A. G. Bell, Tear Down This Wall!

“Tear down this wall” was the famous challenge from United States President Ronald Reagan to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1980’s. A few years later, the infamous Berlin Wall was destroyed.

Deaf Bilingual Coaltion has challenged A.G. Bell organization to tear down this virtual wall between ASL and AVT and let all parents and their children of AVT see all information and the light of ASL.

I think it is time for us to join DBC, and at the same time, we must endorse and promote ASL to all positively.

64 thoughts on “A. G. Bell, Tear Down This Wall!

  1. To A Mom: I can understand the position you are in. You are grasping at very weak research that was later disproven, because you want your child to be just like you–you want them to be hearing. You are in denial–your child will never be hearing. He or she is Deaf–his brain is actually hardwired to be receptive to visual language. Would you take a blind child and rail at them: “Why can’t you see this?” I don’t think anybody would, as that would be cruel. It is the same thing with Deaf children. Why focus on the only thing they can’t do–hear–why not focus on their strong visual sense?

    There are some Deaf children who succeed with oralism–their numbers are small, and it depends a lot on how much residual hearing they have. If you go with the bilingual/bicultural approach (learning ASL and AVT), you are covering all bases! Are you willing to risk your child being language delayed and possibly mentally retarded by denying them one way of learning and focusing only on oralism? Your child MAY be one of those children for whom oralism/AVT does not work. If you focus on AVT only for years and years, and it doesn’t work, then it may be too late to acquire any language at all.

    The Infant Hearing Program of Ontario, Canada reported in 2005-2006 that:

    93% of all Deaf children in preschool are enrolled in AVT and oral programs, but by the end of preschool, 67% remain. When elementary school begins, 58% remain, and by the teens, only 31% are still in oral programs. This shows that nearly two-thirds leave oral for ASL based programs by the teens.

    CHS states that deaf children are placed in ASL programs only after failing oral and AVT programs, resulting in children having neither a command of ASL or English with devastating long term results.

    If a child learns ASL and AVT, their development only skyrockets.

    Cummins and Swain (1986) cite numerous studies conducted since the early 1960s reporting that bilingual children function at a significantly higher level than monolingual children on various measures of cognitive abilities. In a similar vein, Daniels (1993) found that hearing children whose first language was Sign Language had English skills superior to their monolingual peers.

    (References: Cummins, J. & Swain, M. (1986). Bilingualism in education: Aspects of theory, research and practice. London: Longman. Daniels, Marilyn. Sign Language Advantage: Sign Language Studies – Volume 2, Number 1, Fall 2001, pp. 5-19)

    Why not both! Adding ASL can only help.

  2. Hi Carole,

    Yes you are right about IHP report about high percentage of AVT in the beginning but at the end, very low percentage of AVT program due to huge number of failed AVT receipents.

    Very true and thanks for sharing info with us all.


  3. Pingback: Bilingual-ASL and English » More People Learning More About Deaf Culture Now

  4. I am a mother of a 4 month old child born with severe hearing loss, and have just found out that my 2 year old son, who is already talking up a storm, has high frequency hearing loss. I started reading all the posts,and I am so very confused. I was planning to raise my children with amplification to listen as best they can, talk as best they can, and I am also wanting to learn ASL to incorporate for times when hearing aids are not worn (sleep, swimming, etc). Now after reading this, I don’t know what to do. It seems so overwhelming that there are such strong opinions. My daughter might not be benefited enough with the aids, and could be a CI candidate…I have not formed a plan on if that happens…I can’t see drilling a hole in her head for an implant, but I also can’t see not giving her every imaginable way to hear.
    Just my thoughts, I am living these decisions right now, and to be honest, none of the points above make me sway in either direction…I am very confused.

  5. After reading all these posts on this page, I am feeling rather sad to see that there are parents and people still calling the Deaf people militant among other names. This is in fact an admission on your part that you are stereotyping a group of people. Do you actually want to teach your children that we are the “other group” that your child shouldn’t be friends with ?

    I am not surprised that there may be some Deaf people who may have to take a radical or a drastic approach in advocating for their own rights when they have tried to be “nice” in the past. We are all human and we have a diverse defense system to protect ourselves from harm, whether it be mentally, physically or spiritually. It is the people who try to separate us that is causing some of us to take such an approach. It is all just a cause and effect relationship. Look at the civil rights movement of women, black people and the gay rights community. All these movements have a diverse opinion on how to advocate for their own rights and it is all because of the simple cause and effect relationship they have experienced themselves. I see happening right now on this post.

    I am really sad to see this happening. The Ontario Association of the Deaf stands by creating a positive environment for the Deaf Ontarians so they can have a better future for themselves in regards to education, employment and access. This is a sentiment that is shared by all in hoping for a positive learning and working environment for all of us, no matter who we are.

  6. This is a response to Bethany,

    I understand your confusion on these issues. This is also shared by many parents and people.

    The confusion springs out from the defintion of what is literacy and what is a skill. The AVT and the ASL communities have these defintions that are on the extreme opposite sides of the pole.

    The ASL community views as ASL as being critical for literacy and views speech as a skill that can be mastered. The AVT groups view speech as the means to acheiving literacy and do not even regard ASL as an important and useful skill.

    This is what I try to explain to people who are not sure or confused. I usually expand more on this in person, in workshops or in courses at George Brown College through the ASL Literacy Instructor, ASL Deaf Studies, and the ASL-English Interpreter Programs.

    I hope this helps a bit.

  7. On a personal note about tearing down the wall….

    I am an ASL user, my son is a fourth generation Deaf, and I am married to a hearing person. My Deaf mother married a hearing person…..my Deaf grandfather married a hearing person. My son, who is a 5 1/2 years old already has two hearing girlfriends ( isn’t that cute!!) My son was involved in a T Ball team, took skating lessons and will be participating in soccer this summer.

    I appreciate music, especially the British 60’s and Reggae, Wordsworth’s poetry, philosophy and Vespas. It is through literacy that I have come to appreciate myself and to appreciate other people’s ways of expressing themselves. I use ASL.

  8. Hi wayne

    I still stand by my position about Deaf militancy. I do not agree that it is a stereotype. There are several different definition of militancy.

    For example, the incident happened in Ontario. One parent whose child was Deaf was attacked verbally by “hatred” deaf militants (I never call them “D”eaf.) Then the parent decided to pull out her Deaf child from ASL program because she was offended by the militants with hatred. She promoted to many other parents to go to AVT programs and not to ASL community because of that. That is why I want people to be aware of that and stop them from doing that to protect.

    I already clarified my position in other vlogs and blogs. It is only based on a very very few “hatred militanists”

    I want to protect ASL and Deaf community from very few militants that do not promote positive and they preach hatred against parents of Deaf children. That would be very destructive against us and Deaf children.


  9. What I meant was that there are people who are labelling traits on people to discredit their advocacy efforts. A Journey into a Deaf World lists traits that are quite erroneous on p. 349 such as


    and among others. The public has labelled us this way to discredit us.

    Paddy Ladd even goes further to discuss this in his book “Understanding Deaf Culture: In Search of Deafhood” that it is audist to label the Deaf people as militants. Paddy Ladd notes that these are the same labels that have caused slavery, witchburning-death of a half million women, virtual extermination of First Nations, Armenia, East Timor, South Africa, Rwanda, and Bosnia.

    I agree with you, Deafchip, that we have to protect ASL and the Deaf community from the unsavoury elements in the world. These militants are the only few, as in the civil movements, that are the bad apples but then again, it is NO EXCUSE for anyone to label them and use them against the cause of ASL, the deaf community and the hearing parents of deaf children.

  10. Hi Wayne,

    Your discussion is interesting. There are so many different views on my topic. Pro ASL people have agreed and disagreed with my discussion. It would be ongoing argument. But my argument is based on a few people that cause to feed hatred against ASL and Deaf community. Some disagree with my view but at the same time share with my belief in preserving ASL for Deaf children and tehir parents.

    Some Deaf people have told me that they feel more empowerment after reading that and they feel they have their rights and have a good fight. Others think differently. We can learn our views differently within Deaf community that is very healthy. We can agree or disagree but we still value our Deaf community and ASL.

    Thanks for sharing your discussion with us. YOur comment is well explained.


  11. I find it interesting how hearing parents seem to think they are giving kids an advantage by implanting them with CIs and subjecting them to AVT. Seriously…CIs are glorified hearing aids that require invasive surgery. They do NOT correct hearing, and they do not make deaf children, no longer deaf. AVT is another iteration of speech therapy, a so-called “modern” approach. These are not anti-cochlear/anti-speech statements. They are not in favor of them, either. It’s entirely the decision of the parents, but one that should never be taken with the attitude that it will somehow “fix” the child so he/she becomes hearing. That simply will not happen.

    Despite the best hearing assistance devices and the best training in speech/language acquisition, the child remains deaf, and is left with constantly having to work twice as hard as his/her hearing peers to get spoken information. This child will never truly be on an even playing field with his/her hearing peers, and likely not gain an advantage.

    However, with a bilingual approach, including exposure to ASL very early on, and being taught the various subjects (English, Science, Social Studies, etc.) IN ASL, the deaf child is able to grasp the concepts being taught to his peers much more easily, because ASL is such a natural language for a deaf child. It matches the way he/she thinks and processes information.

    While a deaf child can learn both ASL and spoken English, being required to learn only in English is akin to putting a child who speaks Hmong into an English-only school and expecting him/her to do well. It’s incredibly difficult and doubles or even triples the amount of effort required of that child to achieve on a level anywhere close to his peers and it takes that child much longer to get there.

    Don’t do that to Deaf children! Let them learn ASL, let them meet other Deaf kids and give them the opportunity to meet Deaf role models who can encourage them to dream beyond age 18. Let them learn the 3 R’s, in their language. Give them hearing aids, or give them CI’s if you wish, but never forget the child is deaf and needs a much more well-rounded experience that includes a greater proportion of the visual component in his/her experience to fully mature and grow into a happy, successful adult. This is an approach that WORKS, and it gives the child a much more well-rounded basis for a successful life.

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