This is an opinion piece about Nyle DiMarco, Deaf activist. It’s fundamentally about access, inclusion, what being deaf is, and about the importance of ASL with the d/Deaf community.
Nyle DiMarco on Deaf Education
This pushback is because organizations like AG Bell are audist; they are anti-deaf and believe in hearing acquisition by any means possible. They are against the use of American Sign Language (ASL). Use of Media to Propel People Against the Use of ASL
This particular piece kind of blew me away, but I want to make it clear that while I am targeting that piece, that piece is in no way unique. The opinions contained therein are standard from this audist, anti-ASL point of view, which is what makes addressing it in detail of value.
Nyle DiMarco: Deaf Activist Bent on Destroying Deaf Community?!
The author, Lisa A. Goldstein, is deaf and is slamming on Nyle’s efforts to promote deaf education and teach deaf kids ASL. She’s using the argument that because she is deaf and she doesn’t know ASL and was mainstreamed – but felt no isolation, despite being in a hearing family to boot! – that really, deaf kids don’t need to be taught ASL.
She goes on to say, “we’re deaf in different ways, and that should be ok.”
That statement is kind of ironic, given that her entire post is pushing for mainstreaming and teaching deaf kids English as opposed to ASL and English. She herself is saying “only English,” giving no space at all to the acquisition of ASL, or ASL and English.
She goes on to say that Nyle DiMarco’s activism in promoting ASL education for d/Deaf kids is dangerous.
ASL and Bilingual Education for the Deaf: Dangerous?!
You want to know what I think is dangerous?
A lot of kids growing up without language.
In her post, Goldstein says,
As part of his foundation’s efforts, Nyle is trying to get states to pass a law that requires bilingualism for deaf people—ASL and English. In other words, he wants to make ASL a requirement for deaf children, which infringes on parental choice. As long as parents are informed of all communication options, it should be up to them to choose what’s best for their children.
That sounds great! Awesome!
But this is the thing: IT IS NOT HAPPENING.
Hearing parents have had the choice forever to do what they think is best for their deaf child, and simply too many d/Deaf kids are deprived of early language acquisition, point blank.
Deaf kids are falling through the cracks, wandering through early childhood and into school without access to a full-fledged first language.
This is exactly the case for more than half of all d/Deaf kids – and if you think I’m joking, go and visit a deaf section of a public, mainstream school. You’ll find, as I did, that there are high-schoolers with enormous language deficits because they never learned a language when they were babies, because they had no access to language.
They couldn’t hear.
Their parents didn’t teach them ASL.
They were unable to grasp English.
They were left out, lost, and deprived of language, full stop.
This fact is inconceivable to most hearing people, especially in this day and age where ASL is trendy. Hearing kids tend to know more ASL and have access to more ASL than deaf kids do. And if the deaf kids have no access to language in infancy and early childhood, guess what happens? That part of their brain atrophies and makes it incredibly difficult to learn later.
Ms. Goldstein talks about her parent’s choice of focusing on lipreading and mainstreaming for her own childhood, saying that they thought she could learn ASL later. Bravo for them, all right?
But in my own – also deaf, mainstreamed and from a hearing family – case, guess what? I hear nothing without my devices. I’m 43 years old and struggling to learn ASL now. That whole “learn ASL later” thing doesn’t always work so well, because “later” can happen your brain is past the stage in which it can pick up languages easily. I’m just lucky that my hearing parents constantly checked my comprehension of English – I didn’t fall through the cracks like a lot of deaf kids do.
So listen. I don’t want to hear posts like Lisa A. Goldstein’s, that are defending a push to keep deaf kids without ASL. I don’t want to read things about bi-lingual deaf people being a “dangerous establishment.”
I don’t want to read things that are asking us to fix ourselves up through drilling holes in our skulls and wiring us with cochlear implants, or having us wear hearing aids 24/7 so that we can try and communicate orally.
I don’t want to read things that are essentially promoting more language deprivation for deaf children. We need to move past that, focus on ASL education for all deaf kids, move into English and on to other languages if the child has a bend for that.
Let’s start with what we know a deaf person will need in their life. Because even if they do have cochlear implants or wear hearing aids, at the end of the day, they take them out and are deaf.
:// end rant
Want to Help and Learn More? Of Course You Do!
- Nyle DiMarco Foundation
- LEAD-K – includes links to the organizations opposing teaching Deaf kids ASL
* This post was originally published in May 2016
Meriah Nichols is a counselor. Solo mom to 3 (one with Down syndrome, one on the spectrum). Deaf, and neurodiverse herself, she’s a gardening nerd who loves cats, Star Trek, and takes her coffee hot and black.