Parents of Deaf Children, Stuck in the Middle of an Argument

Summarized by Rachel Wainz, staff writer

After the Washington Post wrote a story on the deaf model and activist, Nyle DiMarco, advocating for increased accessibility to ASL education, Meredith Sugar, the president of the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, replied with an article arguing that ASL is becoming obsolete, and that hearing aids and cochlear implant technology has become the norm. Sugar’s claim is one that has been long debated in the Deaf community: what is best for deaf children? Should they use ASL, be fitted for hearing aids and learn to speak, or should it be a combination of both?

The author is a parent of a 2-year-old with recently diagnosed hearing loss. When deciding how address her son’s needs, the doctor neglected to mention ASL as an option and offered hearing aids instead. In a similar situation, a friend of hers who is a speech therapist, told her to avoid signing because he would use it as a crutch. For a while, her son focused mostly on his listening and speaking skills, but she noticed how frustrated her son was when he tried to speak and couldn’t quite communicate. Soon, the author and mother began incorporating a variation of ASL called “signed English” which uses ASL but mimics patterns of spoken English instead of traditional ASL, which is not directly representative of English and follows different grammatical patterns. She concludes by saying there is no perfect solution, and noting that there is very much a divide in the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community on how to raise their children. She still wonders if it is better to have her son use hearing aids to help him integrate and fit in, or to use ASL. Ultimately, she, like everyone else, is just trying to do what is best for her child. 

Read the full story here.

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