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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Cochlear Implants: Evolving Perspectives
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Lauren also had doubts and wanted to see the evidence for herself.

I wanted to see how these children who have CIs functioned in an oral environment. I wanted to see and observe. I went to a second place (spells place), another oral program in (town). I went there and observed with my daughter. I observed and observed. I was impressed with these kids (pause), their ability to listen and talk fluently.

In an e-mail following the interview, Lauren added,

I am obviously not able to know if theyíre talking fluently. I had a hearing parent who was a close friend of mine who had a deaf 4-year-old come with me. She was considering implanting her child at that time. She was the one who said she could understand almost everything that the kids were saying.

Jasmine also did some investigations on her own.

Iíve seen children at (names school) who had CIs; they were signing and speaking. I noticed that. I became curious about whatís up with CIs. (Jasmine)

The mothersí reasons for choosing a cochlear implant were strongly related to their desires to provide their children with more communication and language choices. Even though they had a range of different reasons, they repeatedly emphasized giving their children more choices in life and the ability to communicate with more people. All three of the mothers emphasized this point:
Really, he could learn not only spoken English but learn other spoken languages and have the opportunity to interact with anyone and not limit himself only to those who can only sign. He can have more choices. (Sierra)

We thought why not give our daughter the opportunity to have the ability to hear and develop spoken language. Itíll become easier for her to participate in both communities. She can switch back and forth between the two, including our hearing families. (Jasmine)

I wanted to see her have more opportunities in the world, because itís a hearing world and I donít want to limit her choices only to having to find jobs within the deaf world such as in deaf education or whatever related to sign language (shakes head). For her, she can go for it. Nowadays and in the future, it will be different compared to my time and my parentsí time a long time ago. It was in the heydays for deaf people back then. The Deaf communities are getting smaller and smaller and spread all over and becoming thinner. It means itís becoming limited in different places. I donít want that. I want her to have more choices; I encourage it. Go, go, go. (Lauren)

ďIím a Part of Both WorldsóHearing and Deaf CommunityĒ

The three participants indicated that their beliefs and perspectives on language development strongly influenced their reasons for choosing to implant their children. These mothers wanted their children to maintain both ASL and English so that they would be able to shift back and forth between both language communities.

Their own experiences of being deaf also had an impact on their decision. They all expressed the wish that their children would have more opportunities than they had. All of them talked about needing to depend on interpreters and the challenges in communicating directly with hearing people. They indicated that their ability to engage in meaningful relationships with hearing people who do not sign is limited. They wanted their children to have the abilities to have direct and meaningful communication with both deaf and hearing people.

I am fully deaf and I canít talk, nothing. Iíve worked in the hearing world for a few years. It was very tough, mostly dealing with communication. A little request required a lot of work. I had to bring my writing pad so I could communicate with them. It wasnít easy. (Sierra)

We acknowledged that weíve had a hard time fitting in with our hearing families. It is hard to communicate with them. There is no communication between our families and it has caused separation between our hearing families and us. The Deaf community and the hearing community are separated because of that. (Jasmine)

Iím part of both worldsóhearing and Deaf community. I go back and forth between both communities, but I (grimaces) still have frustrations, because my speech is limited. I know it. My hard of hearing friends are more involved. I was envious because I wanted to be able to be involved more. Anyway, I grew up in a mainstreamed setting until I was almost in the eighth grade. I was in a hearing school. I had hearing interpreters. Throughout college, university, and my masterís years, I was in hearing settings. Except, I was in a deaf school for a short period of time. I was comfortable in both settings, and I wanted my daughter to have similar opportunities that I had, but MORE, similar or more than that. (Lauren)

All of the mothers interviewed for this study said that their children showed little benefit from hearing aids and that this was one of the primary reasons they chose cochlear implants.
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