessed to receive a Jesuit
    Education in High School. Then I was sent to Gallaudet University whereupon my life CHANGED… Eventually with ASL, I could sit back and enjoy communicating with full ease. The fact is when you are “hearing impaired, ” you are a VISUAL person. My peripheral vision expanded from lip-reading to a 360 Degree Vision. No longer did I have to figure out what was being said…My speech improved as ASL got me to slow down and enunciate better. I married a similar woman, who
    was the first Deaf Woman to become an Attorney (Georgetown University). Thanka to her, we have Captioned TV and Media…using ASL
    helps kidz to learn English. They suck it up..Using Speech becomes a helluva lot easier. We have a Language Cortex, not an Auditory
    Cortex as Speech Language and Auditory “experts”
    would say. We have a son who is hearing impaired, speaks and writes English and Spanish and is fluent in ASL…He also is A Semior in college with
    a 3.56 GPA. I could go on, but if you want a happy child, do what is difficult for you, have the whole family use ASL, as I did have hearing aids 24/7 it was hard to hear everywhere and at the Dinner Table whereas I could see 100% percent, auditorally was difficult. Here’s and old quote: Deah Children with Deaf Parents do darn well Academically whereupon Deaf Children with Hearing Parents struggle Academically. I feel sorry for you being torn asunder. Believe me, if you want a happy child, grow him into
    ASL, speech and use hearing aids, he will grow to be a happy person having access to it all..use everything… If you want some Parental
    Advice feel free to contact me. (No charge for my service). I was in the Hearing Aid business for 25 years and have seen it all. We offered the best technology and put patients and their families thru communication and awareness classes to teach them to use everything and be realistic. Hearing Aids do not solve it all. It takes a village and in the end EVERYONE is happy…

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