Thursday, July 4, 2013

Open Letter to Deaf Education Programs

In response to several concerns Audism Free America (AFA) has received from Deaf and Hearing students in Deaf Education teacher training programs about the pathological nature of the curriculum, AFA has created this open letter.

To Whom it May Concern:

It has come to our attention that many of the teacher training programs in the field of Deaf education continue to approach the Deaf child as if s/he is abnormal and inadequate. Many of these programs are designed with a heavy emphasis on the spoken language acquisition and English language development of hearing children and how Deaf children are delayed and/or deficient in comparison. There is also an abundance of course work addressing speech pathology and audiology when the stated goal of the programs and of the students in these programs is to become certified to teach elementary school level or a specific subject matter. The course of studies in these programs have a bias towards clinical services in the speech and hearing over methods of teaching, curriculum development, and the discipline areas these teachers will need to teach.

 Furthermore, while many teacher training programs aim to prepare their graduates for working with ‘diverse’ communication preferences and approaches, coursework and teacher expectations clearly value and reward speaking and listening approaches. A whole child approach as well as bilingual/multilingual educational strategies is absent from most of these programs. Students in these programs may bring in information from researchers such as Petitto, Emmory, Mayberry, Nover and Padden on the value and importance of bilingualism for the Deaf child’s linguistic and cognitive development as well as their feelings of contentment and self worth. Routinely, their professors undermine these studies as limiting and guide them back to utilizing research focusing on to speech, audition, cued speech and/or simultaneous communication.

Given that four international documents (see excerpts below) have declared the importance and justness of ensuring that Deaf children have access to a fully natural signed language in their educational environments and in light of the article by Humphries et al. concerning the harms of Cochlear Implants especially in terms of language deprivation
(, we call upon Deaf education teacher programs to give proper, correct, and accurate information in bilingual-bicultural (ASL & English) teaching methodology, research, curriculum, and materials.

Additionally, Deaf students in Deaf education teacher training programs, having experienced Deaf educational systems first hand, have much to teach us. Would that we would listen.

 Students training to become educators of Deaf learners today should not have to face systematic barriers to access to information about ASL, Bilingualism, and quality educational methodology rather than clinical services. We thank you in advance for re-examining your Deaf education program and routing out any bias or injustice that may exist.

 Let Freedom Roll,

Audism Free America

See four international documents asserting the rights of the Deaf child to have a fully natural accessible language and the right to Deaf people to have a say in the way they are educated.