Thursday, May 3, 2007

USU starting new deaf ed. program for kids under 5

Herald Journal, Logan, Utah, Saturday April 28, 2007

Anna Bolingbroke looks like any other 6-year-old girl until she pushes back her long brown hair and reveals the cochlear implants behind her ears.

The small magnetic pad and thin cables connect to her auditory nerves, allowing the once deaf child to hear normally.

Before receiving implants, Anna's parents never imagined she would be able to speak, let alone recite nursery rhymes. But on Friday, she stood before 100 people at Utah State University and shyly said the lines to "Little Miss Muffet".

The scene looked like a simple miracle, but in fact it took years of hard work.

As a toddler, Anna attended the Moog School in St. Louis, which focuses on teaching language skills to children with cochlear implants. The curriculum prepared her for a mainstream kindergarten class.

At Friday's meeting, USU announced that it is launching a similar program to help hearing-impaired children from birth to age 5. Called "Sound Beginnings of Cache Valley," the $3 million initiative will have an auditory-oral focus, meaning the program will concentrate on developing speaking rather than sign language, according to program director Todd Houston**. It is the first of its kind in the Intermountain West.

"It's so exciting that USU will be offering this," said Margene Bolingbroke, Anna's mother. "USU can be a leader not only in signing deaf education but also in oral deaf education."

When the Bolingbrokes discovered Anna's hearing impairment, and that of her 8-year-old brother, Nathan, they were living in Brigham City. A lack of services for individuals with cochlear implants motivated their move to St. Louis.

Margene is glad that other families will now be able to stay in the state.

"When you get cochlear implants, it's like recovering from a stroke," she said. "You need to work to get back the functions, so you need experts in that."

For infants up to age 2, USU's program offers weekly meetings to help parents teach their children through play. At 2, the children join a Sound Beginnings play group, which will meet weekly for two hours.

From 3 to 5, they are part of a tuition-free , early childhood educational program housed on USU's campus. The full-day, full-week school will have space for five to ten children and offer daily access to specialists in early childhood deaf education, pediatric audiology and seech-language pathology. All services begin in fall 2007.

Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education department head Beth Foley stressed that the program will provide an alternative for deaf children and their families, but will not replace the department's existing sign language training program.

"An oral-auditory focus is right for some families and not right for others," she said. "We already have a strong sign-language program. Now we are expanding the options we have out there for parents."

Huston agreed.

"Parents can, and should, be able to choose how they want to communicate with their children," he continued. "The fact is that 95 percent of all newborns with permanent hearing loss are born to hearing parents, and with all of the advances in the field, most of these parents want to communicate via spoken language. Many parents are now choosing to get their children cochlear implants, and these children need intensive follow-up training and services to take full advantage of this technology."

Several audience members expressed concern that the school would try to prevent their children from using sign language. School director, Vicki Simonsmeier explained that the school is not against sign language. All of the school's staff will know some sign language and will respond verbally to signed requests. Deaf parents can visit the class with a sign language interpreter, provided by USU.

"We view this as a collaborative program with existing services that also cover ASL (American Sign Language," Simonsmeir said.

For more information about Sound Beginning or to enroll a child, contact the USU Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education, [435] 797-7554, or the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management, [435] 797-1224, or e-mail Vicki. or

E-mail: (editor)

**Todd Houston was Vice President of Alexander Graham Bell Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing before became Director of Sound Beginning of Cache Valley, a PRO Oralism preschool that DENIED American Sign Language to be use in their classrooms.

----Sign language wrongly ignored----
To the editor:
I am one of those “deaf parents” who stood up and commented concerning sign language not being used in the Sound Beginnings of Cache Valley. I understand that they are offering alternative services for those children with hearing loss such as my son, but as you look around, there is no other choice in Cache Valley except the Sound Beginnings, which is not right.
I am one of those two million Deaf Americans who look at deafness without shame. We look at ourselves as an ethic group rather than a group with disability or a group that needs their hearing to be fixed, which is how Sound Beginnings looks at us. We are rich in culture, folklore, history, heritage, and language.

We are similar to African-Americans and other ethic groups in the United States that, unfortunately, have gone through persecution and discrimination, except that ours have not been as violent as others. Such persecution and discrimination is easily seen at the meeting with Sound Beginnings of Cache Valley as they underestimate sign language and in fact ban them from using it in their classroom. That is an action of genocide. By focusing on speech only they rob us of our culture, heritage and easily accessible language, ASL. American Sign Language (ASL) was proven by William Stokoe to be a true and natural language in 1979. It is not inferior to any spoken language, but is made to look so by programs such as Sound Beginnings.
I wonder if I should walk in a classroom with hearing children who wanted to learn sign language as is found among parents of infants and/or toddlers. If I follow Sound Beginning of Cache Valley, I would simply ban them from using their native language, English, and begin to teach them sign language with the assistance of technology such as robotic parts installed in their hands in order to get them to make the right sign. How would you feel? That’s exactly what we feel; we do not need technology to fix our ears.
I have never spoken one word in my lifetime but am able to maintain above a 3.5 GPA at USU. What is wrong with sign language? What is wrong being deaf? Nothing; as for someone seeking for “normal” status such as parents with deaf children, may I ask, what is normal? Is a left-handed person normal in contrast to a right-handed? Are person’s skin colors normal such as olive, peach, brown, etc.? Is a person normal with or without eyeglasses or eye contacts? What is normal anyway?
-----Sign Language-----
To the Editor:
A cochlear implant is not simply a “magnetic pad and thin cables” connected to the auditory nerve. It is an electronic device implanted beneath the skin during an invasive surgery. The magnetic pad and thin cable are the visible part. Cochlear implants do not restore normal hearing. They simulate sounds. Children with cochlear implants will never have normal hearing.
This information is clearly explained by cochlear implant companies. A child born deaf will always be deaf even if they use hearing aids or have a cochlear implant. The fact is, if they do hear some sound (through assistive technology) it is not what we, as hearing people, are used to hearing.
This, however, does not impede the deaf child. I am a mother of a deaf child. He is 9 months old and can say the words, “more,” “please,” and “milk.” He uses his hands to say these words. I understand him and give him what he needs. When my child is ready for preschool he will have over 300 signs. However there is no preschool classroom in Cache Valley where my child will be able to go and have someone understand him and be able to respond in his own language (American Sign Language) to teach him the same things other children are learning. We can choose to send him to a special education classroom taught by someone with limited sign skills or send him to the new program, Sound Beginnings, that USU is starting fall 2007. Although many of the staff of this new program may know “some sign,” it will not be used in the program to enhance my son’s learning. When he signs, his teachers would not understand him, would not be able to respond back and build on the language he is giving them.
The Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education department has said that with this program they are expanding the existing program they have and offering more options for parents of deaf children. I see no option for my son. There is no classroom where he can go and learn to speak as well as learn emergent literacy skills, social skills, and basic knowledge of the world around him through a language that is easily accessible to him. Why not provide a Bilingual/ Bicultural approach where deafness is accepted, not shunned.
Where a child is allowed an accessible language (ASL) as well as taught to read, write and speak English. If allowed, deaf children will excel in both ASL and English, growing up to be fully active adults contributing to society in a truly unique and wonderful way. Deaf children in Cache Valley need this opportunity.
----Outright Lies----
To the Editor:
Outright lies were spoken at the meeting about an oral education program for deaf kids less than five years old, called Sound Beginnings of Cache Valley, which was held last Friday, April 27th at USU.

The first lie is all deaf children all over the United States speak well. My speech was awful until adulthood despite my speech training I got from infancy through 8th grade. Many more deaf have far worse speech than I.

The second lie is all deaf children are happily mainstreamed at public schools and have normal relationships with hearing pupils. I notice the movie, shown at the Sound Beginnings of Cache Valley meeting, omits deaf children in middle and high school years. I had fun playing with neighborhood children daily until I was eleven, when they switched from playing kid games to mostly chatting. They excluded me from chats due to my poor lip-reading skills. One day we walked around our block, smelling flowers. While I was bending down and smelling them, they all ran off. I just walked home and became best friends with books from then on.

The third lie is once children learn to speak, they stop signing. I attended an intensive oral school from three years old to fourteen years old. At reunions every five years, all 250 or so of us but three alumni students use ASL despite their good speech!

The fourth lie is that Cochlear Implants are helpful. If that is the case then why there are so many deaf people get rid of theirs when they reach adulthood?

The fifth lie is that Savannah and other two children shown on the video and in person who shows up at the meeting all started with American Sign Language (ASL) and then progressed to good speech. What about those who didn’t started with ASL? It took me SIX months to learn how to pronounce my first word, “ball.” What a waste of time! In contrast deaf children exposed to ASL usually have a vocabulary in ASL equals to a hearing children’s spoken vocabulary. Those who know ASL learned to speak faster because receptive language skills precede expressive skills, and ASL is visual and easier to understand than oral speech that is largely invisible to the deaf.

The sixth lie is oral children are successful in the hearing world. Then why did Utah School for the Deaf and Blind, who supports oral/auditory approach more than other approaches, often fails to produce college-bound students for so long? Oral education still limits students’ access to communication in the classrooms. I was the only deaf in my school from 9th grade through college and got generally 2.7 GPA in high school but mostly 2.0 GPA at college. After I learned ASL at age of 20 years old and attended graduate school with interpreter services, I got 4.0 GPA, thanks to my enhanced access to communication.