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, whether the family is already part of the Deaf culture, 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 way is 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. An organization that works with parents to find the best fit for their children among the communications options is Hands and Voices.

Below are some additional resources that allow parents and professionals to investigate their options and make informed decisions. 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 accommodate their children's needs.

ASL or American Sign Language | The Deaf Culture | Oral and Auditory Verbal Approaches | Cued Speech
SEE (Signing Exact English) and Signed English | Total Communication | Local Assistance | Assistive Devices | Parenting Deaf Children                                   

ASL or American Sign Language

Although there are numerous forms of sign language—most countries have their own systems, and America has several—the most popular in America is American Sign Language or ASL. ASL is a separate language apart from English and has its own grammatical structure. Spotsylvania County Schools sometimes offer ASL classes for parents of deaf children, teachers, and the general public, and classes may also be offered through community colleges, at high schools, and through the disAbility Resource Center.

The library offers many resources on American Sign Language beyond the sampling listed below. Click here for a complete and current list from our catalog.

ASL University, opens a new window
A friendly online 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, opens a new window 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 Gallaudet Children's Dictionary of American Sign Language, opens a new window
This colorful volume is great for families who want an accessible ASL reference and is designed for both Deaf and hearing children. Includes a DVD of native ASL signers demonstrating how to form each sign plus 150 ASL sentences. For easier retention, signs can be watched in full speed or slow motion.

The Joy of Signing, opens a new window by Lottie L. Riekehof
This book is often recommended as a companion text for hearing people taking a beginner sign language course. 

Perfect Phrases in American Sign Language for Beginners, opens a new window by Louie J. Fant
These basic signs for basic communication situations are a big help for people who need a jumpstart in practical signing.

Say It by Signing, opens a new window 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 ASL
This app, available for Android users, is a good way to locate a specific sign you need while on the go. There are other ASL apps available as well for both iOS and Android.

The Signing Family, opens a new window 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. Available as an eBook.

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.

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.

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 speech-reading for oral communication) to make sense of the sounds around them.

Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
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.

Hearing First: Listening and Spoken Language
This organization provides support for parents and professionals who choose to try auditory-verbal methods of communication. A subsidiary of the Oberkotter Foundation.

John Tracy Clinic for Deaf Children
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 may teach parents to effectively communicate with their children. Their lessons include information on language, auditory learning, speech, and child development.

Cued Language

Cued Language (also called 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 speech-reader. Cued Language 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
This Fairfax County elementary school has a strong cued speech program, in addition to having access to other modalities. 

Language Matters, Inc.
Language Matters 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
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. 

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.

The Signing Exact English Center
"...provides quality training and support for those who want to learn or improve their Signing Exact English skills. On this website, you will find upcoming SEE Training Online classes and Workshops. We also offer ESSE Training and Testing for State Certification of Educational Interpreters."

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.

Total Communication: Learning to Use Different Communication Methods
A brief overview of Total Communication with important questions for parents to ask when choosing an educational program.

Local Assistance

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

disAbility Resource Center: Deaf and Hard of Hearing Outreach 
This very local resource provides interpreter & CART referrals, sign language classes, a connection to the VDDHH technical assistance program loan to own equipment program and technical assistance for veterans, along with other core services such transition coordination, information & referral, and peer counseling.

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. Click here for a list of Parent Resource Centers in Virginia.

Spotsylvania County: Parent Resource Center
"Promoting a cooperative partnership between parents, schools, and the community" Call 540-582-7583 and choose option 6 to schedule an appointment.

Stafford County: Parent Resource Center
Provides: workshops for families and educators, newsletter to inform families of current issues in special education and resources available locally, referral services to help families locate local, state, and national agencies, a lending library of books, DVDs, videotapes, and information on various disabilities, and support through listening and problem-solving with families

City of Fredericksburg: Pupil Personnel Services
While not an official parent resource center, this office should be able to give you information on services.

Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons
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 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.  Meets at: The disAbility Resource Center, 409 Progress St. Fredericksburg, VA

Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Provides assistance to aid the deaf directly and through its affiliated local agencies. Maintains a directory of interpreters and can help job seekers. Many other states have similar departments.

Virginia Association of the Deaf
An ASL-centered group providing social opportunities and information for deaf persons in Virginia.

Assistive Devices

Hearing 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 have received 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 cochlear implant programs.

I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey Through the Science of Sound and Language by Lydia Denworth
A family's story interwoven with information from scientists and health care providers.

Parenting Deaf Children

Hands & Voices
When you find yourself at a crossroads and/or need support in whichever communication system you choose for your child, this group - many of whom are parents - can help.

Raising and Educating a Deaf Child: A Comprehensive Guide to the Choices, Controversies, and Decisions Faced by Parents and Educators, by Marc Marshark
"A readable, comprehensive summary of everything a parent or teacher would want to know about raising and educating a deaf child. It covers topics ranging from what it means to be deaf to the many ways that the environments of home and school can influence a deaf child's chances for success in academic and social circles."

Raising Deaf Kids
A good place to go online for information and support from other parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and teens.

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.