My interest in China began in the early 1980s. After qualifying as a doctor in Britain and practicing for several years as an ear, nose, and throat specialist, I went to China in 1983 with my five-year-old Chinese son to teach at a medical college in Chongqing, a large city on the Yangtse River in Sichuan province. I spent two years there, during which time I learned to speak Chinese. Having a preschool-age child to look after brought me in contact with Chinese mothers with children of the same age, and through these friendships I could not help but absorb many Chinese ideas and attitudes about bringing up children. On returning to Britain I kept up my Chinese by teaching it in evening classes, and I did some interpreting and translation work as well.
In 1993 I started research on the topic of deaf children and their families in China at the Center for Deaf Studies at Bristol University. This subject was really a kind of drawing together and synthesis of my previous professional and personal experiences. I was fortunate to be based in the Center for Deaf Studies, as it is one of the key center in the United Kingdom for research on sign language and deaf issues; it has also initiated a comprehensive bilingual/bicultural program for preschool-age deaf children in the Bristol area. Because of my medical training I already had an understanding of medical and audiological aspects of deafness, but in studying for a Ph.D. at Bristol I began to consider educational issues more closely and to take into account the value systems underlying them. Deaf cultural perspectives and the philosophy of sign bilingualism in deaf education have significantly influenced my approach to exploring the circumstances of deaf children and their families in China.
The bilingual/bicultural approach to the education of deaf children values children's deaf identity, involves deaf adults, and promotes the use of sign language as a first language for communication and learning at home and at school. I subscribe to these basic principles and believe that deaf children, particularly those with profound or severe hearing loss, ideally should have access to a bilingual program. The views of a researcher are likely to color his or her research to some degree, and while I have aimed for a factually accurate and balanced account, my perspective on the education of deaf children has probably influenced to some extent the choice of topics included for discussion and the focus of the discussion�for example, the exploration of the status of sign language in China in chapter 3 and the discussion of the development of educational options for deaf children in chapter 7.
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