Location: Des Moines, Washington, United States

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

testing a methodology blog


As many of you know, while I support bilingualism, I myself do not know ASL at all. My daughter, who is almost 10 now, lost her hearing at 7 months of age, and was implanted just after her first birthday. We looked at all the early intervention programs, methodologies and school age programs, and went with Total Communication with Signing Exact English (TC-SEE). NorthWest-School. We started signing as soon as her hearing loss was diagnosed, even before she was implanted. And she picked up signing quickly. She also picked up spoken English after her implantation, and became primarily oral by the time her second birthday came around. We continued with TC and she entered a private TC school at age three. By age four, her receptive and expressive verbal language was above age level average for hearing kids. And her signing was just as good. Eventually she was mainstreamed, and the signing was dropped, because she simply didn’t need it. Her implant really does work that well for her. However, she is good at signing and we don’t want her to loose that. So she will be learning ASL starting this summer. All that having been said, the question remains, why didn’t we just start out with bilingual ASL and English?

There are primarily two reasons we went with a TC program using SEE instead of ASL. The biggest reason is that there were absolutely no ASL programs that included speech. Sure, if you wanted some speech therapy included, they would bring in a speech-language pathologist (SLP) once a week for a one hour session. But the TC program with SEE had all teachers and kids say and sign everything. All the time. It was a huge difference. And it had more than 20 years of test scores of the students showing that academically, it had high standards and results. The other reason was parental support. The TC program had tons of parental support for both the signing and the verbal aspects of the program. The ASL programs had plenty of ASL support, but absolutely none for the verbal aspects. That is one thing the TC program has in common with AVT. Parental support.

There is a general question floating around the blogosphere. “Why don’t the parents just add ASL to their Auditory Verbal Therapy (AVT) lessons, and make their children bilingual?” It would seem to be a simple and economical solution. It isn’t. To understand the problem, you need to understand AVT. Auditory Verbal Therapy. It is exactly what it sounds like. Hearing and speaking. No signing. It is not only how they teach AVT, it is a basic philosophy. They believe that to maximize the auditory pathway growth in the brain, they spend a great deal of time teaching the child to listen and speak. To add sign, means the child might get the information visually rather than aurally. That would not strengthen the auditory portion of the brain. There are plusses and minuses to this method. A big plus is that for early implanted children, it is exceptionally effective. The minus is that it doesn’t work for all children, and it really has problems with older implanted kids. And it leaves those children without nearly enough language. And those children have no ability to communicate with ASL folks in the Deaf Community.

So why do parents use this method? Parental support is a big reason. Proven results is another. So how do we promote bilingual ASL and spoken English for those families who have chosen cochlear implants? It isn’t enough to simply say “Add ASL to whatever methodology you are currently using”. Most methodologies either already incorporate a different form of sign, or are philosophically against sign altogether. And it is horribly unfair to ask parents to choose a methodology and then have them go against what they have chosen to crib in ASL on top of it. Since most parents are hearing, and generally new to Deaf Culture and such, they are understandably overwhelmed. They need to find a single methodology that supports them, and shows proven results. They need to visit the program, see the kids and talk to the other parents. What they need is an ASL English bilingual program that does everything in one program. One that provides ASL classes, speech and verbal language support and an understanding and acceptance of cochlear implants.

There are lots of ASL programs around the country. How many of them have successful verbal language incorporated into the program? If there are any, those programs need to be emulated by other ASL programs around the country. If there aren’t any, then a model needs to be created that can then be incorporated by other ASL programs. A national support system needs to be put into place so each of these programs can support each other. And continuing education can be implemented.

If we want parents to teach their children ASL and English, then we need to give them the programs to do just that. Do you know of a successful program that does this? We’d like to hear about it.



Blogger orangehands said...

very good job.

just one suggestion:
you may want to add the distinction between ASL and SEE sign (as in, the syntax differences) to clarify for anybody who is joining the blog without a lot of knowledge. seems obvious, but people who may be dropping by without prior knowledge may miss it.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Merry said...

If I'd heard of such a program, I would be shouting its praises. It's hard enough for a parent to have to deal with a hearing-impaired child; adding conflicting theories of teaching only makes this more challenging.

I am glad that your daughter got her implant at such an early age. One of my nephews has Down's Syndrome; he was born severely deaf and nearly blind. He didn't get the chance to have the implant until he was about 3, which was too late in terms of development for him to have developed much mentally. We'll never know what he could have become. His signing is rudimentary at best.

Even so, he has always been fascinated by music. He learned to get close to the piano and feel the vibrations it gave off when it was being played. He loves to get close to the stereo when it's playing something especially stirring. Sound, even as vibration, is a whole new world and moves him like nothing else.

Anything that stirs the pathways of the brain into new territory should be encouraged by any teacher worth the title!

Oh. I hadn't realized I'd climbed up on top of this soapbox. I'll get back down now. Sorry.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Divided said...

Hi K.L. I like your blog! Didn't read your posting word for word but glanced at it here and there. You say a lot of good things.

I'm going to share your blog with my daughter and perhaps she can share some of her comments. She works with deaf/hh kids in school and is a teacher.

3:50 PM  
Blogger K.L. said...

Thanks Divided,
Most of the good stuff will be posted on the ASL-CI website. Since I am new to this posting bit, I wanted to preview what I put there on this site first. This site is pretty random as far as subject matter.

2:29 PM  

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