I found this question very interesting. Now, I am what would be considered an “oral success.” However, like John, I am very careful, and actually have been for years: even not being aware of deaf culture, etc, I knew my story wasn’t typical and should not be used to support oralism across the board.
Looking back, I have two observations to make. I was used a number of times as a child by adults to give false hope to parents of deaf children. I would be asked to speak at PTA meetings, for example, about how I did in school. I was a typical self-centered kid, and never thought about the implications, and was happy to show off. Sigh. Believe me at the time I had no idea about what was going on. I refused to do this later on, after graduating from high school.
The second observation I will make, though, is one that I’ve been realizing over the last few months. Sure, I did fine with oralism. Academically. In structured environments. But when I consider how lonely I was — never really having more than one friend at a time, and constantly bluffing my way through social situations… I think isolating children like that is borderline abuse. I have made that case several times in various posts over the last couple of months.
No, it was not physical abuse, not for me (some of you have stories to make my hair stand on end, and it makes me doubly angry in retrospect how I was used to probably make some other children’s lives worse: “I saw a deaf child just like you do wonderfully — there’s no reason YOU can’t!!!”) but not all abuse is physical.
Some abuse is emotional. I simply do not understand the mindset of educators and audiologists and so on who have had plenty of opportunity to learn about what the real issues are, who continue to promote this kind of isolation for deaf children.
At the Silent Weekend, where I was asked to share my story, the issue certainly came up although it came up indirectly. One of the questions I was asked was, did I think if I had been taught sign language as a child, would I have learned to speak like I did. I said “Absolutely,” with no hesitation at all. But the belief that sign language hampers the chance to learn to speak is so very ingrained. I could see the doubt in many people’s faces as I tried to explain. I said that I knew many kids whose parents spoke Spanish at home, but their English was native perfect. Kids just soak up languages. If they can do it, they will. I said the real problem is that the parents of deaf children are rarely native signers. They can NOT teach their children sign language. But the language acquisition has to start right away. If it doesn’t, then the child will have trouble with ALL languages later.
I hope that helped. Maybe these 100 people are a start at countering the ones I performed for so many years ago in the other direction, unknowingly. Of course they were all there to learn sign language so they’re not the ones pursuing a pipe dream for their child. However, perhaps they can discourage some other such hearing parent, having listened to what I had to say first hand. Who knows? I hope so.
Is Oralism Child Abuse? Original article (by Mishka Zena)
and, in no particular order:
“Is Oralism A Child Abuse?’ By Mishka Zena (by Aidan Mack)
MZâ€™s comment on â€œChild Abusedâ€ (by John Egbert)
Response to MZ on Child Abuse/Oralism (by Here I Am)
Response to â€œIs Oralism A Child Abuse?â€ (by Ginny)
My Response To Comments About â€œIs Oralism Child Abuse?â€ (by ME-DEAF-YES)