This was shocking news. I could not wrap my mind around why this should be true. My instructor wisely told me to remember that feeling of disbelief because as I continued on with my studies two things would happen.
The first being that my "passionate wonder" would influence the direction of my future research. Slowly, I would come to understand the reasons behind such statistics and explore ways to ameliorate the outcome.
The second reason is that as I journeyed on and shared this information with others, who would inevitably experience the same reaction, I could hearken back to my initial response to deconstruct the woof and warp behind the numbers with greater clarity.
The truth is, there are many contributing factors. It is beyond the scope of this post to delve into the miasma surrounding the political influences shaping the history of deaf education in America but there are a couple of basic truths I will address.
- Reading English is based on the alphabetic principle which basically consists of mapping sounds onto letters in a systematic fashion. This is obviously a challenge for a child who has limited access to the phonological aspect of language.
- Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents. This generally results in children who are delayed in developing a first language. The process a hearing parent goes through when they find out they have a deaf child has been likened to the seven stages of grief. As the parents journey towards acceptance the child lingers and precious time is lost. For deaf children with deaf parents developing a strong first language with American Sign Language reading does not present the challenges deaf children with hearing parents experience.
And most of all, do not be afraid of doing it wrong. If you have a loving heart, you can do no wrong.