Potentail Solutions for Deaf Students
Letter, Jan. 6.
The reply of Minister of Education Kathleen Wynne to Gary Malkowski's letter is a classic case of blaming the victim. Malkowski has been working vigorously at improving deaf education in Ontario for all of his adult life.
My wife and I placed our adopted deaf son in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program in Ottawa – the only such program serving a region of some 2 million people, a fact that tells you all you need to know about the priority given to deaf children.
After five years in this program, he was still unable to read and write anything but his own first name. We repeatedly emphasized to the program personnel that he needed to be taught American sign language (ASL) first and foremost. We were assured he was getting ASL instruction, but in fact it was Signed English delivered by people incompetent in ASL.
Signed English is not even a language, it is merely an artificial system of gestures imitating spoken English. We then spent months fighting against his continued placement in this farcical program. It went as far as a legal hearing by the Special Education Appeal Board. While we won the right to place our son in a regular school with support services, we continue to be denied ASL tutoring.
This boy, who was failed in Grade 1 for five straight years at the deaf program, immediately began scoring marks of B in all his classes. Illiterate until age 9, he now wears me out with his excellent spelling practice.
Imagine what he could accomplish if the public school board would provide him with qualified training in his first language, ASL. But even though the Ottawa-Carleton Public School Board offers ASL courses to adults in the evening, it will not offer ASL courses to the deaf children in school.
James Roots, Executive Director, Canadian Association of the Deaf, Ottawa