Thursday, January 17, 2008

Central Institute for the Deaf--My Sister's Memories

My sister Linda and I recently went out to dinner at our favorite restaurant, Luigi's House. On the way home, we were reminiscing about the past and Linda brought up some memories about her three years at Central Institute for the Deaf. We had never really talked about her time at the auditory oral school that she attended from preschool until third grade. So tonight, I asked her some questions about her memories of the school.

Linda was born with normal hearing. When she was two years old, she fell off of a chair and hit her head on the corner of a baseboard. She instantly became profoundly deaf.

My parents didn't really know what to do. They lived in Ste. Genevieve, a very rural town with almost nothing in terms of support services. During an appointment with the family doctor, my mom learned about Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis. They brought Linda to CID to be tested and learned that she was severe-to-profoundly deaf.

"I remember Mom crying and she got up to leave the room," Linda recalled.

Mom made the decision to have Linda live with her sister, Velma, and attend CID. Aunt Velma's house was about 45 minutes from CID. Every morning, Linda joined another classmate, Rick Wind and one of his parents on a car ride to school. Every afternoon, Aunt Velma walked a half mile to a bus stop and rode the bus to CID to pick up Linda. They took the bus back together and walked home.

"Aunt Velma worked really hard to help me learn to listen and keep my speech going," Linda recalled. "Every night, she would place sentences in front of me and go behind my back and I would have to practice listening to each sentence."

That was clearly a form of Auditory Verbal therapy, and this was in the mid-1950's, long before Auditory Verbal was widely known.

I asked Linda about her memories of school, I was curious if it matched some of the negative things I had heard about the early days of auditory oral schools.

"I really liked it at CID," said Linda. "My memories are good ones. The teachers were wonderful. I can remember hugging them, especially Dr. Helen Lane. I would go to Dr. Lane's office to visit her every opportunity that I could."

Linda remembers that the teachers were strict about getting the kids to work on their speech and practice listening. "They didn't seem to give up and they worked with us over and over."

Linda remembers taking rhythm and music classes with a piano. She also remembers trying to identify different sounds. "When they played airplane noises, we would run around on the floor and pretend we were airplanes," said Linda. "I also remember some objects and animals that made noise, and we had to listen to identify which object made which noise."

Linda went to Northern Illinois University and attended the Program for Hearing Impaired for one year. She was introduced to American Sign Language at NIU--just as I was many years later. Linda moved to Michigan a few years ago and she's been getting involved in the deaf clubs up there.

In the family photo above, Linda is second from the left in the back. I'm not in that photo, I wasn't conceived at that point. :)


Karen Mayes said...

I also attended CID and I graduated from there in 1979. I have warm memories there. I enjoyed Mrs. Tash, my speech teacher with a great sense of humor. Many teachers were fun and my negative memories were of Ms. Gossin... I knew Dr. Lane (she lived a block away from where I lived, in University City.)

I was NOT a star student, but I enjoyed my time at CID... the teachers were great. I do remember the piano part (Ms. Kirkpractor something?)


Deaf Dating said...

For hearing families who have deaf children, it is important to learn their visual language ASL, make sure they have deaf peers and role monels in their daily lives, most importantly accept and respect them as a Deaf individual.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Tash continued to teach there until around 1998. She finally retired, but she still has her sense of humor esp. around halloween when she'd dress up!

Katherine said...

Nice story.

I hate to bring up this possibility. The "...became deaf from hitting head on the (insert something)" is getting real old.

I grew up in a large and vibrant cultural/linguistic aspect of the Deaf community since birth. I have had an opportunity to hear this from some people, including my late deaf grandmother, that they became deaf from from hitting their head.

To this day, I don't believe the story of many with a very few exception. As for my grandmother and great aunt from my late deaf grandpa's side, they were told they were born hearing and became deaf later.

I had to chuckle because first of all, my deaf great aunt had one deaf brother and 2 hard of hearing siblings and 3 hearing siblings. It is more likely than not she was born deaf and she was the baby of the family.

Secondly, my late deaf grandparents ended up with a hard of hearing daughter and 3 deaf grandchildren.

A couple of hypotheses here:

1) Parents are embarassed to have a child born deaf or have some kind of gene. Born hearing then deaf later sounds better.

2) Parents didn't know their child was actually deaf (pre-hearing screening days) and when they find out, they assume it is from something that just happened.

I wonder if Linda is the first deaf child your parents had. As for your sister, she may have fell and hit her head. However, I want people to be made aware that it is not always true for others. Hope you don't mind my sharing! :)

Karen said...

Dear Anonymous--

You left a comment about the teachers at CID and I didn't let that comment through. First--rather than just saying a teacher was mean, tell us why. Tell us how you know this information. We won't have any meaningful dialogue unless you're willing to engage in it rather than leaving an anonymous comment.

Karen said...

Hi Katherine,

You wrote: "I hate to bring up this possibility. The "...became deaf from hitting head on the (insert something)" is getting real old."

We had genetic research done and my family has a gene (quite rare at this point) where we are born hearing and lose it due to trauma, illness or other reasons.
There are many people who also have Large Vestibular Aquaduct Syndrome who also lose their hearing due to hitting their heads. That's usually the more common reason for losing hearing due to head trauma.
So the people you know who claimed to have lost hearing from hitting their heads were probably telling the truth due to this syndrome. It can be identified with a CAT scan.

Nita said...

Oh, I thought Linda was YOU! You both sure do look a bit alike! I remember Heather Whitestone mentioned in her book that she went to CID too.

Where did Marlee Matlin go to school, btw?

CID sounds interesting to me. Now, I wish I went there. I received only speech training even though I wore hearing aids. I guess there was nothing like auditory training in India. Oh well.

Remember the book, "Something wicked this way comes...?" by Ray Bradbury?

It'd be nice if we had a merry go round that went backwards and with each round, took off a year! :)


Cruise Trip for the Deaf - Oct 2007 said...

The image is broken. Please fix it so I can see the picture.


Nita said...

P.S. So, do you mean, Karen, that suppose your relatives did NOT hit their heads or fell down, they would have remained "hearing" or hoh the rest of their lives??


Karen said...

Cruise Trip-- I checked the photo in several different browsers and it loads. Can you try a different browser?

Is anyone else having difficulty seeing the photo?

Paula said...

Hi Karen,

Thanks for sharing this positive story about an auditory oral program. Former Miss America Heather Whitestone also attended CID and has expressed fond memories of it.

To answer another commentor's question, yes, it is possible that if people with EVAS/LVAS do not hit or bump their heads they won't experience hearing loss. However, it is my understanding that the injury to the head can be pretty slight to incur hearing loss. Think about how kids play volleyball and soccer using their heads. That'll do it too.

Karen, please contact me via email, I have a question for you. Thanks, Paula

Paula said...

Oh, and I can't see the photo either.

Nita said...

Btw, Karen, just curious, due to vast age difference between your sister, Linda, and you, did you ever grow up feeling that Linda was more of a surrogate mother than your own mom?


Karen said...


Linda is like my twin sister since we do look a lot alike. Linda and I did a lot together because she lived at home when my other siblings moved out. So she was my second mom because she, my mom and I did a lot of things together when I was growing up.

Karen said...

Marlee grew up in a suburb of Chicago and attended deaf programs within regular schools. She went to Hersey High school in Arlington Heights.

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Anonymous said...

My daughter also attended CID from 1987-1993. We left our home in GA so that she could learn to speak. The doctors and teachers in GA had told me that she was too deaf to learn to talk. I wish they could see her now! She mastered the English language and was fully mainstreamed in 3rd grade. She will be graduating in May with her Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design. I'll always be grateful to everyone at CID for giving my daughter the background necessary to be fully independent.
While in St. Louis, I finished college and taught at CID for a couple of years before returning to GA. Now I teach hearing impaired students at our public high school.