September 14, 2016
To the Editor:
Regarding the September 12th article “As More Deaf Students Use Cochlear Implants, Indiana Schools Work to Adapt”
It is our understanding that StateImpact Indiana, in conjunction with WFIU and the Indiana Public Broadcasting stations, prides itself on responsible, fair and “data-driven journalism.” Regrettably, your article published on September 12th does not fully embody or uphold those principles. Indiana School for the Deaf (ISD) was mentioned multiple times in the aforementioned article. However, no attempt was made to contact us for an opportunity to provide direct and accurate information written about our organization. As a result, the article was biased and misleading.
Indiana School for the Deaf is committed to using technology including hearing aids and cochlear implants to promote language acquisition for all children. We are also committed to providing our students and staff full access to new technology and social media trends. American Sign Language (ASL) and bilingual deaf education are beneficial to our society and emerging technology and trends support this.
A phenomenon surrounding the popularity of ASL can be seen locally at Indiana School for the Deaf. Some of the most popular posts on our Facebook page are educational ASL videos developed by our Early Childhood Education program. This month, one of our videos reached roughly 145,000 people and had over 46,000 views. A number of local broadcasting stations are not able to garner this level of interest with their social media campaigns. This example is one of many demonstrating that ASL is in fact popular, current and fully able to merge with new technological and cultural innovations.
A study published by Gallaudet University's “Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2)” center stated, “Proficiency in ASL has been shown to positively influence spoken language development and the development of English Literacy in deaf students. It is language that facilitates spoken language, not the mode of communication (Sharon Baker, 2011).”
Moreover, according to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), “Numerous studies show that ASL actually enhances spoken language and auditory comprehension, even with cochlear implant users.”
These findings are supported by the popularity of Emmy nominated ASL videos from Signing Time. These videos are frequently featured on Nick Jr. and Public Television. Signing Time and similar products are often used by hearing children to reinforce spoken language skills and promote bilingualism. A bilingual approach to education has been proven to be beneficial to all children.
ISD is fully supportive of all students at our school and our staff work closely with students and their families to ensure each child’s individual needs are met. We have full-time licensed speech language pathologists (SLP), audiologists, and educational staff with experience and training in bilingual and bimodal (ASL and spoken/written English) language development and the unique needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. Our audiologists monitor the hearing levels of our students and manage the technology our students may use. They may also facilitate the fitting of new hearing technology and collaborate with other audiologists all over the state in an effort to optimize the use of listening devices. The SLPs and audiologists work closely with an ASL Specialist and Bilingual Educator for assessing and developing both languages. ISD remains dedicated in offering our full continuum of services regarding both languages: American Sign Language and written/spoken English.
Furthermore, although not indicated in the article, ISD is aligned with and supportive of the goals and role of the state legislated Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education.
As technology develops more doors will continue to open for bilingual deaf education. We’ve seen this with the advent of technology and social media such as FaceTime, Skype, Periscope and text messaging. These new forms of technology promote both visual language and written/spoken language skills.
We commend StateImpact Indiana for opening up a discussion on this very important topic. Going forward we respectfully ask that reporters at your organization reach out to school officials and education leaders at ISD for a balanced representation of this issue and similar topics.