September 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.

Mac’s Reach Exceeded His Grasp

By Jean F. Andrews

It was the end of August, 1974 and I was sitting in a crowded classroom next to 25 other students at Western Maryland College (now McDaniel’s College) in the bottom basement of the campus library. The professor, dressed casually in a light blue guayabera, walked into the classroom, picked up a piece of chalk and wrote down a list of the variables that make up a psychology of deafness.
His lecture style was intense; however, his southern accent relaxed the serious tone of his lecture. I looked down and flipped over my textbook, They Grow In Silence, and noticed the author’s picture. It was the professor standing in front of me. The only other authors I knew were dead, like William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, W.B. Yeats. I had graduated from an English department the year before and now I was in a graduate program in Deaf Education. I had wanted to be English teacher but it was 1974 and the teaching jobs in regular education were taken up by young men dodging the Viet Nam draft. I had taken an ASL class in my senior year of college and thought that teaching deaf children through sign language would make for an interesting career.

I looked around the room and saw 10 to 12 of the students who were deaf and that a sign language interpreter was translating the professor’s lecture. Mac signed fluently and signed when students asked him questions. He frequently asked the deaf students to share their frustrating and lonely experiences growing up deaf. He talked a lot about his wife, Edith Vernon’s experience growing up deaf as well. Magically, Mac transformed the classroom into a platform for stories about the experiences of deaf people – the most unusual that I had ever heard or read about. And his papers, available to us in the library, on the Role of Deaf Teachers and understanding the Group Minority Dynamics of Deaf Culture were exciting to read. Mac weaved Deaf Rights into the Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements way before ADA and IDEA made their impact.

That year Mac turned me and several of my classmates into published writers, movie stars and scholars. He published our papers in the American Annals of the Deaf. He cast us in documentaries he was making about deafness. And when we stopped by his office, he had a list of graduate programs at a variety of universities where he encouraged many of us to further our education and to get our Ph.Ds. Many of us in that classroom and in other classes taught by Mac, did just that. We went on to be college professors, researchers, CEOs of technology companies, psychologists, social workers, deaf-blind specialists, forensic specialists, mental health professionals, writers and administrators at schools for the deaf.

Mac’s gentle and consistent support was always only a phone call, a letter or an email away.
“A man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” said the poet, Robert Browning. And Mac’s reach extended beyond his grasp of the time we students spent with him in that crowded classroom 39 years ago.
Mac’s reach extended beyond us college students too. His research, writings, speeches, and advocacy have resulted in better lives for generations of Deaf people.

And we all lost a dear friend and colleague, whose humor, humanity, humility and vitality we will never forget.

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

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.

A Quick Addendum to the “Little Books” Post

By BitcoDavid

Jean F. Andrews asked me to post the following citations:

Little Books are the intellectual property of Dr. Jana Mason from the University of Illinois and Dr. Christine McCormick from Illinois State University. They gave Jean permission to use them for the Alabama Study, and also to distribute them to other researchers, parents and early Childhood educators for research or for use in training.

I cannot upload the discs in ISO format, but if you are interested in obtaining a set, please contact Jean F. Andrews directly at Send a postage prepaid self addressed mailer, along with a brief statement of intent of usage, and she will be glad to forward you copies.  Reproduction and redistribution is prohibited.

Thank you for understanding.

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.

The Child First Campaign/Alice Cogswell Act, Read About It And Vote

By Jean F. Andrews

Mr. Conservative (School Punishes Deaf Child for Using Sign)

Mr. Conservative
(School Punishes Deaf Child for Using Sign)

Dr. Ron Stern, superintendent of the New Mexico School for the Deaf, spoke to the Texas Association of the Deaf in Galveston, Texas on August 3, 2013 about the Child First Campaign. This is a national movement that is working toward ensuring that deaf and hard of hearing children receive full access to educational, language, communication, and socially appropriate programming through multiple pathways of language learning. Fundamental to the Child First campaign, is that at the IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting where each child’s unique needs are determined, parents need to be informed of educational options for their child that include multiple pathways of learning.

Readers may wonder why such a movement is necessary. Wasn’t IDEA or Individuals With Disabilities Act supposed to do just that?

Unfortunately, IDEA has failed to deliver its promises of accessible education for deaf and hard of hearing children. Indeed, the concept of “inclusion” has been misinterpreted and misapplied to deaf and hard of hearing children.

Inclusion has become a big illusion, a bigger delusion and the biggest exclusion for many deaf and hard of hearing children in the history of Deaf Education.

As part of its Child First campaign, the Conference of Educational Administrators for
School for the Deaf (CEASD) has developed a proposed bill called the Alice Cogswell Act of 2013. If passed, this bill would amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to “promote and better ensure delivery of high quality special education and related services to students who are deaf or hard of hearing.”

Parents, devastated with finding out their child is deaf, are prey to promises by uninformed doctors, audiologists, super-funded organizations who say that if the child get early implants and engages in rigorous, monolingual English oral only training by early childhood their deaf child will no longer need special education services.

While these professionals are filled with well-intentioned fervor their position lacks science.

Studies in the science of language learning (psycholinguistics), language rules (linguistics), cognition (thinking skills), emergent literacy, and social emotional development (social skills) have demonstrated that deaf and hard of hearing children need multiple pathways for language learning, academic achievement and socio-emotional growth. To limit the child to just one pathway, is simply not supported by science.

This is not to say implants and hearing aids don’t provide some benefit to speech production. In some cases they do. But it is only one pathway and rarely is this pathway fully opened because of the hearing loss. Even with the best cochlear implant surgery and outcomes, and the best speech and auditory training, still many children fail to develop speech or language.

Indeed, speech is speech. Speech is not language. Speech does not ensure thinking skills. Speech does not ensure emotional and social happiness. Nor does speech ensure academic achievement. Speech, language, thinking, emergent literacy, academic achievement and social emotional growth come about through multiple pathways of language learning.

Speech is only one avenue. Deaf and hard of hearing children need multiple avenues.

Deaf adults know this. They have “lived the journey down multiple avenues.” Any program involving deaf and hard of hearing children should always include deaf adults at every stage of development from early intervention to higher education. If they don’t contain deaf adults, parents should be suspicious that important information is being held back from them.

Indeed, to exclude the Deaf community in educational programming is losing a major resource.

What the Child First Campaign wants to ensure is that parents are informed that there are multiple pathways to language and emergent literacy learning for their deaf and hard of hearing child. Educational programming that reflect the multiple pathways of language learning need to be brought to the table at the IEP meeting. Sign for prison. Sign for prison.

Why would readers be interested in the Child First campaign? In my assessments of Deaf inmates, I have found that many are victims of poor educational practices that limited their access to both signing and English. Consequently, when jailed or imprisoned, it is difficult for them to get their Constitutional Rights. They are not able to read legal documents like Miranda, the Guilty Plea Questionnaire, and Inmate handbooks that describe the rules and their rights. Deaf inmates have difficulty understanding interpreters because of their impoverished sign skills as well as they have difficulty working with their lawyers. Most of these Deaf inmates have language and literacy histories where they were limited to only one pathway to language learning in their homes and in their early schooling.

To learn more, go to Consider voting for the Child First Campaign/Alice Cogswell Act on the website to ensure that parents are informed of the multiple pathways for speech, language, emergent literacy, thinking and social skills for their deaf and hard of hearing child.

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

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.

June 2013 at

By BitcoDavid

Boy, this month just snuck up and bit me! Here, a day late, is June’s retrospective embed.

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.

The playground

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