Monday, March 19, 2007

AG Bell Retreat At Local School

On Friday, I headed out to Child's Voice after a Deaf Mentor session in the morning. This was the first time I had joined an AG Bell event. The retreat was for deaf and hard of hearing adults.

The morning session consisted of observing a child in a one-on-one session with a teacher. We then gathered in the main gym and had an "Advocacy" session with about twenty deaf and hard of hearing children from kindergarten to first grade. Many of the children had one or two cochlear implants and several of them had hearing aids. A teacher lead the discussion and began with questions about ways the children and adults could advocate when communication breaks down. The kids eagerly raised their hands to answer questions and share their advocacy tips. The teacher repeated or summarized each answer. I found that it was quite a feat to make sure that I could understand everyone and I had to get up and move around to make sure that I had access to the conversations. At one point, I missed an answer to a question and made sure that I demonstrated my own advocacy skills to get it repeated.

After a delicious lunch, the adults met with the parents from Child's Voice and four deaf adults shared their experiences during a panel discussion. One was a lawyer from San Diego, a student in a business college, a doctoral student in Audiology and a school psychologist from Indiana School for the Deaf. We all sat in a circle and everything was captioned on a large screen. I was grateful for the captioning because I was able to lip read the deaf participants and then glance at the screen for anything that was missed.

On the drive home, I was thinking about a comment that one of the panelists shared. She mentioned that her parents attended every AG Bell convention since she was a little girl. It was during these conventions that she met other deaf and hard of hearing people and realized, "I am not alone, there are other people out there who are just like me."

I thought it was the most important message of the day.


Jenny said...

Thanks for sharing, Karen. A thought - if there were NO mainstreaming and there were regional deaf schools all over the country that offered education commensurate with or superior to local public schools, we wouldn't have deaf people feeling alone and grateful for AGB conventions to help them learn they're not alone. We'd have self-actualized, well-educated deaf adults and absolutely no need for organizations that purport to help us when actually all they do is is oppress us by denying us our language. (I realize you may disagree, Karen, being a member of a group that maintains neutrality, but this is a valid perspective that needs to be heard. Again, thank you for sharing your experience at the retreat.)

Karen said...

After years of meeting a variety of families and a variety of deaf and hard of hearing adults, I've come to appreciate that one approach cannot and does not fit all.

I do believe we need to do a much better job of making sure that every deaf and hard of hearing child has the language and communication skills to reach their highest potential.

BEG said...

I'll tell you, from an oralist point of view, I'm a resounding success -- blazed through school, university, functional in the hearing world (fool a lot of people), all this with a 90db loss in both ears.

But, as a solitaire, I never met another deaf child, ever. I was alone in school, and did not socialize even after school with other deaf kids.

Sure, no one approach fits all, but I think that no deaf child should ever be so completely isolated from other deaf, no matter how successful she is in school and with the hearing world.

I think we can agree, no matter how the child is actually educated, that isolation is not good for any child.

Karen said...

BEG-- I agree with you which is why I work hard to connect families with one another and kids with other kids and most importantly, other deaf and hard of hearing adults.

Jenny said...

BEG, I love how you think and how you phrase things!!! I agree wholeheartedly with what you've said.

Karen, perhaps we can agree to disagree? *smile* Like you, I've had years and years of meeting "a variety of families and a variety of deaf and hard of hearing adults," as you put it. In the vast majority of these cases, every single one who was not exposed to ASL and/or to other deaf youth and to deaf adults has regretted it. I am not going to get into assistive technology, speech therapy, and so on - that's not my focus here. I strongly believe that every single deaf child should be exposed to ASL, to other deaf children, and to deaf adults, and that the best way to do that is at a school for the deaf, as long as the school provides high-quality education - this last part is important.

So all in all, we may need to agree to disagree, which is all right. Our community has room for varying perspectives.