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Implants: Evolving Perspectives|
ďI Want for Her to Be Fluent in Both Languages.Ē
The interviewer explored the issue of bilingualism, ASL, and spoken English in depth. All of the mothers believed strongly in the importance of maintaining bilingualism. They all supported and advocated their childrenís language development in both ASL and English. All of the mothers valued ASL and their childrenís membership in and relationships with the Deaf community. Being deaf connects the children to their families. Sierra stated very clearly that her son is deaf and must have ASL. This issue, according to Sierra, was nonnegotiable and therefore not open for further discussion. Jasmine said that ASL can be beneficial for all children including hearing children.
I think the value is having access. Having access is most important because ASL can be used anytime and anywhere. In a noisy environment, if the CI is broken or whatever, he will always have ASL. Itís all set. He wonít have to worry about that. He is not hearing. He will have some challenges. Spoken language is nice and he has access to it, yes, but not fully. He will always face barriers with spoken language. That is what I value about signing. Among other bonuses like culture, community, and so forth, but number one, he is still deaf. He must have access to language all the time, thatís what is nice about ASL. (Sierra)The mothers also highly valued their children learning English, because it is the majority language in this country. They believed that it is essential to develop skills in English to be able to function in the larger hearing society and believed that their childrenís English skills would make it easier for them to communicate with hearing people.
English is a majority language. Itís important to be skilled, so we can compete in the hearing world. We have to. Itís important to be an expert in English to be able to COMPETE. (Lauren)Even though the mothers had strong beliefs in bilingualism, they stressed the need to provide additional support for their childrenís spoken language development. Lauren admitted that she had been giving more value to her daughterís spoken language than to her ASL skills. She felt content with her daughterís ASL abilities and thought that learning ASL at home was sufficient. All of the mothers sought programs and services that provided abundant spoken language support. Sierraís son received multiple speech therapy services and attended a mainstream school to develop spoken language skills. He also attended a deaf school that practiced a bilingual approach in ASL and spoken English.
Jasmineís daughter attended a childcare program with hearing peers and an auditory-verbal program daily. She also received speech therapy on a regular basis. Lauren had chosen to place her daughter in a mainstream setting with an interpreter to reinforce her spoken language. Both Jasmine and Lauren expressed the importance of having hearing students around as spoken language models.
Itís funny. I . . . I just realize just now that Iím not a good ASL advocate. Oh. Iím more focused on her getting speech therapy. In class, I made sure she has opportunities to speak for herself. I did not want interpreters to take over like a crutch. She can do it. I encourage her. Iím more focused on her spoken language. Why? Itís because she already has ASL in her life. Itís her first language. When I sign to her in ASL, she understands me fully. Itís fine. She signs fluently. Actually itís odd, she does not sign in ASL. Mostly, she signs in CASE. Why? Itís because of her personality, first of all. She is quiet and polite. (Lauren)