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. :)