“I think the changes we can make in (deaf) children’s lives are so huge you can’t believe them until you see them.
“Deaf is not deaf anymore,”
Dimiti Dorman, accepting her Queenslander of the year award.
And in so saying this Ms Dorman earned the wrath of the Deaf community. But is it deserved?
Ms Dorman is a well known advocate for the Auditory Verbal approach for teaching deaf kids to speak and listen. She and her fellow professionals believe that the auditory pathway to the brain needs to be stimulated to the point that there can be no distraction from the process of listening. Sign language is one of those distractions. if the child is more inclined to sign they will be less inclined to listen. If they do not learn to listen early and prefer to sign their auditory pathways to the brain will be impaired.
This in itself is fine. In our democratic society we are allowed to express a view. BUT when we express a view or an opinion we should at least do so truthfully. Dimiti Dorman distorts the truth. She and her cohorts, which include Dr Bruce Shepherd, are not so much advocates for the Auditory Verbal approach, but zealots.
Ms Dorman’s network of professionals includes some prestigious centres that focus on the Auditory Verbal approach. They include the Shepherd Centre in NSW, Taryle in Melbourne and the Cora Barclay Centre in South Australia. All of these centres provide world class service in the provision of the Auditory Verbal approach to deaf kids. Not only that, they have some excellent outcomes as well. No one is doubting this.
BUT they have a problem. They lack respect for the Deaf community and sign language. They think it is a lesser form of communication. They think that speech is far superior and that sign language cannot provide deaf kids with the same level of access as speech. If you do not believe me, consider this quote from Dr Bruce Shepherd, it was taken from a radio debate on deafness with Phillip Adams in 2006 – “… But especially we wanted our children to develop language. Because it’s not well known that the average profoundly deaf person who signs generally doesn’t develop terribly good language and they often can’t understand a great deal of what they read and they can’t make other people understand what they’re thinking.”
And of course this utterance from Dr Shepherd is absolute poppycock. Ms Dorman believes this also, as do the other centres in her network of Hear and Speak centres. They use emotional language like, “Giving our Deaf Kids a Voice” or “To hear is to speak.” Or they put out insulting advertisements like the horrendous Cora Barclay advertisement which has a young deaf lad who started of the advertisement signing. The dialogue of the advertisement went something like this, (Boy signing) ” Not long ago the only way I could communicate was like this” (Boy breaks into clear and fluent speech) “But now there is a better way..” Thus implying that speech is far superior to sign language. Make no mistake, this is what Ms Dormanand her cohorts believe. ( The Rebuttal has written of the Cora Barclay advertisement before, re visit the article at – http://the-rebuttal.com/?p=65 )
The issue that I, and many others, have with the tactics of Ms Dorman and her colleagues is not so much the method, (it works for many kids just as it fails many) but the fact that they continue to mislead. They continue to put out misleading information such as Dr Shepherd did in his radio interview, as the Cora Barclay Centre did with their television advertisement and as did Ms Dormann with her emotional acceptance of the Queenslander of the Year Award. Since when has she “represented all children who are deaf? – She doesnt. What gives her the right to spout misleading claptrap like “Deaf isnt Deaf anymore” – all this does is set deaf kids up to fail and make society think that deafness is a lesser kind of existance.
Now lets look at things from a different point of view. Let us discuss sign language in a different light. Let us state a few home truths:
1) Sign language can help develop stronger literacy.
2) Kids that sign and have poor literacy, often have poor literacy because their language development was delayed by zealots that insisted on the Auditory Verbal approach long after it was clear that it wasn’t working. Sign language was not the reason.
3) That sign language actually HELPS with speech acquisition – it does not hinder it!
4) Deaf kids, unless their hearing loss is conductive, WILL ALWAYS BE DEAF – even with a cochlear implant!
Now here is the research. For ease – all of this is cut and pasted –
” ..IT WILL NOT DELAY SPEECH. Actually it will facilitate it with higher chances of earlier acquisition of speech. 103 eleven month olds were divided into three groups, one test group and two control groups (Goodwyn, Acredolo, & Brown, 2000). One group of parents knew nothing of the research intent and the other control group was instructed to make an effort to model verbal labels. The test group’s parents were to teach the infants sign. All groups of infants were tested in language proficiency at 15, 19, 24, 30, and 36 months. Results showed that the sign group had the advantage on the vast majority of language tests suggesting that sign does not hamper language development but may actually facilitate it.” (Goodwyn et al.).
“…Researchers in another article tying symbolic gesturing to speech development conclude, “it may even be the case that successful communication with gestures as object labels adds to the child’s overall conviction that he or she is on to something’ with this labeling business and thus speeds along the naming process in the verbal modality” (Acredolo & Goodwyn, 1988, p. 464).
There is another side to every coin. All that the Deaf community and its advocates ask of Ms Dorman and her colleagues is that they provide both sides of the story to parents of deaf kids. They need to provide the pros and the cons for what ever decision that the parents may make. Is that too much to ask?
Yes, without doubt, Ms Dorman and her colleagues, through their continued lack of respect and misinformation, have earned the wrath of the Deaf community. They should know better and THEY DO! Its not hard – I close this article with a quote from Grace Fox;
“… It must be concluded, then, that any type of communication-signing, speaking, pictures-can be beneficial for a child not only intellectually and developmentally, but also emotionally. It is my opinion that all parents ought to teach some kind of early communication that the child can use early on, to reduce frustration. Every parent has their choice, and those who choose not to sign ought not to look down upon those who do, and vice-versa. Differences in opinion should be respectfully given in such discussions. Communication, after all, is the key.”
(To read Grace Fox’s article in full go to: http://www.helium.com/debates/140836-infant-sign-language-beneficial-or-delays-speech/side_by_side )