A Basic First-aid Class for Deaf Adults

By Joanne Greenberg

[Editor's note: This piece was originally written by Ms. Greenberg several years ago, so many of the time and date references may no longer be accurate. -- BitcoDavid]

Resusci_Annie photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Resusci_Annie photo courtesy of Wikipedia

The idea for the class came serendipitously. I was taking advanced first-aid and I mentioned to the Chief Instructor, that because there were a fair number of Deaf people in the Denver area, perhaps the class should learn some simple signs and the manual alphabet. I find Sign useful as an alternative means of communication when ordinary speech is impractical. The Instructor, being enterprising and adaptable, allowed me to do this. After the course was over, four of the instructors and one other student asked me if I would teach them basic Sign.

During those sessions we began to talk about the isolation that deafness imposes. The pre-lingual Deaf are often unable to get the simple life information that the Hearing learn informally from people around them. They are often further handicapped by reading problems and poor education. As these ideas were better understood, the instructors agreed that Deaf adults would be prime candidates for the Basic first-aid course.

I happened to know of an Adult Education class for the Deaf, and the co-leaders of this class, were delighted when I mentioned the possibility of a first-aid class to them. The class was taught in the basement of a church in downtown Denver. Its funding was partly private and partly state, and because it was both experimental and independent, we were encouraged to proceed at our own pace.

We began by having a simple social meeting with the class. The instructors’ Sign was still rudimentary, but it was important for the Deaf students to know that although there would be one or more interpreters for all classes, the instructors had taken the time and showed and interest in communicating with them directly. We have come to believe that this is a key point in the success of a first-aid program, that the instructors be well trained in all levels of first-aid instruction and also have at least fundamental command of Sign language. Sign helps break the reserve of the Deaf student and helps the instructor over any feeling of strangeness in working with all levels of Deaf people.

Formal sessions started with about 12 students, which soon dropped to 10. Their reading level ranged from about third grade to the post-graduate level and verbal skills had about the same spread. In addition we had an elderly woman who was so physically reserved the she was unwilling to sit on the floor during the first sessions and a middle-aged Black man who told us privately that he could never bring himself to have any physical contact with White people, especially women, due to the fear ingrained in him in his childhood. We also had two Hearing High School students, a boy and a girl.

The first classes were the hardest. We found we were going too slowly, teaching too much from the book. We were, in short, underestimating the intelligence of our students – confusing low language ability with low interest and competence. We soon began to feature practical demonstrations and to replace complicated explanations with role-playing. Our chief interpreter was intuitively alert to this and often gave up formal Sign for mime when the need arose. We divided the students into groups whenever we could and their competence with each other opened the way for them to demonstrate lifesaving methods on us. We faced the problems of shyness and race directly and frankly. In lifesaving situations, reticence and race have no place.

It soon became evident that more content was needed in the course and one of the instructors brought a Resusci Annie to class and gave everyone training in artificial respiration. The instructors and interpreters discussed this decision, like all others. We met at a local place for supper before each class and besides being pleasant; it was a good way of getting everyone’s views and feelings on decisions to be made and the progress of the class.

Most Deaf people depend on getting by with minimal understanding. Often they will respond to what they think we want, saying yes, yes, I understand, when they don’t understand at all. Some have grown up under the stigma, wrongly applied, of retardation, and will go to any lengths not to appear slow or stupid. Our greatest enemy in this class was phony acquiescence, and our pre-class talks allowed each of us to tell whether we had noticed any signs of misunderstanding of the body language that indicates pulling away, resentment, confusion or disapproval.

A paradox developed. We knew that we had been moving too slowly for these interested people and we began to speed up. (The class had stared on April 24 and we were halfway through May with only a fourth of the course finished.) On the other hand it was apparent that years of personal experience and a wealth of misinformation and old wives’ tales would have to be ventilated and put to rest before new learning could take place successfully. Because of the communication problem, the Deaf are keepers, storers of experience. The unexplained phenomenon, the misunderstood illness may be kept waiting for 25 years before someone comes who has the time and knowledge to listen and perhaps interpret correctly. We were slowed therefore, by the weight of the Deaf students’ pasts. (And, of course, butter on all burns – that’s what Mom did. The Deaf are nothing if not observant. In passing, it should be noted that one of the truest proofs of real learning I saw during the course was that one of the problems on the final was a 2nd and 3rd degree burn. We had butter, grease and margarine all over the place, and no one used any.)

Deviant Art - Alice of Spades (Don't worry, it's make up)

Deviant Art – Alice of Spades (Don’t worry, it’s make up)

Our strengths and weaknesses were becoming clearer to us with the passing of time. We had started speeding up the rate of instruction; we were relying almost entirely on Sign and demonstration. We were communicating without preaching, that first-aid can be done by Deaf people on other Deaf, or by Deaf people on Hearing, and that empathy and competence were the keys to success. One Deaf person described our sign as “groping, slow, clumsy and understood.” Our students understood and liked us.

The two Hearing students did not work well with the class. They seemed to feel themselves above the Deaf students and were self-conscious about role-playing. Whether this was Hearing or Adolescence we did not know, but they often made the class self-conscious and we all agreed that we would never again mix Deaf and Hearing students. Ultimately, they were the only ones to flunk the course.

Another misjudgment was our lack of a firm stand on attendance. Since the class was experimental, we started out by following the Teacher’s manual. The Basic course is supposed to be self-teaching; instead we had to resort to the lecture-discussion format. Usually, the reasons for missing class were good, but the effect on the teachers was demoralizing, since some of the students had shown very little retention of printed material that was not reinforced by discussion and practice.

Would you believe you can buy phony wound appliques on the Web?

Would you believe you can buy phony wound appliques on the Web? (Riseagainthenovel.com)

On June 30th we gave our final. We had tried written tests and found that 2 of our best students were failing, not because they did not know the material, but because their reading and writing skills were being tested and not their knowledge of first-aid. We met in the middle of June to plan a rigorous series of 6 accidents. Each accident had a victim, 2 first-aid practitioners an interpreter and an evaluator – unless the evaluator’s Sign skills were good enough to allow her to combine the functions. The victims were purposely both Deaf and Hearing, and some were complete strangers who had never worked with Deaf people before. We made sure more than one of the victims was a White woman.

The problems were: heart attack, open fracture of the jaw, second and third degree burns of the arm, Annie in asphyxiation, a suicide attempt using drugs, a fall from a ladder, shock and a fractured leg. Props and moulages were used and the blood flowed like wine, but no special allowances were made for physical reticence or the problems of inability to communicate with the Hearing. The students were forced to make Hearing strangers understand their intentions by whatever means were at their command. In this, they were remarkably successful.

We had often spoken of two pars of our goal for the class. First, that we might begin to train Deaf adults in first-aid skills and safety-consciousness, second, that we might be able to find and train a small cops of Deaf instructors who would be able to train other Deaf people, with more punch, wit and relevance the new could ever bring to such a course. We have proven that the first is not only possible, but practical and pleasurable for both students and instructors. We are now looking forward to accomplishing the second goal, using the top students of our first class as potential instructors. Training will begin this fall.

Throughout this account, I have tried to give a feeling of what we learned, good and bad, in our class. There are a few other recommendations we could give to Hearing first-aid people who want to teach the Deaf of varied reading levels. The point about instructors learning Sign has been made before, but is important enough to be repeated. Instructors should be prepared for surprises, good and bad, and they need to understand some of the dynamics of Deafness. Group teaching and continuous feedback assure that automatic answers won’t be taken for real learning.

Instructors will have to train themselves not to hear the extraneous harsh sounds made by some Deaf people. Some will have very poor speech, which may be incomprehensible as well as unpleasant. Sign is a further help there. Finally, fancy-pants interpreters or instructors are not good for work with low verbal Deaf people. Esophagus sounds scientific, but throat is the word that will be understood, and while myocardial infarction may be mentioned, heart attack is the phrase that has meaning. Signing instructors will know when the interpreter is speaking simply. If and instructor needs to know where to get an interpreter, she might go to the state school for the Deaf, and ask for the name of a solid no-frills Signer.

I have talked about work and problems. I have not talked about the pleasure of communicating with people starving to death for communication, o the joy of helping to heal decades-old wounds made by isolation. In the first-aid manual, it speaks of “promotion of confidence by demonstration of competence,” For the Deaf, that confidence is a prize above rubies.

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

Promises Made, Promises Broken

By Joanne Greenberg

Part of the problem of Deaf low reading levels is due to insufficient education. Why should this be? The problem of low reading levels among the Deaf was supposed to have been solved 30 years ago, when mainstreaming was instituted to give Deaf kids an equal classroom experience, among their hearing neighbors at the local school. Why weren’t Deaf children, many of whom were supplied with interpreters, not following the trail of the “normal” kids in their classes?

Promises were made that couldn’t be kept.

For Deaf students with Deaf parents, the understructure of ordinary information was present. Most Deaf children have hearing – non-signing – parents. Even those who do sign are not as linguistically proficient as a bilingual family would normally be.

Schools don’t do remedial work during summers. They tend to pass low functioning students on, until they drop out of High school, unequipped, even for High school – and with Grade school reading levels.

Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in special schools for the Deaf, bucking the trend of fake normalization. We are reinventing the wheel.

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

Concern at a Distance

By Joanne Greenberg

In Lakewood, Colorado as in many other places in the United States, people are protesting the placement of schools and other facilities for the Deaf. They worry about increased traffic, and the lowering of property values. They fear danger from the pupils in those schools, or the recipients of those services.

”We have nothing against the Deaf,” they say, “but the school doesn’t belong here – or here, or here. Such a school would spoil the integrity of the neighborhood.“

I’ve already heard this complaint. About Black people, Jews and Hispanics.

English: Alameda High School in Lakewood, Colo...

Alameda High School in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A society will create what it values. In this case, concern at a distance. The reality is, that dozens of studies of such intrusions, show us that when the “invaders” are welcomed, they serve to bond the community and result in improvement in property values and the stability of neighborhoods, the way schools, parks and other additions do.

A neighborhood near me accepted a group of at-risk boys in a residential center. The boys were under closer supervision from the school faculty, than home-raised children are. Their group leaders urged them to volunteer time and effort to help the neighbors around them. They became welcome presences in the community, shoveling snow and doing odd jobs for older people and shut-ins who needed their help. Friendships resulted. “The best neighbors you could have,” my friend told me. When the group wanted to expand, the new neighborhood picketed against them. Maybe a Wal-mart will come in for those fearful people.

English: Footprint of Walmart stores within th...

Footprint of Walmart stores within the United States. Areas with more than one branch have progressively larger points. Alaska not to scale with the rest of the map. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

AI Media (Australia) Launches “Live Captioning” System

English: 2008 Google Developer Day in Australi...

2008 Google Developer Day in Australia: Dan Morrill talks about GPhone and Android. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

AI Media is an Australian social enterprise, who’s mission is to establish a method by which teachers in a classroom can lecture students, and the lecture will automatically appear as text on the student’s Laptop. The system works in all formats, including iOs, OSX and Android.

The idea is that the teacher wears a lapel microphone, which streams her voice to a remote station, online. A reader than re-speaks her

Screenshot of what the text would look like for a student. Image courtesy of
http://ow.ly/i/11VMi

words into a server, which captions and streams it back out to the student’s computer or other Internet aware device.

They claim that this can replace three people in the classroom. An Auslan (Australian Sign Language) interpreter, a speaker and a note taker. I’m not sure what all these people would do. It seems to me that a terp could handle the entire job, but nonetheless their point is a valid one. It’s not that we want to put interpreters out of work – replace them with machines, but rather that there are insufficient trained and qualified interpreters available. This system can cover that disparity. It can also help cash strapped schools offer inclusion where they couldn’t otherwise afford the huge costs associated with providing interpreters for every classroom.

This video, from their site, explains more fully.

Here’s the site’s link:

http://ai-live.com/

Save Auslan courses - Save Auslan TAFE Diploma...

Save Auslan courses – Save Auslan TAFE Diploma course protest (Photo credit: Takver)

 

Abandoned Youth

Photo Credit: Marsha Graham from iPhonePhotoMaven and AnotherBoomerBlog.
http://iphonephotomaven.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/cold-and-pensive-lawn-angel/

When we abandon our youth, they have no option but to abandon themselves. Lives are wasted, dreams cast away in trade for an existence of solitude, bitterness and victimization.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the man hanged by the Gestapo in 1943 for treason against the Nazi regime said, “The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. “

How then can we lock ours up in adult prisons – many for life sentences? And how can we allow so much of that time to be served as solitary confinement?

IPS News Service reports:

Thousands of young detainees are being held in solitary confinement in jails and prisons across the United States, for weeks, months or even years with virtually no human contact or meaningful motivation, according to a joint report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released Wednesday.

Juvenile Girl in Prison by Richard Ross. Photo credit
http://www.businessinsider.com/richard-ross-juvenile-in-justice-2012-10

Neurologists tell us the the prefrontal cortex of the Human brain doesn’t fully develop until adulthood. We house-train our pets. Why can’t we extend the same level of understanding to our children?

In many cases, the juvenile justice system can help steer kids onto the right track. It has, over the generations, helped many lost kids find their footing in society. But in thousands of cases in this country, we’re simply throwing up our hands and abandoning these children to the wolves. Raised in prison, they grow up hardened criminals.

Huffington Post states that there are currently over 70,000 juveniles and teens locked up in America’s prisons. These aren’t halfway houses or foster homes. These are American penitentiaries.

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, in an interview with Richard Ross, tells the story of  Ronald F., in Miami.

“It was his birthday,” Ross said. “He’s 18 this past week, and they switched him over to an adult facility.”

Ross said that prior to his incarceration, he was a special education student in the sixth grade. He said that for 30 years, his mother was a crack addict.

“Before he got brought in on these charges, four and a half years ago, she tried to kill him, quite literally stab him to death,” Ross stated.

Ross said that the young man wound up falling through the cracks of the child welfare system, and began running with “the wrong crowd.” At 13, Ross said he was accused of some “heinous” crimes, which ultimately resulted in his incarceration at a juvenile detention facility for 51 months.

As of his 18th birthday, Ross said, “Ronald hasn’t gone to trial yet.”

As we become more tough on crime, we insist on warehousing more errant Human beings – many of them wrongly so. But warehousing children is unforgivable.

 

 

Update: Taylor Swift to Donate Concert Tix to Deaf School

In a story we’ve been following, TODAYonline reports that Taylor Swift, after an Internet hoax promised a concert at Horace Mann School for the Deaf, has offered to give the school over 12,000 dollars worth of tickets.

Image courtesy of http://www.todayonline.com

Here’s the page link:

http://www.todayonline.com/CultureAndLifestyle/Music/EDC121003-0000115/Taylor-Swift-gives-concert-tickets-to-Boston-deaf-school-after-prank#.UGxfZsNeTMs.twitter

The cruel joke was intended to mock both Swift and the Deaf population – the idea being that Deaf kids can’t enjoy music. The principal of the school however, stated unequivocally that his students welcomed Swift, and were disappointed when the school was disqualified from the contest.

We applaud Taylor Swift on her decision to try and get some of these kids in to see her show.

More News from HEARD

English: Washington County county jail.

Washington County county jail. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We wanted to let you all know a group of RIT students is working on an independent study project that focuses on Deaf Defendant/Prisoner Rights at the county jail and local prisons.  This project is being led by Attorney-Professors Michael Stein & Jennifer Gravitz.

 
The group will focus on finding and documenting info on deaf prisoners to assist with HEARD Deaf/Deaf-Blind Prisoner database building; working with the county jail to establish better ADA enforcement policies; assisting with VP issues (the jail there has one, but they say it can only be used to contact the public defender “bc of technical issues”); and translating policies & procedures into ASL, among other things. HEARD will use information from the students’ and professors’ experiences to inform our advocacy across the nation. As far as we know, this is the only class of its kind in the nation.  
 

Here’s one that’s near and dear to my heart. Middlesex County Courthouse and it’s jail as seen from the front. The jail is near the top of the tower. Image credit:
http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury/170.htm

We are super-excited about this amazing project, & thank Michael & Jennifer for making it a reality.  We hope to see similar projects popping up at universities across the country!!!!  If you have any connections at universities, please share our information with them.

The following came from the HEARD Web site:

HEARD’s mission is to identify and remove barriers that prevent the deaf from participating in and having equal access to the justice system by enhancing the competence, capacity, and capability of justice professionals to manage language access and ability rights issues; and to empower the Deaf Community through education and advocacy.

HEARD’s vision is to create a universally accessible American justice system that equitably serves the people with hearing loss.

HEARD facilitates collaboration among deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing individuals because HEARD views access to the justice system as a fundamental human right that we all should be working to make a reality.

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