Sunday, April 29, 2012

More Than One Perspective

I read a frustrating article in New York Teacher yesterday entitled Teaching Children who are Hearing-Impaired.  


Those words alone are indicative of a perspective that views children who are deaf and hard of hearing as lacking, damaged and in need of fixing.

I do not take issue with the author who comes across as a passionate, caring teacher eager to share her experiences in order to edify new teachers in the field of deaf education.  She provides a few helpful suggestions about FM units and how to use interpreters but one "tip" had me shaking my head.

She writes, "Hearing-impaired youngsters are concrete learners and often have difficulty with abstract concepts.  We have to ease into such concepts."

This statement is reminiscent of one presented during a workshop I attended on assessment and intervention for students with "hearing loss and other disabilities".  The keynote speaker said that hearing-impaired children lack the ability to communicate with others and this inability to access language has a negative impact on social skills and abstract reasoning.

I take issue with these blanket statements because they are misleading. While this may be true for some children who are deaf or hard of hearing it is not true for all of them.  And it is certainly not true for those culturally Deaf children who have had access to a visual language since birth.  (Is that a blanket statement?  Oops!)

When it comes to education one size does not fit all.  Sometimes an oral approach with speech therapy is successful and sometimes a signed environment best meets the needs of a student.  It's frustrating that both sides of the oral vs. manual debate cannot put forth all the educational options for parents.  Too often doctors give misleading or one-sided information--keeping parents in the dark--to push their own agendas.

Why can't we all just play nice?


Angella Lister said...

i think this often and have said it before. thank god there is you.

Xpressive Handz said...

Hi, Gary,

I was a hearing impaired child, now I am a deaf adult. Hearing impaired should be an acceptable term for people who no longer hear as well as they used to. It doesn't imply anything is lacking in a person than lack of hearing, just like vision impairment. We should be able to differentiate the terms, just like Deaf and deaf are differentiated.

Having said that, as a hard of hearing, or hearing impaired young person, I lacked all kinds of skills when I was young because no one understood that if you don't have full access to what is "heard" in the classroom, you do not have full access to adapting social skills or language skills. I was put into special education because I couldn't follow directions and I was struggling with math. Well, if I could hear the math lessons, maybe I would have understood the lessons and followed the directions better. Time and again, it was said I wasn't paying attention, or I just wasn't capable.

If more parents would learn to sign with their children and request for ASL to be part of the curriculum for total communication, we would indeed be doing a great service for these children. btw... check out what Rachel Coleman and her family went through for their deaf daughter Leah here:

Gary said...

Angella - I could write the same about you. You are a blessing.

Xpressive Handz - Yes! You "Xpressed" the point I was trying to make about providing full access much more effectively than I did. I have had the experience in the past with teachers correcting a child's speech rather than the concepts he or she was learning. In the article I refer to in this post the author writes that "every lesson is a language lesson" but in reality it can become "every lesson is a speech lesson". Thank you for sharing your experience.

I will check out the link you provided. I also have been rummaging through your blog (I added it to my blog list on the sidebar) and it is chock full of good stuff that interests me. I look forward to taking some time to learn more from you.

Xpressive Handz said...

Thank you, Gary, for your kind comments. I only wish I could have "xpressed" these things when I was young, but I didn't understand then what I do now. We are so fortunate to have more teachers like you than we used to. :-) Your students are very blessed to have you as their teacher.


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