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Oral Deaf Education: How Does It Measure Up?

Posted Mar 31 2011 3:02pm

Tina Turbin.jpg

By Tina Turbin, multi-award-winning children’s author

As a children’s author I became extremely interested in the field of education for the hearing impaired and deaf while on my East Coast book tour for my title, Danny the Dragon Meets Jimmy.

I arrived to read to these beautiful children at a school in Florida that caters to deaf children or children from deaf families. I read my book aloud while another woman sat by my side interpreting my words in sign.

One child sat next to me eagerly helping me turn the pages one by one. The other children in front of me were excited from the start, wide-eyed to the end of the story, then hugged me with delight and did not want me to leave. They instantly found a place in my heart. I got into the car with my video crew and told them, “I have to do something for these kids.”

Well, I did. I had this first title made into a DVD with sign interpretation to help raise awareness about this broad and important field of education - the deaf and hearing impaired. It was soon after presented to Apple to be available on their iPad. Much to my surprise, Danny the Dragon Meets Jimmy became the first book ever with sign interpretation available on the iPad. I have learned much more since I stepped into that school’s front doors.

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Discovering that a child is deaf can be a challenge for parents, who want their child to have the opportunity to live a “normal life.” According to PBS.org, one of the greatest obstacles that can prevent deaf children from achieving this is the learning of language, which can hold them back from attending mainstream schools and holding regular jobs. Thanks to the development of oral deaf education, however, parents don’t have to cast aside their hopes and expectations for their deaf child, who in many cases can be taught to listen and speak beautifully with this technology.

Education for the deaf, particularly their language instruction, has been the subject of much debate for many years. Children who are born deaf or become so early on in life don’t acquire language skills the same way as their hearing peers. This can lead to difficulties understanding written English, which is based on spoken language.

According to PBS.org, “Children who first learn to communicate using sign language will have a harder time learning English, since American Sign Language is not based on spoken or written English.” This means that English becomes a second language for deaf children who learn sign language first. This has led to lower literacy levels amongst the deaf population as compared to hearing people.

Fortunately, with oral deaf education, many deaf children who are screened for hearing loss at birth and given proper treatment are capable of developing speech and language skills at the same rate as hearing children. OralDeafEd.org features dozens of success stories in videos of deaf children who can listen and speak so well that you wouldn’t know they were deaf. Clearly, this educational technology is effective.

Hearing loss can exist in various degrees. According to Columbia University’s Department of Otolaryngology, “many deaf and hearing impaired children have some residual hearing.” With special technology, children with hearing aids or cochlear implants are taught to listen and speak by building on their residual hearing.

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According to OralDeafEd.org, “Parents are increasingly choosing to teach their children to speak rather than use sign language as their method of communicating.” Oral deaf education is a family-centered educational method, requiring the active involvement of the deaf child’s family. As early as possible, the family “bathes” the deaf child in language. Patience, persistence, and positive reinforcement are key ingredients to the method’s success.

You can acquire a one-hour video showing the successful and incredible results of oral deaf education from your hearing professional or by calling 1-877-ORALDEAF. The video is also available on the website for Oral Deaf Education . The website also lists private Oral Deaf Education Schools in the UK, North America and Australia.

Today many deaf children are able to attend public schools alongside their hearing peers with the help of some special instruction in addition to their regular studies with their hearing schoolmates. With oral deaf education, more and more deaf children will be able to have experiences such as this as well as a place in the workforce and a bright future.

Does this mean sign is not valuable? This only means oral deaf education has opened the door for children to have many of the same opportunities as many other children, which can truly open the door for a very bright future.

Tina Turbin is a multi-award-winning children’s author, writer, researcher, humanitarian and mother.

Having written her first children's story at age 16, she has enjoyed many years of working with and helping children and their families. Her Danny the Dragon children’s series fulfills a passion of hers to delight and entertain through her enchanting characters.

Her style of writing conveys to the young and young at heart. Tina resides in both her East and West Coast studios, always writing more children's books to entertain the world.

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