A Deaf Child’s Right To Language

One of my favorite professors in college, Shoshannah Stern, is a famous Deaf actress and an incredible teacher (See: Weeds, The Hammer, Jericho). She asked us one day to consider what our reactions would be if we gave birth to a child one day who could only speak French. Well, I can only speak English. And we’re not in France, we’re in America. Would my first reaction be to learn French? Well, maybe a few key terms, but my focus would really be on trying to teach my kid English. Try to assimilate them into the culture and country in which they live. Having a deaf child is no different. That child is automatically born into a culture different than the parent, and that doesn’t happen to other families unless in very special circumstances, like a black child being adopted by a white family. That black child will never be white, and a child who is born deaf can never become hearing. Even cochlear implants, which are highly experimental and do not take the place of true hearing, are questionable in their value when they are not accompanied by sign language. It’s understandable why a hearing parent would want their child to be implanted, and why they would speak tirelessly and refrain from using sign language. They just want their kid to be like the others. That attitude, however, is detrimental.

Deaf children need to be taught directly many of the skills that hearing children learn incidentally and exposure to language is the key to a successful transfer of information.

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