Archive for April, 2010

AB 2072: Parental Anger and Deafhood Redux

April 18, 2010

I present two scenarios here:

(1.) The Deaf parents of a deaf infant recently screened for hearing loss have been told by the state that they must have their deaf child undergo surgery for a cochlear implant at 6 months and employ only speech therapy  in English for the child’s language development, no other options are allowed.  How would the Deaf parents feel upon learning that they have no choice on how to raise and communicate with their child?  Of course, resentment and anger.

(2.)  The hearing parents of a deaf infant recently screened for hearing loss have been told by the state that they must implement ASL only to begin the child’s language development.   How would the hearing parents feel upon learning that they have no choice on how to raise and communicate with their child?  Of course, resentment and anger.

The second scenario has already happened in the state of California.

“I am appalled that “the Deaf Culture”, CDE [California Dept. of Education], Cal Ed, Impact, GLAD and others would feel that it is OK to choose what option is best for MY child.”  This was a comment left by Dr. Elise Roche under the Orange Juice blog article, “Sign language lobby wants to limit educational choice for parents of deaf kids”.

Another comment by Wesley Anzai under the same article asked, “Why would reps from LACOE [Los Angeles Dept. of Education] lie to me? Why wouldn’t they tell me of options as I asked?”

That reads like a lot of resentment and anger.

The California Department of Education (read: state agency) has been refusing to tell parents they have other options besides sign language.

What happened here?  A vlog called “Californians, oppose AB 2072” by Ella Mae Lentz will give readers a clue.   Ella Lentz is a board member of the Deafhood Foundation, a core member of the Deaf Bilingual Coalition (DBC), a retired California deaf educator,  a Deafhood seminar instructor and self-proclaimed “Deaf Expert”.

Ella claims that “a deaf consumer group”, along with hearing parents and hearing allies, have been discussing with a senator about reform of the  California NHSP (Newborn Hearing Screening Program), under the California Dept. of Health Care Services (DHCS).  Quoting from her vlog captioning: “We want the new system to only identify deaf infants early on, only that, and to not to include providing info and referral.  Where there is detection, the state should then implement an educational plan for the infant and family.  So the infant can get an early start on language acquisition. This will include ASL, which allows for natural language proficiency that would enable well-rounded development and provide a foundation for a diversity of other competencies.  This would include speech therapy and listening and other language options.”

Ella then concludes in her vlog, “Options is not the solution! Optimal language acquisition is!”.

That “optimal language” is ASL, and ASL first.

The “optimal language” agenda which the Deafhood Foundation, along with its associated “Deaf-centric” organizations, DBC, CAD, DCARA, NorCal, AFA, etcetera, have been pushing on the EHDI (the National Early Hearing Detection and Intervention program) and on the California Newborn Hearing Screening Program has become apparent in the state of California via its Dept. of Education.

To many parents of deaf kids in California, that’s holding a figurative gun to their heads– they’re reading it as NO choice.  There have already been lawsuits by the parents against the state’s Dept. of Education to fight such a program, and there may be more.

The AB 2072 bill by California Assemblyman Tony Mendoza being submitted on April 20th to the State Assembly’s Health Committee is a reflection of those parents’ resentment and anger at having no choices. This “ASL-first, then other options later” dogma hits at the fundamental concept of the family unit (parents and child) and it is the state making the decisions of a deaf child’s education instead.  We only have to point to state and federal interventions that have  had disastrous results.

The revised version of the bill clearly states:

 SECTION 1.  Section 124121 is added to the Health and Safety Code,
to read:
   124121.  (a) Parents of all newborns and infants diagnosed with a
hearing loss shall also be provided written  or electronic 
information on  all   American Sign Language
(ASL), Total Communication, Cued Speech, and Listening and Spoken
Language  communication options for children with hearing loss,
including, but not limited to, information about deaf and
hard-of-hearing organizations, agencies and early intervention
centers, and educational programs.

Read that carefully, folks.  “Written or electronic information on American Sign Language (ASL), Total Communication, Cued Speech, and Listening and Spoken Language communication options…”.  This bill will provide a range of choices and this is what California parents are advocating for.

The other part of the bill concerning audiologists as being the presenters of this information have been another sticking point in Ella’s vlog.  She maintains that audies are paid by groups vested in oral communication and that they don’t have any knowledge of ASL or Deaf culture.  She considers this “devious”.  No more devious than her “optimal language” agenda?

The revised bill  mentions that:

 (1) By an audiologist or other related professional at a followup
appointment after diagnosis with a hearing loss.
   (2) By the Early Start Program, provided for pursuant to the
California Early Intervention Services Act (Title 14 (commencing with
Section 95000) of the Government Code)  when a newborn and
infant enters the program and when the newborn and infant is referred
to the program by a state agency.   upon initial
contact with the parents of a newborn or infant newly diagnosed with
a hearing loss. 

Read that again.  “By an audiologist or related professional” and “By the Early Start Program”.  Audies only? No, related professional and Early Start Program staff can also provide this information.

Furthermore, deaf children belong to their parents, hearing or D/deaf, first and foremost.  They are not experiments for the self-proclaimed Deaf Experts to practice their ideology of Deafhood.

Last of all, consider the backlash of drawing such lines against the parents will create in the deaf community… an unfavorable image and the demise of ASL taking on an even faster slope.

Be careful what you wish for.

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