WOODLAND HILLS—In today’s society, there appears to be a gap between the Deaf community and medical professionals. Depending on the medical professional, there can be a gap or a bridge between the practitioner and the Deaf community.
As claimed by a local elementary teacher of a D/HH class who wishes to remain anonymous, their audiologist, who comes to the school once a month to check the kids’ hearing aids, is pro-sign. In fact, she knows some sign herself and supports signing to the children. This elementary school also has a speech/linguist pathologist who is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). The principal and the school are pro-sign. The main method used for communication is Total Communication (TC), which is fundamentally a combination of all signing methods.
Another interviewee, the father of a deaf child shared his experience within the hospital. He indicated that the doctors pulled him and his wife aside to tell them about their daughter, and while he was overwhelmed, the doctors were not negative or apologetic of the child’s deafness. There were pamphlets provided that explained deafness and a short one about ASL.
The father remarked that the doctors informed them of their daughter’s condition, gave them pamphlets, and offered audiologist recommendations, then sent them on their way. There was not a lot of support given from the medical professionals, but there was not a stance against ASL. The parents formed their own investigation and research about options available to them. Three years later they decided on ASL and their daughter has quickly grown into the language and is doing well in school.
Medical practitioners do not all support oralism. There are doctors, audiologists, linguists, etc. that are for sign; it is a matter of searching them out specifically. There is a clear need to provide ASL education to the medical professionals and/or more informative pamphlets to present to parents. The practitioners should know that the first five years are the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH), which according to “Language Learning in Children who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing“ by Easterbooks and Baker, is an “ideal” period for language acquisition and development.
Language acquisition is linked to brain maturation and the language learning process becomes arduous with the loss of brain plasticity after the “critical” period (2002). Information in the hospitals on the natural language for deaf individuals is vital for the future education of deaf children.