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Sound and Fury
Deaf Culture
Cochlear Implants
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Cochlear Implants
how the implant works debate over the implant hearing aid history essay
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9. What effect, if any, will cochlear implants have on American Sign Language? spacer
Debate Questions Menu:

1. Position on Cochlear Implants

2. Cochlear Implant Candidates

3. Advice on Cochlear Implants

4. Cochlear Implant Success Rate

5. Psychological Effects of Cochlear Implants

6. Deaf Culture

7. Cochlear Implants and Deaf Culture

8. Who Is Part of Deaf Culture?

9. Cochlear Implants and Sign Language

10. Cochlear Implants and Deaf Education

Nancy Bloch,
The National Association of the Deaf
Nancy Bloch
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None at all. However, the fact remains that children who are denied the opportunity for early development of sign language skills will likely find themselves at a crucial juncture in their lives where they are not able to connect with and identify with others who are also deaf. This is why the NAD emphasizes the importance of parallel visual language development for children with implants, in addition to acquisition of auditory and speech skills. This would enable various communication options, especially for those for whom spoken language development remains a challenge.

Donna Sorkin's Rebuttal:
Nancy has not really answered the question. But to respond to her comment, parents do have the right to make choices for their children with regard to communication options (and most things). Whether children use hearing aids or cochlear implants, and their choice of identity when they grow up, remains the parents' choice.
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Donna Sorkin's Answer > >

Donna Sorkin,
Alexander Graham Bell Association
Donna Sorkin
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Families clearly have more options for their deaf children than at any other time, both because of improved hearing aid technology and cochlear implants. Since we are now able to provide young children with excellent speech sounds at an early age, they are able to access spoken language and, thus, learn to listen and speak. Indeed, the technology is now so different and dynamic that old presumptions fall away and each child will have the opportunity to determine what is best for him or her. I don't know what the implications are for use of ASL; I think decisions on its use will vary depending upon the individual family and child's own preferences, needs and comfort level.

Public school systems are just learning to accommodate these children in mainstream settings. Some are doing a good job at this, while others clearly have a long way to go to meet these children's needs. AG Bell and our members are working with states and local school districts to improve educators' understanding of the needs of children with cochlear implants in public school settings. It is important that appropriate services and accommodations are made in mainstream settings where the majority of these children will go to school.

Nancy Bloch's Rebuttal:
Hearing technologies have improved, yes, and educational options have not changed. We have had the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on the books since the 1960's. What has indeed changed is that cochlear implants are seen by the public as the proverbial solution that will enable deaf children to "hear" in the same way as their hearing counterparts. It is of paramount importance that all of us advocate for attention to the specialized educational and support needs of deaf children, both with and without implants. Also important is that we do not deny deaf children the opportunity to learn and use sign language, even if they are immersed in an environment that relies largely on hearing and speech. We at the NAD are working hard to ensure that the individualized needs of all deaf and hard-of-hearing children in all educational settings are addressed under the IDEA and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

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