Treating Drug Abuse in the Deaf Community

By Supporter Contributor Emily Syane

This is a chart showing trends in arrests for ...

This is a chart showing trends in arrests for drug abuse violations divided by age groups from 1970-2003. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the media and social networks teem with inspirational stories about deaf individuals and the deaf community, few people outside the community know about its dark side. One such topic few people discuss it drug abuse. Deaf and hard of hearing people are at higher risk for drug and alcohol abuse, especially the youth. Isolation, unemployment, and communication problems – these are just some of the reasons deaf people get into drugs. Some may try drugs “to fit in” and soon find themselves addicted. Many family members ignore problems. They may think they can simply wipe away drug problems, using a magic toxin wash to wipe the slate clean. Rehab is the only answer, but few facilities can cope with deaf patients.

What are they or family members to do? Regular rehab programs and treatments may not work. Although many of these programs have been around for decades and have been proven effective, few are geared toward deaf drug addicts and some are even counterintuitive. Most treatments require group therapy sessions, which not all deaf people can join. Some facilitates May not have an ASL translator around all the time and sometimes, there are some issues people with regular hearing will not understand. They may miss out on many of the interactions in facilities and might not be able to express themselves fully.

Image courtesy:

Image courtesy:

What would be an ideal scenario? The Minnesota Chemical Dependency Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals (MCDPDHHI) is a good example. This facility has a special program that meets the needs of HHI and deaf people and helps them get the treatment they need. The facility has three phases in treatment:

Phase 1: Assessment

Like any type of treatment facility, the patient must first go through an evaluation. Their medical histories and backgrounds are reviewed, but also the patients’ drug abuse history, social history, and of course, a communication assessment.

Treatment Art Card.

Treatment Art Card. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Phase 2: Primary Treatment

The second phase consists of many standard items found in regular rehab facilities. The center uses the 12 Steps and teaches this to their patients, with modifications to fit the needs of their patients. The family is also involved in the treatment and is invited to join some sessions. Many drug issues are related to family issues so this phase is important. Behavioral contracts are also a part of this process. Patients are given guidelines on how they should behave and how they can help make the treatment progress better.

Phase 3: After Care and Extended Care

As with any treatment program, the real work comes when the patient has to go back out into the real world. The patient now has to go back out and try to be on their own and stop themselves from going off the wagon. The center will arrange for patients to join 12 Step meetings, go to relapse prevention classes, and have a therapist fluent in ASL to help them. For those who need assistance, the center may also help them find a halfway house or perhaps vocational assistance so they can slowly integrate back into society.

Places like the Minnesota Chemical Dependency Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Individuals are few and far between. Not many people understand and give priority to deaf and hard of hearing individuals, which is why more education, and less prosecution, is needed when dealing with people who abuse drugs.

Emily Syane is a health blogger and customer service representative for YourCleanDrugScreen; she loves to write a blog about life, career, and anything about new research. She is doing a job as secretarial assistance at body Detoxification Company
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Conversation at the Supermarket

By Joanne Greenberg

I was standing near the onions trying to figure out which kind I wanted, when I spotted a neighbor who greeted me. During our chat, she mentioned that her husband had new hearing aids. “They cost a mint, but he never wears them. I’m exhausted by his saying. ‘What?’ all the time and having to repeat myself 3 or 4 times before he gets what I’m asking him, and I’m almost howling. All our incidental conversation has been lost, the little back-and-forth that’s half the fun of being with someone.”

I nodded. “Same here,” I said. I was aware of movement behind me. I turned and there were 4 women, all nodding, and then they all broke out with similar stories about hearing loss and the fact that the person isolated by it isn’t the only one suffering.

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.

I Meet McCay Vernon

By Joanne Greenberg

About 40 years ago, a man called me up on the telephone. “I read your book, In This Sign, and I think you would be the one to work on a film I have in mind.”

I was annoyed. “I’ve never written a script,” I said.

He went on. “I have a grant to make a film about the effect of deafness on the families of deaf children.”

That was easy. Who was this clown? “I’m not interested in children,” I said. “My interest is in deaf adults. If I were to write the script for such a film, I’d have to know about the effect they have on families.”

“What if I got 20 or 30 sets of parents of deaf children to meet with you and talk about their experiences so that you would learn about them?”

“Sure,” I said, knowing it would never happen.

The next week he called again. “I have a a group of 30 set up in Denver, but you need to tell me when you will be free.”

I told him, scarcely believing what he said.

“I’ll be there to introduce you, ” he said, “so that we can tell them of the plan.”

I picked up McCay Vernon at his hotel and we started out, getting hugely lost in the wilds of downtown Denver, ending up at a Safeway Truck depot. He was patience personified. We got to the meeting late, but not too late.

The meeting was a revelation to me. We made the film. At first, I realized that the ordinary speech couldn’t be used, even though I had 3 hours of tapes to listen to. I made a script using bis of this and that and summarizing what I had heard. Our EXT problem was that using the parents themselves resulted in an artificial and stilted feeling and McCay finally went to a local (Westminster, Maryland) drama group. The film won a prize and I had a 40 year friendship with one of the most gifted, genuine, human people I would ever meet.

One of his gifts was, that he could sense what you were best at, and that would be the task he’d assign you. Most people – when putting together a project – will pick any warm body for a given task, but McCay had an almost 6th sense for assigning people the work at which they were best suited.

We did many projects together. I miss him deeply.

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.

ASL Kids do Wizard of Oz

By BitcoDavid

Have a half an hour to kill, and wanna have some great fun? You’ll love this ASL version of the Wizard of Oz, performed by Eyes Alive! they are an elementary school performing arts group at the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. The kids are just great, and it’s good practice receiving Sign. Enjoy.

In order to help me improve my skills at receiving (reading) other people’s Sign, I watch a lot of ASL videos on YouTube. I stumbled upon this, and loved it so much, I decided to post it. These kids are amazingly talented, for Grade school, and the Sign is exceedingly watchable. The video has an interpreted audio track, and subtitles. So everybody can enjoy it.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

A Brief Discussion on C.I. Debate with Jean F. Andrews

By BitcoDavid

There appears to be an ongoing debate on the value of Cochlear Implant technology within the Deaf community. Many people see these devices as a threat to ASL. Others believe its an attempt by the medical community and other hearing people to fix what isn’t broken. Still others feel that C.I.s can enhance the living experience of Deaf people with no detriment to either their Signing ability or their community.

Many doctors refuse to implant Deaf children who are not already oral. They believe that the child will continue to Sign, and that the opportunity to learn oral language will be squandered. Often parents of Deaf children are told that once the child is implanted, the family must stop using Sign altogether, hoping that immersion will force the child into speech.

Also raised, is the question of filtering. We learn to hear. We learn to differentiate between say, the person we’re talking to – in a crowded restaurant – and the ambient noise from the 400 voices surrounding us. Your brain does this automatically, but only because you grew up, training it to do so. Sign provides a natural filtering. You are looking at the person you’re Signing to, and she is looking at you. It could be quite a shock to take someone who has lived their whole life in silence, and to suddenly throw them into the deep end of the audio pool.

Some people also question the efficacy of taking a Signing child out of her Deaf school, where she has friends and is socially accepted, and placing her in a mainstream school – while she’s wearing this linkage on her head. Bullying of the Deaf and HoH is a real problem, and one which we – in the Hearing community – must address. But it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to put an end to bullying before any more children suffer from it. Many people feel that CIs can place their children in a position of being unnecessarily bullied.

In response to a piece entitled, How To Learn About Deaf Culture? Read Tom Holcomb’s Introduction to American Deaf Culture, by Jean F. Andrews, I posted the following:

I find the Cochlear Implant debate to be a fascinating one. On one hand, proud Deaf people feel that this is a feeble attempt at curing deafness – fixing that which isn’t broken. On the other, the world is definitely biased in favor of the Hearing, and CIs could provide Deaf children with an added weapon to carry into the battlefield of life.

In Rachel Coleman’s video – which we published here: – she states that although her child was raised signing, and was doing quite well, the child herself indicated a desire for the implant. This child was OK with being Deaf, but wanted the extra advantages afforded her by the implant.

Unlike many in this world, I have had my share of rough patches. I know full well, just how hard life can be – even if you’re firing on all eight. My attitude is, any asset we can provide to our children is one more asset they can exploit. I don’t think this technology will destroy Deaf culture – I think it will help it.

Here is Dr. Andrews’ reply:

Tom Holcomb presents one view of the Deaf community about CI. There is diversity in the Deaf community about the CI. About 10% of students and faculty at my institution who are Deaf wear the CI and consider it beneficial while still using ASL as their dominant language and considering themselves part of the Deaf community.

While CIs have resulted in some speech production gains for young deaf children, we are still not certain of the long term effects in terms of their language and literacy growth.
There is also little documentation of surgeons, audiologists and SLPs on the many deaf children who fail to benefit from CIs.

More often than not, ASL is not provided as an option by pediatricians, SLSs and pediatric audiologists and this is unfortunate. There is no evidence that ASL hurts a deaf child’s speech. In fact, the opposite is true. Signs help support the acquisition of speech because it provides the underlying concept for the child.

Dr. Laurene Simms at Gallaudet University is leading a national reform movement aimed for Early Child Educators and parents. She and her colleagues are developing curriculum for parents and Early Childhood Educators that present both languages–ASL and English as early as possible. It is called the bilingual/bimodal approach as many deaf CI children will use speech and signs with their hearing families but then switch to ASL with deaf peers and adults.

Both languages–ASL and English–should be presented to the deaf child as early as possible. And more research in Emergent Literacy is needed to document how deaf children develop both languages through the use of picture books, parent/shared reading and teacher/shared reading.

So, CIs are not detrimental in themselves. Short-term, they are a feel-good solution to hearing parents and professionals who are elated when the deaf child says “mama,” or “thank you,” or “hello” or “how are you?” ASL carries the child much further and quicker. ASL allows the young deaf child to go beyond social, superficial chit-chat and develop cognitively rich concepts, and thus learn to think, reason and communicate at an early age like their hearing peers, but using ASL.

What is detrimental to the long-term development of the deaf child is how CIs have been indiscriminately used with deaf children without signing support and the Deaf community’s input.

ASL is proving its value everyday, and in every walk of life. Deaf, Oral Deaf, CI patients, HoH and yes, even amongst the hearing. Many Hearing learn ASL to become Interpreters, teachers at Deaf institutions, or simply to communicate with Deaf family and friends. It has demonstrated a usefulness in environments where hearing is difficult, such as construction sites or sound stages. Above all, Hearing parents of Hearing infants are beginning more and more, to use Sign as a way to introduce their children to language and speech. Numerous studies now reveal that visual language is easier for pre-lingual children to assimilate.

Deaf people can make use of this stunning advance in medical technology – Cochlear Implants – without sacrificing any of the benefits of their community or of their language. Furthermore, a Deaf child who does gain oral proficiency, will attain all the cerebral advantages of being multilingual, long before her hearing peers.

There are 2 things that I feel need to be said. First, this is implant technology. So, yes, doctors are putting cybernetic devices inside your body. That troubles a lot of people. Mankind isn’t as smart as we like to believe we are, and the thought of installing tiny machines inside our fellow Human beings can be pretty scary. Secondly, this technique replaces a damaged or non-functional ear-nerve connection. Deafness due to brain damage may not be corrected by CI technology.

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

July 2013 at

By BitcoDavid

BitcoDavid is a blogger and a blog site consultant. In former lives, he was an audio engineer, a videographer, a teacher – even a cab driver. He is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and a Pro/Am boxer. He has spent years working with diet and exercise to combat obesity and obesity related illness.

How To Learn About Deaf Culture? Read Tom Holcomb’s Introduction to American Deaf Culture

By Jean F. Andrews

Tom Holcomb, writer-scholar-teacher who is Deaf, captures the heart, mind and soul of the Deaf community in his book, Introduction to American Deaf Culture.

Respect me as a member of a cultural-linguistic group, don’t pity me as a member of a group of disabled individuals.

While sign languages are not universal as each country has its own indigenous sign language, Deaf people worldwide have universal shared experiences that few know about.  These include adopting similar solutions for effective living in a dominant hear-centric society, the use of a sign language, the congregation of like-minded deaf people, and the sharing of information.

Holcomb begins each chapter with a painting or drawing of a Deaf artist and ends with a poem written by a Deaf poet.  Readers will also learn about the vibrant culture of Deaf people, its history and heritage, sports, organizations and leisure activities, the politics in education, their feelings, aspirations and goals,  protective legislation and laws for Deaf rights, policies that have harmed deaf children such as the history of the exclusion of Deaf teachers and the keeping of ASL and how information about Deaf culture is routinely kept from parents with newly diagnosed deaf children.

The book has its uplifting parts. For instance, Holcomb inspirationally chronicles the journeys and accomplishments of diverse Deaf Americans as well as international Deaf people. Readers will also learn how technology has been a boon and bane. Videophones , text pagers, email, instant messaging, VRS, VRI, captioning, voice recognition technology and the like have provided access to communication but cochlear surgeries, auditory technology such as cochlear implants, hearing aids, and genetic engineering have sought to eradicate the Deaf culture as well as stimulate the economy by capitalizing on treatments for deafness for financial gain.   Parents and professionals interested in Deaf culture will benefit from this book.

Medical school students, doctors, audiologists and Au.D. candidates and other professionals who unknowingly impose “contrived solutions” on Deaf people rather than involving Deaf adults in decisions affecting young deaf children may find this book refreshing and enlightening.

The book is available through by going here.

Jean F. Andrews is a Reading Specialist and Professor of Deaf Studies/Deaf Education at Lamar University.

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