"my deaf son fought speech. sign language let him bloom."

Reba

Retired Terp
Premium Member
  • By ELIZABETH ENGELMAN New York Times News Service
  • Jun 12, 2017

I watched my toddler wade into the Gulf and launch a fistful of pebbles in flight. They glistened, tiny sparks of light, before I realized he was up to his chin in cold water. And I realized that if I called his name, if I screamed it, the word would sink like stone.

When Micah turned 2 we had learned that he was profoundly deaf. In the audiologist’s office, an auditory brain response concluded he couldn’t hear a helicopter. “You’re taking this well,” the doctor had said. But later, as I watched Micah step deeper into the Gulf water, I wanted to rage. I was so angry, I could have torn the beach apart.

We celebrated his third birthday, and the audiologist turned his cochlear implants on for the first time.

I said, “Hi Micah, can you hear mommy?”

His hazel eyes widened and he screamed in terror, his body trembling. Shock.

In American Sign Language, the sign for cochlear implant is similar to the sign for vampire.

Vampire is signed with two fingers like teeth to the throat. Cochlear implant is signed with two fingers like teeth behind the ears. The audiologist told me not to sign at all. She said sign language was a crutch that would hinder his speech. When he heard my voice for the first time, his cry was guttural, a stab wound. He was bitten by sound.

The audiologist adjusted the pitch and tuned the levels to make a simulation of sound. She called this process mapping, but there were no guideposts to show the way. How do you chart loneliness? How do you trace a landscape of silence and sound between mother and son?

At home, I wrapped my legs around my toddler and pinned him to the carpet in what looked like a wrestling hold as I tried to keep the processors for his implants on his head.

He was crying, and I was crying, and I wondered if my actions could be considered abuse.

He refused to wear the $18,000 sound processors, and his defiance was feral: head butts to my face, kicks, bites. The back of his head smacked against my jaw, and for a moment everything went black. The implant surgery alone had cost $50,000. Auditory verbal therapy was out of pocket, the doctors were out of network. What choice did I have but to force him?

In “The Story of My Life,” Helen Keller’s teacher Annie Sullivan described how teaching obedience to the deaf and blind girl had to precede teaching language. Sullivan compared her work with Keller to housebreaking a dog. She wrote, “to get her to do the simplest thing, such as combing her hair or washing her hands or buttoning her boots, it was necessary to use force, and of course a distressing scene followed.”

To sign the word force, spread your fingers wide and grip an imaginary face with the palm of your hand. With a quick motion, shove the face into an invisible water bucket and don’t let the head rise for air.

Each week, I dragged him to speech therapy. Let the ritual of F begin: His upper teeth on his lower lip as he tried to blow a scrap of paper off the back of his hand.

Next came the puh and guh with its grunts and grimaces.

He didn’t resist. He gagged his hands. He let his fingers slip dumb at his sides. He tucked his hands into his pockets like two clipped birds.

Micah was prelingually deaf, meaning his deafness preceded language. Doctors say there is a critical window from birth to 12 months for language acquisition.

By the time he was 4, he had a severe language delay, and I feared that his window for language was closing. When I spoke to him, I observed his stoic expression and panic knotted my stomach.

In public, his meltdowns drew unwanted attention on playgrounds and in grocery stores. How had I become the dejected mother in the fruit aisle, helpless as Micah bucked and cried, hitting his head on the linoleum floor?

I felt the eyes of other shoppers watching with pity, others with harsh disappointment, but no one could have been more disappointed in me than myself. I was failing him.

Then I took one too many of his head butts to the chin and woke up paralyzed on the right side of my face. I couldn’t blink. I couldn’t smile. The doctor said it was trauma to the seventh cranial nerve, causing facial muscles to weaken — as happens with Bell’s palsy. My face drooped like a stroke victim’s and for two months, I used a patch over my unblinking eye.

There is no particular sign for the word desperate. Instead, it is conveyed by a panicked facial expression. But my face was frozen, much like Micah’s voice. Stuck.

I blamed myself. I was no Annie Sullivan. I couldn’t break him, and instead, he was breaking me.

I gave up on spoken English, and enrolled in American Sign Language classes at the local community college. Micah’s first sign was flower. To sign flower, the right hand grasps an imaginary stem and holds it first against the right nostril and then against the left, and like a flower, Micah blossomed one new sign at a time and took his implants off his head for good.

The first time he told me a story, he was 6. We were eating greasy burgers and fries in a diner’s pleather booth, and he told me about a dream from the night before. Our mouths were full, chewing, lips sealed, but his story continued with rapid-fire signs.

Sometimes, when we lie side by side in the dark, he places a small hand on my throat to feel my voice, a gesture as intimate as a lullaby, and I consider the symphony of touch. I feel his palm outstretch, feeling for vibration, and I think of my voice as a petal pressed between locked pages.

In the dark, his hand reaches up to speak, and I shine a flashlight on his fingers. They make rapid shadow puppets onto the bedroom wall, and I understand his story like a hieroglyph. I see his voice. I hear his face. His pristine silence fills a room far more than sound.

http://www.postandcourier.com/nyt/m...cle_2d8b60ce-bba6-5549-a4ec-849ae3439162.html
 

Teacherofthedeaf

Active Member
  • By ELIZABETH ENGELMAN New York Times News Service
  • Jun 12, 2017
I watched my toddler wade into the Gulf and launch a fistful of pebbles in flight. They glistened, tiny sparks of light, before I realized he was up to his chin in cold water. And I realized that if I called his name, if I screamed it, the word would sink like stone.

When Micah turned 2 we had learned that he was profoundly deaf. In the audiologist’s office, an auditory brain response concluded he couldn’t hear a helicopter. “You’re taking this well,” the doctor had said. But later, as I watched Micah step deeper into the Gulf water, I wanted to rage. I was so angry, I could have torn the beach apart.

We celebrated his third birthday, and the audiologist turned his cochlear implants on for the first time.

I said, “Hi Micah, can you hear mommy?”

His hazel eyes widened and he screamed in terror, his body trembling. Shock.

In American Sign Language, the sign for cochlear implant is similar to the sign for vampire.

Vampire is signed with two fingers like teeth to the throat. Cochlear implant is signed with two fingers like teeth behind the ears. The audiologist told me not to sign at all. She said sign language was a crutch that would hinder his speech. When he heard my voice for the first time, his cry was guttural, a stab wound. He was bitten by sound.

The audiologist adjusted the pitch and tuned the levels to make a simulation of sound. She called this process mapping, but there were no guideposts to show the way. How do you chart loneliness? How do you trace a landscape of silence and sound between mother and son?

At home, I wrapped my legs around my toddler and pinned him to the carpet in what looked like a wrestling hold as I tried to keep the processors for his implants on his head.

He was crying, and I was crying, and I wondered if my actions could be considered abuse.

He refused to wear the $18,000 sound processors, and his defiance was feral: head butts to my face, kicks, bites. The back of his head smacked against my jaw, and for a moment everything went black. The implant surgery alone had cost $50,000. Auditory verbal therapy was out of pocket, the doctors were out of network. What choice did I have but to force him?

In “The Story of My Life,” Helen Keller’s teacher Annie Sullivan described how teaching obedience to the deaf and blind girl had to precede teaching language. Sullivan compared her work with Keller to housebreaking a dog. She wrote, “to get her to do the simplest thing, such as combing her hair or washing her hands or buttoning her boots, it was necessary to use force, and of course a distressing scene followed.”

To sign the word force, spread your fingers wide and grip an imaginary face with the palm of your hand. With a quick motion, shove the face into an invisible water bucket and don’t let the head rise for air.

Each week, I dragged him to speech therapy. Let the ritual of F begin: His upper teeth on his lower lip as he tried to blow a scrap of paper off the back of his hand.

Next came the puh and guh with its grunts and grimaces.

He didn’t resist. He gagged his hands. He let his fingers slip dumb at his sides. He tucked his hands into his pockets like two clipped birds.

Micah was prelingually deaf, meaning his deafness preceded language. Doctors say there is a critical window from birth to 12 months for language acquisition.

By the time he was 4, he had a severe language delay, and I feared that his window for language was closing. When I spoke to him, I observed his stoic expression and panic knotted my stomach.

In public, his meltdowns drew unwanted attention on playgrounds and in grocery stores. How had I become the dejected mother in the fruit aisle, helpless as Micah bucked and cried, hitting his head on the linoleum floor?

I felt the eyes of other shoppers watching with pity, others with harsh disappointment, but no one could have been more disappointed in me than myself. I was failing him.

Then I took one too many of his head butts to the chin and woke up paralyzed on the right side of my face. I couldn’t blink. I couldn’t smile. The doctor said it was trauma to the seventh cranial nerve, causing facial muscles to weaken — as happens with Bell’s palsy. My face drooped like a stroke victim’s and for two months, I used a patch over my unblinking eye.

There is no particular sign for the word desperate. Instead, it is conveyed by a panicked facial expression. But my face was frozen, much like Micah’s voice. Stuck.

I blamed myself. I was no Annie Sullivan. I couldn’t break him, and instead, he was breaking me.

I gave up on spoken English, and enrolled in American Sign Language classes at the local community college. Micah’s first sign was flower. To sign flower, the right hand grasps an imaginary stem and holds it first against the right nostril and then against the left, and like a flower, Micah blossomed one new sign at a time and took his implants off his head for good.

The first time he told me a story, he was 6. We were eating greasy burgers and fries in a diner’s pleather booth, and he told me about a dream from the night before. Our mouths were full, chewing, lips sealed, but his story continued with rapid-fire signs.

Sometimes, when we lie side by side in the dark, he places a small hand on my throat to feel my voice, a gesture as intimate as a lullaby, and I consider the symphony of touch. I feel his palm outstretch, feeling for vibration, and I think of my voice as a petal pressed between locked pages.

In the dark, his hand reaches up to speak, and I shine a flashlight on his fingers. They make rapid shadow puppets onto the bedroom wall, and I understand his story like a hieroglyph. I see his voice. I hear his face. His pristine silence fills a room far more than sound.

http://www.postandcourier.com/nyt/m...cle_2d8b60ce-bba6-5549-a4ec-849ae3439162.html

Wow, it sounds like they had a terrible therapist who did follow up! Why on earth was he blowing paper for an /f/ sound? And why would he be working on any sounds in isolation before he had language?
 

Barbaro

Well-Known Member
One of my old speech therapist held up a paper, so I can practice it over and over. It was one of those exercises for motor skills. Plus it helped me memorize it. There are many different tools like a feather. It is not for everyone. I had about 10 years of speech therapy.
 

DeafDucky

Well-Known Member
Wow, it sounds like they had a terrible therapist who did follow up! Why on earth was he blowing paper for an /f/ sound? And why would he be working on any sounds in isolation before he had language?

I wouldn't call that a terrible therapist.

I grew up oral with speech therapy- prior to age 4-5 I was in several programs (I only remember the self contained classroom in my first kindergarten class)...Early in my path I did do all those speech sounds- blends, S, TH, probably F and P ..puh guh etcetera. The self contained classroom one we spent more time on speech therapy/training than anything else to be honest- that i can remember. During my elementary school years, I wound up missing certain classes because of speech therapy- I don't recall which classes was usually the victim as it changed every year but wouldn't surprise me if math was a big one as I'm so bad at it now lol.

Here I am some - multiple decades later- between the Spencer Tracy thing my mother did and the subsequent speech therapy up to the age of 12- my speech is very very good to the point that people DON'T believe I am Deaf (profoundly mind) then DON'T remember that I STILL cannot hear everything clearly or "perfectly"- only in the most controlled environment I would.

Yet... I still wish I had sign language from as young as possible. I saw the other thread with the study. That's probably a small portion. while yes "speech only" is 'best'.. it's not for everyone. I still am of the belief that using both ASL and speech (or PSE) would benefit the child more... supposedly those who grow up bilingual do BETTER than those who don't.

I wonder how many of those "speech only" CI kids will later in life either dump the CI or go learn ASL on their own anyway. Just like speech/auditory needing to be started in that specific window, so does ASL. It's not too difficult during childhood years but as you get older well... I was 18 by the time I was introduced to sign. While I caught on quickly I am by no means 'native' and my receptive skills are a bit rusty now (due to other circumstances....).
 

deafdyke

Well-Known Member
I wouldn't call that a terrible therapist.
I saw the other thread with the study. That's probably a small portion. while yes "speech only" is 'best'.. it's not for everyone. I still am of the belief that using both ASL and speech (or PSE) would benefit the child more... supposedly those who grow up bilingual do BETTER than those who don't.

I wonder how many of those "speech only" CI kids will later in life either dump the CI or go learn ASL on their own anyway. Just like speech/auditory needing to be started in that specific window, so does ASL. It's not too difficult during childhood years but as you get older well... I was 18 by the time I was introduced to sign. While I caught on quickly I am by no means 'native' and my receptive skills are a bit rusty now (due to other circumstances....).
Do you know how they claim speech only is "best?" Not by clarity or mastery of language...but the assumption that ASL is a "crutch" You're so right. Kids need EVERYTHING, early on! ......and most schools and programs for the Deaf DO offer speech/ HOH style interventions. Now that it's no longer as hard for kids to develop speech, the way it was in the '70's, an exclusive focus is NOT needed. Problem is that oralists think that dhh kids are so low functioning that they cannot master spoken language unless it's a 24/7 thing. As long as dhh kids get good quality speech/HOH style interventions, they will develop speech. It's QUALITY of speech therapy, not quanity.
 

deafdyke

Well-Known Member
One of the "out of the box" early childhood educational set ups that I've heard of, was a mom who had her kid in a Sign using program for four days a week. On the fifth day, she attended the John Tracy preschool. That's a solution that "covers all the bases" Parents really need to be told very bluntly that there's a lot of different pieces to the puzzle, and not to panic about speech. Speech is only a small percentage of success. It needs to be seen as the " cherry on the top" of the sundae, rather then the be all and end all. Also the thing is....WTF is so wrong with giving a child EVERYTHING? Where does this hate on about ASL even COME FROM?!?!?! Why not just offer it and see if it helps the kid?!?!? With the addition of ASL, exposure to dhh peers, deaf camp, deaf school etc the kid could THRIVE b/c they wouldn't have to work so hard! There's no One Answer but a year or a semester at a Deaf School could REALLY enhance a kid's life....going to Deaf camp could help them find a place where they actually FIT IN, learning ASL could help them not have to listen so hard (remember the hard in the hard of hearing) and so on! There's no One Answer to Success for hearing kids, so why are CIs, The Best HA, speech therapy, AVT and little no exposure to dhh or the POSITIVE FUN parts of being dhh considered the road to success? If speech and hearing was the key to success then all hearing people would be successful!
 

Barbaro

Well-Known Member
I went to the John Tracey school for summer in the late 80s. I think I mentioned it once or twice somewhere in this forum. No sign language is allowed used to be their policy. Now, they changed it about 10 years ago, and let kids sign whatever they want to.
 

Teacherofthedeaf

Active Member
One of my old speech therapist held up a paper, so I can practice it over and over. It was one of those exercises for motor skills. Plus it helped me memorize it. There are many different tools like a feather. It is not for everyone. I had about 10 years of speech therapy.
What year was this and how much hearing did you have?
 

Teacherofthedeaf

Active Member
I wouldn't call that a terrible therapist.

I grew up oral with speech therapy- prior to age 4-5 I was in several programs (I only remember the self contained classroom in my first kindergarten class)...Early in my path I did do all those speech sounds- blends, S, TH, probably F and P ..puh guh etcetera. The self contained classroom one we spent more time on speech therapy/training than anything else to be honest- that i can remember. During my elementary school years, I wound up missing certain classes because of speech therapy- I don't recall which classes was usually the victim as it changed every year but wouldn't surprise me if math was a big one as I'm so bad at it now lol.

Here I am some - multiple decades later- between the Spencer Tracy thing my mother did and the subsequent speech therapy up to the age of 12- my speech is very very good to the point that people DON'T believe I am Deaf (profoundly mind) then DON'T remember that I STILL cannot hear everything clearly or "perfectly"- only in the most controlled environment I would.

Yet... I still wish I had sign language from as young as possible. I saw the other thread with the study. That's probably a small portion. while yes "speech only" is 'best'.. it's not for everyone. I still am of the belief that using both ASL and speech (or PSE) would benefit the child more... supposedly those who grow up bilingual do BETTER than those who don't.

I wonder how many of those "speech only" CI kids will later in life either dump the CI or go learn ASL on their own anyway. Just like speech/auditory needing to be started in that specific window, so does ASL. It's not too difficult during childhood years but as you get older well... I was 18 by the time I was introduced to sign. While I caught on quickly I am by no means 'native' and my receptive skills are a bit rusty now (due to other circumstances....).
This child has no language and no speech. The /f/ sound doesn't appear in children with typical hearing until age four. We know that vowels are first to develop and then /m/, /b/, /p/, /w/, /h/ and /n/. He should not have been working on /f/ until he had more than 50 words and those initial sounds.
 

Beowulf

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
This child has no language and no speech. The /f/ sound doesn't appear in children with typical hearing until age four. We know that vowels are first to develop and then /m/, /b/, /p/, /w/, /h/ and /n/. He should not have been working on /f/ until he had more than 50 words and those initial sounds.
Lol
 

Barbaro

Well-Known Member
What year was this and how much hearing did you have?

I am profoundly deaf. My guess is it was about 1988. The method works for me.

This child has no language and no speech. The /f/ sound doesn't appear in children with typical hearing until age four. We know that vowels are first to develop and then /m/, /b/, /p/, /w/, /h/ and /n/. He should not have been working on /f/ until he had more than 50 words and those initial sounds.

I did say F before I turned 4 years old because one of my brothers taught me. I am the youngest of siblings. I was not supposed to say a bad word. I was daredevil, clever, and annoying. Mom had to keep me in line. My hearing son did say F before he turned 2 years old. He is only a child. We have hearing witnesses confirming that and they were blown away by that. I do know many children have trouble saying F. I recall an acquaintance's son tried to say truck a while ago, but said F word instead. He was three years old at the time.
 

Beowulf

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
I am profoundly deaf. My guess is it was about 1988. The method works for me.



I did say F before I turned 4 years old because one of my brothers taught me. I am the youngest of siblings. I was not supposed to say a bad word. I was daredevil, clever, and annoying. Mom had to keep me in line. My hearing son did say F before he turned 2 years old. He is only a child. We have hearing witnesses confirming that and they were blown away by that. I do know many children have trouble saying F. I recall an acquaintance's son tried to say truck a while ago, but said F word instead. He was three years old at the time.
That's okay. I notice that "s" was not one of the prerequisites according to the OP.
Lawdy awmighty, THAT gave me major problems.
(Don't worry, I mean only in talking. :))
 

DeafDucky

Well-Known Member
That's okay. I notice that "s" was not one of the prerequisites according to the OP.
Lawdy awmighty, THAT gave me major problems.
(Don't worry, I mean only in talking. :))

Oh lordy.. I still have trouble with some combinations of letters to this day. I don't remember if it was ever that noticeable though. Like I said..most people don't believe- or in some cases remember that I am deaf... (!).

on a side note- in the self contained oral classroom I DO remember- there were 6-7 of us (and a pet lamb...For YEARS I thought we named him Snoopy...until this past year I saw a picture that mom saved- on the back it said..>SMOKEY...urp.). ANYWAY...all of us had hearing aids if I remember. Some 10 years later- somewhere around high school age.. My mom found out where that teacher had ended up teaching.. so we visited. Turns out that one of the other classmates was in her small class (or speech therapy? I don't recall). But what I DO remember when we talked... was that his voice definitely had a deaf accent, was not that clear...AND he was using sign language.. but he still used both. I can't recall if she did sign... something tells me she did sign to him.

No moral to the story- only that a)I have to wonder if the success rate is really that high and b)even the teacher who started out with an oral only approach seemed to have adopted sign language.

Data point- early 'oral' programs were in 1968-1970ish. Later years meet up was sometime in the late 70s/early 80s.

I can see that today the 'success rate' would be better with better technology but it still would not surprise me if CI kids in 'oral only' programs- if there is more than one in the same class/school- did some sign in secret....

I just hated being "the only one" basically.
 

AlleyCat

Well-Known Member
I hate it when people don't walk a mile in our shoes and pretend to understand how difficult it is to hear or speak.
 
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deafdyke

Well-Known Member
I went to the John Tracey school for summer in the late 80s. I think I mentioned it once or twice somewhere in this forum. No sign language is allowed used to be their policy. Now, they changed it about 10 years ago, and let kids sign whatever they want to.
Really? Like out of class. What precipatated the change? Wonder if they were getting lots of " hey we want our kids to take advantage of this excellent oral school, but we don't want Sign demonized" parents.
 

deafdyke

Well-Known Member
Data point- early 'oral' programs were in 1968-1970ish. Later years meet up was sometime in the late 70s/early 80s.

I can see that today the 'success rate' would be better with better technology but it still would not surprise me if CI kids in 'oral only' programs- if there is more than one in the same class/school- did some sign in secret....

I just hated being "the only one" basically.
I would love it if oral programs suggested it might be a good idea to send the kid to a dhh program for the extra support, as a proactive measure for when the kid starts struggling and or hitting the ceiling. Maybe adding ASL would allow them to understand at a much higher level. Thing is, it's no longer innovative or unique for a dhh kid to be oral or experience an inclusion based education. Nobody's really all that impressed any more by oral-only or the fact that a dhh kid goes to a hearing/ typical school. And yes just b/c a child can talk and have HOH level skills, it doesn't mean that they're automaticly going to be successful. AUDILOGICALLY HOH kids struggle with pretty much the exact same things that oral deaf kids do. I wish to heck that oral education wasn't about the be all and end all about being "normal" and being promoted as "YOUR KID CAN BE A PART OF THE HEARING WORLD. Kids who sign and speak are a part of the hearing world. The only difference is that they ALSO have a COMMUNITY of their own!
 
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