Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hello, New York Times!

Hi everyone. I spoke with Jane Brody of the Times earlier this month about cochlear implants. Her sensitive and generous article is here. Enjoy!


Anonymous Li-Li's Mom said...

Hi Josh, I'm a frequent lurker and mom of a newly-speaking/hearing deaf 2 YO with a CI -- LOVED your book (and your NPR interview).

And, I thought this article was pretty great, too -- you conducted the interview BY PHONE?? Amazing.

But, there is one statement I disagree with a little bit -- unless I misinterpreted it, which could very well be the case. It fell right after one I totally agree with:
"A small child with severe hearing loss should be implanted as soon as possible."

Yes! That early window of time between 0-3, when children most effectively acquire language, is the right time to implant (if you choose to implant, which is not right for everybody, of course).

But you then say: "Sign language can be learned down the road, but not English. It’s a no-brainer to me if you want the child to succeed in a hearing world."

It may be that you weren't recommending a trade-off at all (English vs. ASL), and were just expressing the urgency involved in getting the implant. And it may also be that you are emphasizing the importance of acquiring a written language to succeed in the hearing world, which I agree with. But I've seen a bit of discussion of that statement that seems to indicate to people that you are taking a position against acquiring ASL early. And it's with that interpretation that I disagree.

My input, based on the bilingual method (English AND ASL, though not simultaneously) we're using very successfully with our little ciborg is that the window doesn't have to be exclusively devoted to just one language and closed to others for effective acquisition of a primary spoken language.

That critical point, before the brain loses all that wonderful toddler plasticity that allows it to really and amazingly rewire itself to the CI and the brand new task of hearing is also the right time to build ASL AND English or French or Mandarin or however many spoken languages a child has the capacity to take in (whether hearing, oral deaf, deaf with HAs, deaf with CIs, whatever the case may be).

And, while a nice-to-have language for everyone, for a profoundly and pre-lingually deaf child with a CI, ASL is a wonderful first or second language to use whenever that processor is off for the bath, for swimming, or for bed-time, or when with peers, teachers, or family members who are deaf without CIs. Or if, let's say, she is tramping through Africa, someday, and her processor is stolen :) . OK, I suppose few people will happen to know American Sign Language vs. a local sign language, but let's say she's tramping through the wilds of Martha's Vineyard over Christmas-time, loses her backpack, and Cochlear Americas and FedEx experience holiday lag and can't get her that new processor for 2-3 weeks when she's back home at a stable mailstop. How great will it be to have a fluency in a language that has some significant local currency and doesn't require that amazing, but vulnerable tool so she doesn't feel that sense of loss and helplessness you encountered when your hearing was suddenly GONE?

Although when the time comes, and she loses that backpack, boy will she be in big trouble at home!

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Caroline said...

Implantation is definitely not for everybody. I have a moderate to profound hearing loss and wear hearing aids but I do not qualify. It's very frustrating because even with the hearing aids I struggle, especially in noisy places or if I have my back turned to the speaker. I also don't hear fire alarms, microwave beeps, cellphone rings, and other high pitched sounds. But lower pitch sounds I hear pretty well, even normally. I feel that people like me are way more invisible than the deaf community or the cochlear-implanted community. With my long thick hair, people don't even see my hearing aids and treat me normally, but when I ask them to repeat themselves one too many times or don't respond because I didn't hear they think I am rude or dumb. But when I explain that I have a hearing loss, they don't quite get it because in other instances I do just fine. Sometimes straddling the line is harder than being squarely on one side.

1:03 PM  

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