Daniel was implanted in July of 1997 at age 15. We started out
in a school for the deaf when he was 16 months old. We learned signed
and finally made the switch to ASL when he was around 10 years old. He has never
been a total ASL user but has no problem understanding it. Since the implant, his
speech is improving (very slowly) we still use sign but do much more focusing on him
listening auditorily. Besides his 5X's a week speech therapy in school, he also attends
private AVT. This therapist is training his school therapist in AV. His school
therapist attends his AV sessions and continues with those lessons throughout the week.
His English has shown improvement and when he speaks he is more grammatically
correct. His hearing friends are now able to follow conversations with him and his
lip-reading skills have grown leaps and bounds. There is no doubt in my mind
that if he was implanted younger, he would be doing much, much more with his implant.
We are working as hard as possible to increase his auditory memory and to
"correct" his auditory memory. He has stated to me that he wishes he was a
candidate for the implant when he was younger (he wasn't) because he knows he would be a
better CI user. For the record, he also wishes he was mainstreamed earlier. But that's his
personality. He is not shy and loves meeting people. More so ...... loves CHALLENGES!
So I have become a firm believer in implanting younger. Besides, therapy
when they are younger is a fun activity. I laugh when people opposed to CI's claim
that all this intensive therapy is taking away from the child...."just being a
child". Geesh! I haven't met a young child who hasn't greeted
his/her therapist happily and eagerly. It becomes "work" and
sacrifice from other activities when they are older. When they are younger, you can
incorporate speech throughout your day. When they are older, you will get attitude
and responses like... "I don't have time now, I have a lot of homework".
I firmly believe that if done properly, ASL can co-exist with CI's.
The problem is that the studies are using TC programs and NOT ASL pure programs. I
am a fluent signer. My husband signs well, but is not as fluent. For ASL to be
successful, the parents have to learn it and learn it well. I wish that we had
started out with ASL. I say this because I am witnessing children who have only had
ASL and they are doing far better than I have ever see in any TC program. As a person
living on both sides of that fence, I see enormous potential here. My son lives in
both worlds successfully. He can interact with deaf and hearing people. We look at
success this way......He is happy, successful and has a great attitude toward life.
He has gained a lot with his CI and has said he would never go back to hearing
aids. Parents who are implanting their children need to really keep themselves at ground
zero for expectations. It's hard, because we all want our child to be that
As for the children who may not be as successful as most of the children,
parents do need to hear that side of the story too. My own opinion is that maybe they need
to re-evaluate what success is. To heck with the "D"eaf extremists! In
the years to come the CI will have proven its track record enough. Please keep in
mind that not all deaf people are opposed to the CI. I know several that are truly for
parental choice and respect those decisions. One last thing. My son attended a party
that included about 15-20 deaf youth, implanted, non-implanted and a CI non-user.
They just enjoyed each others company and the CI was never a focus for discussion.
That's the future folks! It's not going to matter much in the future.