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NBDA Letter to AG Bell President Meredith Sugar, Esq.

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April 3, 2016

Meredith K. Sugar, Esq., President
Alexander Graham Bell Association for Deaf and Hard of Hearing
3417 Volta Place, NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

Dear President Sugar,

It’s true that 90% of deaf children have hearing parents. That’s a known fact, often shared with parents of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HH) newborns and school-age children by physicians, audiologists, speech therapists, teachers, and school administrators. The real question we should be asking is:

If 90% of deaf children with hearing parents are speaking the Spoken English language in their households, what percent of these children are comfortably or fluently speaking the Spoken English language and succeeding vocally, academically, intellectually, socially, emotionally, psychologically and mentally?

There is nothing to boast about with your general statement that 90% of deaf and hard of hearing children come from hearing parents if many of these children do not even speak the language or know how to. Many factors will influence the child’s mode of communication and level of language acquisition. You have to factor in the Deaf and HH child’s culture, ethnicity, language, disability, family’s socioeconomic status, education and lifestyle.

It was inconsiderate and biased for you to say that ASL (American Sign Language) is on the decline. That’s interesting, considering why are more hearing parents introducing ASL to their hearing newborns, why are there more ASL classes being set up, nationally, in hearing schools for hearing students and why are increasing number of Deaf and Hard hearing children with cochlear implants learning to enjoy the art of ASL and can proudly speak as well. ASL does not hinder language acquisition in Deaf or Hard of HH children. It’s the delay or lack of being exposed to language at an early age that many Deaf and HH children are lagging academically and socially behind their hearing counterparts especially children of color.

What is wrong with equipping our Deaf and HH children with as many languages (English, Spanish, ASL, etc.) and mode of communication (voice, signing, gesturing, writing, etc.)? This will open up greater opportunities for them to integrate and work successfully with hearing and deaf/HH people in a multicultural and competitive world.

Instead of wasting time arguing over which language is superior, delaying the Deaf and HH children from acquiring language at an early age, why don’t we start by exposing them to ASL, even the hearing parents of hearing infants are doing that! If the parents wish to explore recommended options like cochlear implant, hearing aids and speech therapy, make sure they keep in mind that any man-made invention is not 100% full-proof. There are pros and cons to man-made invention. In the meantime, let us stop arguing and work collaboratively with the parents to provide them with educational and communication options for Deaf and HH of children. Let’s let the parents/legal guardians of the Deaf/HH children be the ones to decide what’s best for their child.

Thank you,

Tim Albert, President
National Black Deaf Advocates

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