Thursday, December 20, 2007

DBC's rebuttal points to AG Bell's letter

(Note: Below is not exactly a transcript but close enough.)

Read below a letter sent to Chapter Members of A.G. Bell in Indiana with a memo from A.G. Bell. Also, a response (rebuttal) from Deaf Bilingual Coalition. The National DBC core committee worked together and developed these rebuttal points.

From: Naomi Horton []

Dear Chapter Members:

I have attached (and posted below) a Memo from AG Bell national regarding a protest by the Deaf Bilingual Coalition of our conference this Friday.

The Coalition says they are protesting because:

" Deaf Infants and Children are being denied access to American Sign Language at an alarming rate. Alexander Graham Bell Organization supports Auditory Verbal Therapy Programs all around the United States promoting listening and speech without the use of sign language. "

Please direct questions about the protest to

By the way, today is your last chance to register for this year's 25th Annual Education Conference.

Please visit our website for detailed information.

Please plan to attend our Annual Members' Meeting, we will begin immediately following the special session (~4:15pm in Stewart Center Room 322). If you cannot attend please return the attached Volunteer Opportunities document.

The Wine and Cheese Reception is from 4:30 - 6:00pm in the Purdue Memorial Union - W. Faculty Lounge.

If you are NOT attending the conference, but would like to join us just for the reception, please complete the attached paper registration form by Tuesday, Nov. 27th at 5pm.

November 26, 2007

To: Indiana AG Bell Chapter Leadership
Fr: Catherine Murphy, AG Bell Director of Communications
Re: Media Talking Points for Potential Upcoming Conference Protest

In response to a rumor of a potential protest situation at your upcoming state conference, I've put together some general action items on managing any protesters should they arrive as well as talking points and guidance in the hopes this will assist with any response you may have to give to members of the media (in case any actually come to cover the event).

The Deaf Bilingual Coalition (DBC) came into existence to ensure that families of Deaf babies & children succeed and thrive. ASL and accessible English have provided and continue to provide the best guarantee to good education, literacy, happiness, and for families of Deaf babies & children to thrive.

DBC is committed to raising public awareness about the significance of American Sign Language, which is the key in improving education and literacy for ALL Deaf babies and children.

We are responding to AG Bell’s memorandum to the Indiana AG Bell Chapter point-by-point.

1. AG Bell:

In response to a rumor of a potential protest situation at your upcoming state conference, I've put together some general action items on managing any protesters should they arrive as well as talking points and guidance in the hopes this will assist with any response you may have to give to members of the media (in case any actually come to cover the event).

1. DBC:

DBC campaigned at AG Bell conferences in Virginia (July 2007) and Colorado (September 2007). We were peaceful throughout both campaigns.

We had good working relations with local police. Both Virginia and Colorado campaigns were apprised by local police and DBC followed all guidelines established by the local police.

DBC will continue to remain peaceful throughout all current and future campaigns, and we ask that AG Bell, instead of attempting to “manage” us, to engage in real dialogue about supporting families of Deaf babies.

2. AG Bell:

Facility Security. First and foremost, you should contact the security office at the facility where you will be having your event and inform them that you are expecting protester at your event. They should be informed that the protesters are deaf and will require interpreters in case they need to communicate with the protesters. Most facility security offices have a standard procedure for these types of events. If there is aggressive action, i.e., the protester attempt to enter your conference, AG Bell should not confront the protesters but allow for security to handle the situation. If needed, they will contact local police (local police had to be contacted
twice at the Colorado conference).

2. DBC:

DBC has contacted the police for the Indiana campaign, in the interest of following all appropriate guidelines. Again, DBC will remain peaceful throughout the weekend.

3. AG Bell:
Protester Relations. Any attempt by volunteers or conference attendees to engage in conversation or debate issues with protesters should be strongly discouraged. It will be a futile effort and if anything might stir up emotions. AG Bell's approach should first and foremost be providing a safe, peaceful environment for conference attendees. If protesters attempt to
enter into the conference meeting area or try to attend any conference-related event, notify security immediately and let them handle the situation.

3. DBC:

DBC is disappointed in AG Bell’s continued unwillingness to engage in meaningful dialogue about supporting families. DBC is ready to talk with anyone about supporting families of Deaf babies.

4. AG Bell:

Media Messages. DBC will try to "pitch" local media to cover their protest. The good news is the media will also want to get your side of the story as well. Protesters will try to say to the media that AG Bell is "anti-ASL" and that we deprive deaf and hard of hearing infants and young children of their natural language. In response, AG Bell Chapter leadership has the opportunity to promote the issue of deafness among young children, the continued need for early detection and intervention, and spoken language as a choice for parents.

4. DBC:

DBC would like to clarify that it is the AG Bell Association who has proclaimed that:

  • families should be coached to not use sign language or even lipreading with their Deaf child (Auditory-Verbal Therapy Principle #3)
  • families should use “listening” in all aspects of the Deaf child’s life (AVT Principles #5 & 6)
  • families would be provided with financial assistance from AG Bell’s Children’s Legal Advocacy (CLA) program should they desire to bring lawsuits against school programs that use ASL-based instruction

The DBC does not subscribe to AG Bell’s “one-approach-only” position. The best guarantee for Deaf babies to develop literacy, English and other languages, speech, and for families to bond, is through American Sign Language (ASL).

5. AG Bell’s talking points:
AG Bell's messages in response should include:

a. AG Bell:
Hearing loss affects 12,000 children born in the United State each year, making it one of the most common birth defects.

a. DBC:
This is a matter of subjectivity. AG Bell’s insistence on using the label, “hearing loss/birth defect” stems from the viewpoint of Deaf babies as defective and disabled.

DBC views the birth of Deaf babies as a gift.

DBC is concerned that using the “hearing loss/birth defect” term is creating a stigma and negativity, preventing people to embrace Deaf babies. DBC hopes that AG Bell will eventually realize that embracing Deaf babies will enable them to grow and prosper and for families to thrive.

b. AG Bell:
Ninety-five percent of children with hearing loss are born into families where one or both parents are hearing.

b. DBC:
DBC is here to ensure that families of Deaf babies are supported. ASL is the best guarantee for families to bond, for their babies to achieve language and literacy.

c. AG Bell:.
Today, about 95% of babies are screened for hearing loss at birth.

c. DBC:
Since we have an advantage with early detection, we should all invest our energies in ensuring that Deaf babies succeed in the best and research-backed way. The critical language learning period is indeed an invaluable time for Deaf babies to develop language and literacy. That happens best through ASL as a first language foundation.

ASL guarantees 100% accessibility to success. Once again, DBC does not agree with AG Bell’s “one-approach-only” position.

Hearing infants benefit from sign language, which accelerates their English development and increases their IQ points. DBC emphasizes this benefit for Deaf infants as well. (,

Families of Deaf babies need unfiltered access to the truth.

d. AG Bell:
The most critical period for learning language is from birth to age 3;
early identification and intervention (before 6 months of age) combined with
appropriate amplification can enable a child with hearing loss to develop
language skills comparable to their hearing peers.

d. DBC:
Language, literacy, and success have been achieved more effectively when ASL is used during the critical period.

e. AG Bell:
Over the past 10 years, universal hearing screening (at birth) and
advances in hearing aids and cochlear implants have dramatically increased
the opportunity that children with hearing loss can learn and use spoken

e. DBC:
DBC prefers guarantees over “opportunities”. Using ASL guarantees 100 percent accessibility to language, literacy, world knowledge, and communication.

f. AG Bell:
AG Bell recognizes there are many choices available to parents when
their child is diagnosed with a hearing loss, including spoken language,
sign language and total communication.

f. DBC:
AG Bell may claim that they recognize choices however, the information shared has never been balanced. The clinical parts (the ear and the mouth) of the Deaf child are only focused on and emphasized upon. DBC is interested in the whole-child approach, with healthy families supporting the Deaf child.

g. AG Bell:
AG Bell supports informed choice and serves as a resource for those
parents who specifically choose spoken language education for their deaf or
hard of hearing children.

g. DBC:
There is no strong evidence that AG Bell promotes informed choice. The AG Bell website shows that all of their workshops, presentations, articles, and so forth are focused on speech and listening. A complete, informed choice would include ASL.

h. AG Bell:
AG Bell does not "prohibit" or is not "against" the use of sign language if parents decide that is the best course of action for their child. AG Bell simply supports those who choose the use of spoken language for their child by serving as a resource for those families.

h. DBC:
Please refer back to #4 and the Auditory-Verbal Therapy Principles.

For the participants in the DBC Indiana Rally and the DBC Colorado Rally, the National DBC wishes to extend their gratitude for their leadership and excellent organization. Thank you!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Right of the Deaf Child to Grow Up Bilingual


Hi! I would like to share about the article written by Francois Grosjean who provided his perspective by researching Deaf children. The article mentioned that ASL should be the primary language of a Deaf child. Despite the use of various technological aids ( i.e. cochlear implants), sign language is mandatory period. Why? I will explain the reasons for you to think about it.

When hearing babies are born, they normally acquire language in the very first years of life that their parents communicate with them and that babies receive information by listening to surrounding sound environment such as T.V., radio, people having conversations, etc. Even some parents sign with their hearing babies making it more accessible. “Language in turn is an important means of establishing and solidifying social and personal ties between the child and his/her parents. What is true of the hearing child must also become true of the Deaf child.”

It is crucial for Deaf children to see a visual, 100 percent accessible, natural signed language that they are able to completely comprehend the information as they grow up.

But is this really happening for all Deaf children? Unfortunately, no. Why? Organizations like AG Bell, AVT (Auditory Verbal Therapy), etc. think it is not necessary to include ASL but focus on listening and speaking ONLY. That only approach HURTS! I will explain to you why.

First of all, we don’t know for sure if a Deaf baby will grasp information completely through auditory. All cochlear implant users don’t pick up the information in the same way. We know that some hearing aid users have developed strong listening skills and some of them don’t at all in spite of having the same decibel loss. Too often, people assume by exposing one language (oral) would do just fine until the moment they realize that this approach did not work. So what happens to that child? “He or she falls BEHIND in his/her development, be it linguistic, cognitive, social, or personal.” It becomes TOO LATE!

This issue is disturbing to DBC that this oral only approach is GAMBLING the Deaf child’s life away from academic development, social development, healthy emotional development, etc. We need to advocate more strongly on having both languages, ASL and English, for all Deaf children.

The responsibility, the duty and the goal of DBC are to make sure that ALL Deaf babies from the start have access to natural sign language that is acquired naturally as much as possible where two-way communication takes place. For a Deaf child to bridge to English (spoken English and/or written English), the most important part for academic success and future professional achievements is to master written English. Once a Deaf child has the ability to write well, he/she can do anything!

By using one language (oral) approach and excluding ASL with those who use listening assistive devices, is it a right way? No! We know that obviously oralism involves RISK! BET! GAMBLE!

Having the ability to develop cognitive/personal skills will be minimized when using oral only approach. Why limit the Deaf child’s ability? He or she would have developed much more advanced in these areas (linguistic, cognitive, social and personal). Oral approach with most Deaf children is not perceived as communicating in a two-way street in a natural way. Research states that for a Deaf child to use oral only approach impedes communication and that the daunting effort to develop speech skills is consumed rather than focusing on developing cognitive skills. When using ASL, “it allows the young Deaf child and his/her parents to communicate early, and fully, on the condition that they acquire it quickly.” ASL play an important role in the Deaf child’s cognitive and social development and it will help him/her acquire knowledge about the world. They can express about anything that is much easier and clearer for them to communicate.

Hearing parents can learn signs and they need to get more support. What DBC wants to see happening out there is the establishment of ASL Therapy Centers. We don’t even have one here in America but we always have numerous speech therapy centers even hotline phone numbers where immediate attention can be given. More fund is needed to establish such centers where support to facilitate hearing parents’ signing skills will be much more possible in the future.

In the meantime, DBC has been sharing an important message that every Deaf baby has the right to sign. Why is this so important? There are numerous benefits and opportunities using ASL when a Deaf child grows up. In this case, opportunities are more of GUARANTEES.