Key Words: Deaf education information, deafness related issues, deaf education

Subj: Re: Deaf Mentors
Date: 97-07-14 01:44:27 EDT

In response to a note I posted about Deaf Mentors, several people have asked that I post it to the list. It is being sent to our state's monthly magazine which carries information about happenings in the state.


To all those in the Deaf Community who would like to change the way things are currently done:

For the last 17 years in Sweden and Denmark, there have been some revolutionary things happening. As soon as a child is identified as Deaf or Hard of Hearing, the hearing family is assigned a "mentor(s)." This mentor is a Deaf person who acts like a guardian angel. This mentor shows the parents that being Deaf doesn't stop a person from doing what they want to do. This mentor uses Swedish or Danish Sign Language with the child and teaches the parents the language the child needs for language acquisition. This mentor introduces the WHOLE family to the Deaf Community. The Deaf child sees role models from identification of Deafness all the time s/he is growing up. The Deaf child has a social group of friends his/her own age with whom there is true equality.

Isn't it time, the Deaf Community considered a program like this, modeling it on the Swedish/Danish system? Deaf and Hard of Hearing children are still being raised and educated as they have been for over 100 years. And we all know that record, don't we? Can't we get some cool reasoning into this constant battle about what is best for each child?

The Deaf Community has something on its side it has not had before -- scientific information that proves that the child who is prelingual Deaf will NOT develop a natural language. Where is this? Let's try the pioneer, Ursula Belluri, Dr. Oliver Sacks, Dr. Harlan Lane, Dr. Acredolo, Dr. Goodwyn. Studies in hearing families that show babies can COMMUNICATE as early as 7 MONTHS OLD! Here in New Jersey there is Dr. Lisa Barsky and there's Steven Pinker (THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT). Try "The Language Explosion" in NEWSWEEK, Special Edition - Your Child (Spring/Summer 1997). There's Dr. Kegl's work with the new Nicaraguan Sign Language which EMERGED among the Deaf of Nicaragua. There is so much available information on our side this time!

Can we start again? Can we begin to discuss with audiologists the need for LANGUAGE for the prelingual Deaf and Hard of Hearing children? We need to work with audiologists to make them aware of this need for LANGUAGE. Why?

Too many children are still experiencing lives that you led so many years ago. You have an opportunity now -- perhaps to change the life of ONE CHILD. I truly believe it can be done.

Many of you know me from classes at UCC, from NWJAD, from ALDA, from SHHH, from AG Bell Assn. Many of you know my daughter, Kathleen. You know how much the Deaf community means to me. This is my dream. But, I am hearing. I need the Deaf Community members to work with me and guide me in this work. We MUST try to change things for our children so that they can reach their FULL potential because they will have a language based beginning.

If you feel that you could offer some expertise to begin a Deaf Mentors program, please contact me.

Uploaded by: BJ Lawrence/Kent State University/ Deafed Major