• Shae O'Riordan

ASL is a Necessity Even with a Cochlear Implant

ASL is the native language of many Deaf people. Deaf with a capital "D" signifies the culture of the language. When spelled as deaf, this is the indication of being physically deaf. I identify as Deaf because I have the culture of ASL in me. I do not feel broken, nor am I handicapped in any sort of way. Deaf people are just as smart and capable as Hearing people.

Often, when children are born deaf, parents are left clueless with how to communicate to their children, and don't know where to turn. They want the best options available, but unfortunately medical doctors rarely give parents many options besides cochlear implant treatments. This expensive technology helps patients to "hear", but not in the ways that most hearing people hear. It is a robotic sense, and more often than not, does not provide the ability to understand speech fully. The implants require expensive and risky surgery by cutting into the skull, and implanting the implant into the brain and attaching the aural nerve to the implant to allow for hearing. However, there are many issues that CI's have which few doctors want to discuss with patients. The obvious problem is that language is more than a child's ability to speak or repeat words. They need to be able to understand words. Often CI's fail to provide adequate ability to understand speech. They are only successful in few patients, and less than 1% of deaf patients are ever candidates for the implant. Because implants break, fail, are lost and often have too many issues, it is not recommended to use implant therapy only as a child's access to language.

ASL must be given to the child so that they are most successful in language acquisition. Because ASL is always there, there is no need to worry if they lost the implant, or if it broke. They have language thanks to ASL. ASL is not a difficult language to learn, and studies show that those who do learn ASL at a young age, fair better in math, spatial and reasoning abilities, and even learn to read better than those given implant therapy alone. There are many more benefits to ASL than those listed above; however, if you are considering implant therapy for yourself or your child, you deserve the right to know your options, and your doctor may not be informing you of all the options and complications that surgery may have. I recommend talking to others who have had an implant, and ask about their experiences. Most of all, I still HIGHLY RECOMMEND learning ASL as implants are known to fail often, and over time as well.

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