Deafness: Choices in Communication

One of the first things hearing parents ask themselves when they discover they have deaf children is how they will communicate with them, and how, eventually, will their children communicate with the world. The decision is not an easy one. There are many factors to consider, including how much hearing remains, whether or not a cochlear implant will be an option, and whether or not the child has additional educational issues. Proponents of each communication approach have what seem to be ironclad arguments as to why their ways are the best. An excellent book for parents who need an overview in one volume is Choices in Deafness: A Parents' Guide to Communication Options edited by Sue Schwartz.

 

Below are some additional resources that allow parents and professionals to investigate their options and make an informed decision. Visiting schools and families who use these methods can also be invaluable. Whatever the family's choice, their local school systems have an obligation to accomodate their children's needs.

 

ASL or American Sign Language

Mother with pointint toddlerAlthough there are numerous forms of sign language--most countries have their own systems and America has several--the most popular is American Sign Language or ASL. ASL is a separate language apart from English and has its own grammatical structure. Spotsylvania County Schools offer ASL classes for parents of deaf children, teachers, and the general public. The library offers many resources on sign language beyond what is listed here:

 ASL University
http://www.lifeprint.com/
A friendly dictionary of some basic signs, illustrated with multiple photos and written descriptions. A newsletter is available as is a special section, Baby's First 100 Signs.

The American Sign Language Handshape Dictionary by Richard A. Tennant.
Here is a dictionary that is organized by handshape rather than by English word order.
"An American Sign Language learner can look up an unfamiliar sign by looking for the handshape rather than by looking up the word in an alphabetical English glossary. At the same time, an English speaker can look up a sign for a specific word by looking at the Index of English Glossaries located at the end of the dictionary. The introduction includes a history of sign language in the United States."
The eBook edition requires a NetLibrary account to use. Click here for more information on our eBook collection. The library also has a DVD version.

Basic Sign Language for Adults and Children by Renee Moore.
On this video, you will find some beginning conversational phrases, fingerspelling and phrases for emergency situations.

Essential ASL
A quick paperback guide that has excellent illustrations of 700 of the most popular signs, including 50 common phrases.

 Getting Started in Signing.
This DVD stresses the basics in sign communication.

The Joy of Signing: The Illustrated Guide for Mastering Sign Language and the Manual Alphabet by Lottie L. Riekehof.
This book is often recommended as a companion text for hearing people taking a beginner sign language course. Some signs used may be Signed English or a regional variant.

Say It By Signing.
The DVD features the basics of American Sign Language (ASL) with emphasis on conversations. The presenter is Dr. Elaine Costello - former director and editor in chief of the Galluadet College Press in Washington D.C.'s Galluadet College - the world's only liberal arts college for the deaf.

Sign Language for Kids: A Fun and Easy Guide to American Sign Language by Lora Heller.
Useful for siblings or friends of signing children.

The Signing Family: What Every Parent Should Know about Sign Communication by David A. Stewart and Barbara Luetke-Stahlman.
Promotes various forms of sign as the best communication choice for the deaf and gives goals for families to work towards in mastering sign. Also available as an eBook.

The Deaf Culture

Inasmuch as language and shared perceptions dictate culture, people who use ASL exclusively often live in tightly knit communities with their own traditions apart from the hearing world.

Sound and Fury: Deaf Culture
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/soundandfury/culture/
Interesting essays on deaf history and living with deafness. Includes video and transcripts of interviews with deaf people on their reactions to the development of the cochlear implant.

Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture by Carol Padden.
An introduction to the politics and pride encompassing the daily lives of the culturally deaf.

A Journey into the Deaf-World by Harlan Lane.
This book is frequently used in deaf culture courses and presents a compelling social history of a language and social minority.

Sound and Fury
If you could make your deaf child hear, would you? The award-winning film Sound and Fury is the intimate, heart-rending tale of the Artinians, an extended family with deaf and hearing members across three generations. Together they confront a technological device that can help the deaf to hear but may also threaten deaf culture, and their bonds with each other. (Description from the video case)

Train Go Sorry: Inside a Deaf World by Leah Cohen.
Leah Cohen, a hearing person, grew up at the Lexington School for the Deaf where her father was superintendent. "Train Go Sorry" is American Sign Language for "missing the boat." At the time the book depicts in the school's history (1988), there was a tremendous struggle between those favoring the relatively new cochlear implants and those who do not believe in oralism (teaching the deaf to speak).

Oral and Auditory Verbal Approaches

Children trained with the oral and auditory verbal methods rely on their residual or restored hearing (and speechreading for oral communication) to make sense of the sounds around them.

 Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
http://www.agbell.org/
AG Bell's Web site offers online brochures for parents on parenting issues, mainstreaming, auditory programs for children in the United States, a speech and hearing checklist, hearing technology (including cochlear implants), education management, adult rehabilitation, summer camps, advocacy and legal issues and a hearing dog resource list. AG Bell also has a financial aid program for infants, school age children generally, arts and sciences and college students. This organization promotes auditory-oral, auditory-verbal, and Cued Speech options.

John Tracy Clinic for Deaf Children
http://www.johntracyclinic.org
Although based in California, this well-known clinic provides its services at no charge to families of deaf children from birth to age 5 worldwide. At home, free study courses by mail teach parents to effectively communicate with their children. Their lessons include information on language, auditory learning, speech, and child development.

Lip Reading Naturally: Practical Lipreading and Communication Exercises for Everyone
This workbook comes from the Canadian Hearing Society.

Natural Communication, Inc.
http://www.nciOHIO.com/
This auditory-verbal parenting group in Ohio shares therapy ideas, useful web links, and a bibliography.

Oral Deaf Education
http://www.oraldeafed.org/
The site also links to information on auditory devices, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), support aids such as FM systems and captioning as well as sources of financial aid. These videos may be seen online: Dreams Spoken Here, Dreams Made Real, There's a New Kid in School, and Hear the Difference. Parents of newly identified deaf children and teachers may wish to order informational kits which include copies of these videos.

I See What You're Saying: A Practical Guide to Speechreading.
"How can those of us with hearing loss tell what people are saying? One of the best ways is speechreading. It's more than just watching other people's lips move, Speechreading means understanding a speaker through a combination of seeing, hearing and thinking techniques."

Cued Speech

Cued Speech is a sound-based visual communication system which uses eight hand shapes in four different locations (called "cues") in combination with the natural mouth movements of speech to make all the sounds of spoken language appear unique and understandable to a speechreader. Cued speech has been used successfully in other countries and has been adapted to the sounds in many other languages.

Advances in the Spoken Language Development of Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Children edited by Patricia Elizabeth Spencer and Marc Marschark.
An eBook containing research on cued speech's effectiveness, cochlear implants, and oral methods.

Canterbury Woods Cued Speech Program
http://www.fcps.edu/CanterburyWoodsES/cueing/index.htm
This Fairfax County elementary school has a strong cued speech program which integrates well with the rest of the classrooms. Their Web site has a good, basic information on cued speech as well as links to parent contacts and cueing classes.

Language Matters, Inc.
http://www.language-matters.com/
Language Matters, located in North Carolina, offers accredited professional training for cued speech transliterators and sign language interpreters. They also have the Cued American English Teachers Registry.

The National Cued Speech Association
http://www.cuedspeech.org/
The NCSA's web site connects families with cueing associations nationwide as well as family-oriented camps. The basics of cued speech can be learned in a matter of days. Speed and proficiency take a few months of practice and will increase over time. The new video, Breaking the Code, may be viewed on the site. NCSA's online bookstore is an excellent source for materials on cued speech.

An Adventure in Cued Speech by Alina Mills, cosponsored by The American Cued Speech Association.
Presents Cued Speech users, their families and professionals, demonstrating and discussing Cued Speech in a variety of settings. Appropriate for families with deaf children, speech language pathologists, audiologists, cochlear implant professionals, teachers of the deaf, transliterators, special education teachers, and administrators.

The Cued Speech Resource Book for Parents of Deaf Children by R. Orin Cornett.
The seminal work written by the creator of Cued Speech includes research, family stories, and methodology.

SEE (Signing Exact English) and Signed English

SEE is similar to ASL, but some of the signs that are used are unique and not in common use among ASL users. SEE signs also try to incorporate English word endings such as plurals and articles in English word order.

Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: English-Based Sign Systems
http://www.ericdigests.org/1998-2/sign.htm
Unlike ASL, Signed English gives words ending markers such as -s, -ing, and -ed to make the language more closely resemble normal English language structures. Some Signed English signs use the ASL manual alphabet as a basis for their words.

Signing Exact English by Gerilee Gustason.
This book, from some of the original creators of SEE, contains over 4,400 signs.

Total Communication

Total Communication is a philosophy that each deaf child should use whatever method or methods best match their communication needs. There is usually a sign language component. Educating Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing: Total Communication
http://www.ericdigests.org/1998-2/total.htm
Discusses the philosophy of combining methods of communication (manual, oral, auditory, and written) to suit the needs of the individual child.

Early Use of Total Communication: An Introductory Guide for Parents by Elizabeth D. Gibbs et al.
This small book seeks to answer parents' questions on the philosophy of Total Communication.

Local Assistance

 Although these listings are specific to our library's area, most communities will have similar resources.

disAbility Resource Center: Deaf Resources
http://www.cildrc.org/DRCPages/DHH/DHH.htm
This very local resource provides a guide to terminology online, information on supportive organizations, and other outreach assistance to the deaf community.

Local Parent Resource Centers
These centers are affiliated with the school systems. They provide assistance for parents and students through library materials, training for parents and educators, and often have useful workshops.

City of Fredericksburg: Parent Resource Center
http://www.cityschools.com/cityschools/owg/generalinfo/
This center is located on the 2nd floor of the newer building of the Original Walker-Grant School. Call for hours and additional information.
(540) 372-1127

Spotsylvania County: Special Services Parent Resource Centers
http://www.spotsylvania.k12.va.us/instruction/parent_resource.htm

Stafford County: Parent Resource Center
http://www.pen.k12.va.us/Div/Stafford/SpEd/parentrc.htm
37 Stafford Avenue
Stafford, VA 22554
Phone (540) 658-6710
Fax (540) 658-6710
Email prc@staffordschools.net
Hours 9:00am-3:30pm, Monday-Friday

Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons
http://www.nvrc.org/
NVRC's mission is to empower deaf and hard of hearing individuals and their families through education, advocacy, and community involvement. Great events calendars and news listings for all segments of the deaf community. Also has a fact sheet for parents and links to other area organizations for the deaf.

Rappahannock Chapter of SHHH (RaSHHH)
(Now known as the Hearing Loss Association of America)
Offers support/education group for people with hearing loss and deafness, their families, and caregivers. Group promotes awareness, support, and education of members regarding coping, health, and communication.

Contact: Arva Priola
540-373-2559
The disAbility Resource Center
Progress Street Center
409 Progress St. Fredericksburg, VA

Rappahannock Cued Speech Group on Facebook
A local clearinghouse for information on cued speech communication.

Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
http://www.vddhh.org/
Provides equipment to aid the deaf through its affiliated local agencies. Has online forms to request assistance. Many other states have similar departments.

Virginia Association of the Deaf
http://www.vad.org/
An ASL-centered group providing social opportunities and information for deaf persons.

Assistive Devices

 Girl playing a pianoHearing Aids

An audiologist can fit your child with hearing aids. For small children, it's best to find someone who has a specialty in pediatric audiology.

Hearing Aids
This page from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders gives basic information on hearing aids: how they work, how to adjust them, and whether or not financial aid is available.

Hearing Aids: A Medical Dictionary, Bibliography and Annotated Research Guide to Internet References by James N. Parker
This eBook has much research material and directs to online resources.

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants stimulate the hair cells of the cochlea, providing another channel of listening for the profoundly deaf. Most often those people implanted derive little or no benefit from the more traditional hearing aids. In our area, the University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins, and the Medical College of Virginia all have implant programs.

The Children's Hearing Institute
http://www.childrenshearing.org
Excellent resources for patrons and their families who are considering a cochlear implant. Includes personal stories, a patient & family resource guide, information for professionals, and more. Their mission: “…that all may hear the universal language of music.” In English and Spanish.

Cochlear Implant Central
http://www.geocities.com/cicentral/links_resources_newsgroups.html
Links to major manufacturers' sites, newsgroups for different audiences, and other excellent resources.

Cochlear Implants: A Handbook by Bonnie P. Tucker.
Tucker, who received a cochlear implant, discusses her feelings on the surgery and necessary post-operative auditory therapy. She includes responses from her audiologist and therapist. The second part of the book consists of summaries of cochlear implant research, case studies, and comments from professionals. The educational emphasis is auditory-verbal.

The Parents' Guide to Cochlear Implants by Patricia M. Chute and Mary Ellen Nevins.
"Parents will discover how to have their child evaluated to determine her or his suitability for an implant. They'll learn about implant device options, how to choose an implant center, and every detail of the surgical procedure. The initial "switch-on" is described along with counseling about device maintenance. Most importantly, parents will learn their roles in helping their child adjust to and successfully use the cochlear implant."

Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human by Michael Chorost.
Michael Chorost became a cyborg on October 1, 2001, the day his new ear was booted up. Born hard of hearing in 1964, he went completely deaf in his thirties. Rather than live in silence, he chose to have a computer surgically embedded in his skull to artifically restore his hearing. This is the story of Chorost's journey - from deafness to hearing, from human to cyborg - and how it transformed him. (Book jacket)

Sound and Fury
If you could make your deaf child hear, would you? The award-winning film Sound and Fury is the intimate, heart-rending tale of the Artinians, an extended family with deaf and hearing members across three generations. Together they confront a technological device that can help the deaf to hear but may also threaten deaf culture, and their bonds with each other. (From the video case)

Wired for Sound: A Journey into Hearing by Beverly Biderman.
"This rare 'inside' acount of hearing with a cochlear implant, the first effective artificial sensory organ ever developed, is a moving story about a deaf woman's Journey through deafness and into hearing."

Parenting Deaf Children

Kid-friendly Parenting with Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children by Daria J. Medwid.
Chapters cover parenting issues such as dealing with school problems, overactivity, cultivating social skills, the importance of setting limits, unique difficulties in communicating, and much more. (From Amazon)

The Silent Garden: Raising Your Deaf Child by Paul W. Ogden
This guide for parents published by Gallaudet University has much generally useful information and includes an emphasis on sign language.

The Young Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child: A Family-centered Approach to Early Education edited by Barbara Bodner-Johnson.
Communication choices and educational issues are key in this book authored by educators, scholars, language consultants, and advocates.