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September 23, 2006

Children of Deafness

Jamesraven forwarded an article in The Concord Monitor to me as I share his interest in the deaf comminity.

The article is discussing the age old dispute: Should deaf children be taught American Sign Language (ASL) or should all measures be taken to give them some hearing and then taught to speak.
"Should deaf students be taught solely in American Sign Language, or should they use technology to hear and speak? And should they attend local public schools or establish their own?

"The real challenge in educating deaf students is there is a definite dichotomy of philosophies," said state Education Commissioner Lyonel Tracy. "It's probably the most dramatic distinction among a group of students."

{...}

"Everyone agreed, however, that deaf education is a complicated and sometimes-divisive issue that begins with early decisions made by parents of deaf children, 90 percent of whom can hear."

The technology referred to includes cochlear implants, a highly controversial procedure.

There is a short description of cochlear implants at The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders:

"A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin (see figure). An implant has the following parts:

* A microphone, which picks up sound from the environment.
* A speech processor, which selects and arranges sounds picked up by the microphone.
* A transmitter and receiver/stimulator, which receive signals from the speech processor and convert them into electric impulses.
* An electrode array, which is a group of electrodes that collects the impulses from the stimulator and sends them to different regions of the auditory nerve.

An implant does not restore normal hearing. Instead, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help him or her to understand speech."

If you have any interest in the dilemma and challenges that deaf children face every day, read the complete article. Treating deafness has been an ongoing struggle for centuries, ranging from a prejudice and hypocrisy of helping the deaf to fit in with the "normal" people, to the schools and interpreters available to the deaf today. The deaf people themselves still do not have the final word; the hearing people make almost all the decisions regarding the deaf.

1 comment:

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