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Observations of CI Kids...And 8 mo.-old CI Activation

Posted Aug 24 2008 6:39pm

Occasionally, people prefer to comment by sending me private emails and one gentleman has sent me quite a few. He has provided me with an interesting perspective on various topics and for that I am grateful. I wished to share this latest email, which he gave me permission to post. I would like to read your comments before I comment. Are these observations biased or unbiased? Issues that he addresses include demographics, parental interaction, communication methods and English proficiency in the home. One hot topic as recently discussed on Val's blog is viewing the child as a complete, well-rounded child and identifying strengths and learning styles. As a teacher and Mamma, I dig that!

Observations of CI Kids

I have volunteered in several school and instructional settings over the past ten years or so. I have had opportunities to observe and visit with about 25 children with CI’s.

Ages range from pre-K to high school.

Families were both two-parent and single-parent. The number of single-parent families seems a little higher than the US average. It has been a longstanding observation that the stress of having a deaf child (for Hearing parents) tends to split marriages. As with public school students generally, a few families seem to be effectively no-parent, with the child showing evidence of a lack of adult interaction on an ongoing basis . (I can explain this in more detail later if you wish.)

Economic status varies widely. One or two are upper-income physician’s children. Most are middle-income to lower middle-income. Several are lower-income. As might be expected from our location (Texas), a sizeable minority are immigrant families that do not speak English in the home.

About half the families have at least one parent willing to learn Sign, including several of the immigrant families that do not yet have mastery of English. (Does that sound familiar?)

The kids overall do not match the poster child picture that many paint for CI kids. One child I met while volunteering in an ASL (for foreign language credit) class. He signed English and was very frustrated with the grammar and syntax of ASL. I never observed him to speak. When I asked his teachers and a few classmates, none of them had ever observed him to speak. I had known this teen for four years before I learned that he had a CI that he never used .

Most of the kids signed and spoke as the situation merited. They tended to use signed English since their teachers who signed used signed English. These kids seemed to speak well and be understood, although I did not have the opportunity to observe them with people who are not familiar with “Deaf speech”. Familiarity with Deaf speech makes a big difference in whether you are understood.

Social interactions seem to depend more on how outgoing the child is than whether or not the child has a CI. Very introverted kids do not socialize as much, CI or no.

In general, the CI kids seem to have language delays. Parents generally seem to have the idea that CI is a “magic fix” for their child (more on that later). To use a computer analogy, CI’s are narrow-band. There is no way a 24-channel or even a 100-channel CI can carry as much information as ‘normal’ hearing or vision. Even with a CI, teaching language to a deaf child without using visual language resources puts the child ‘way behind their hearing peers. Visual language can close that gap and bridge to English competence.

As far as “success” with CI, that really depends on definitions. The parents I have visited with either did not listen to or remember the informed consent information or proper informed consent was not given. These parents seem to expect their implanted child to hear as their hearing peers and speak as their hearing peers. By these standards, Rachel from Cochlearimplantonline is a CI “failure”. I asked hearing friends about her speech from her videos, and they all say Rachel “talks funny”. That is why I generally view CI’s as being “oversold”. There is an old saying “If your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” I see this operating in many areas in medicine, especially when dealing with deaf children.

In subsequent emails, he added...

BTW, in view of some other blog postings, another thought surfaces. For many, but not all, of the CI kids I have met and observed, the CI is like a narrowband connection, like a dial-up modem, compared to either "normal" hearing or visual language as a DSL or cable broadband. These kids do not get language exposure fast enough through their CI alone to avoid language delays. These kids need visual language to avoid the language delays. In signing families and in truly bilingual school settings (not just in name only), these kids are at parity or above compared to hearing peers. (I think that is what one blogger has referred to, though I am not completely sure.) That is also another reason that for these kids, AVT alone is a waste of time - not that it has no value, but that it is not sufficient and so burns valuable time.

As for AVT, I view AVT as both trivial and a waste of time. It is trivial because many parents already know that they cannot trust the public schools to do a complete job of educating their children. Parents must take a lot of time to teach their kids. AVT is a waste of time because it devours time needed for other aspects of education. With our children, I read to them a lot, not only children's books, but also C. S. Lewis, Tolkein, Melville, Shakespeare when they were pre-school. We also taught them about art. We do not have the resources you have in Italy, but we have several museums in a 4 to 5 hour drive that get world-class traveling exhibits. We taught them science, and history. We taught them how to shoot a bow and a pistol, how to safely use and sharpen knives, hatchets, and axes, and we taught them about plants, trees, and animals. Public schools generally do not cover these things in very much (or any) detail.

In the meantime, here is an Activation Video of an 8 month old...Jonathan! *OMG*

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