Deaf-Blind and Mute Children: How Taught? How Much Communication? Life From Their Eyes?
February 26, 2004 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Deaf-blind question. I ask only out of curiosity, but google turns up academic stuff that's above my head. How are deaf-blind children taught? What level of communication can they attain? Does being mute make a difference? Do we know what life is like inside a mind that has only touch/taste/smell senses of the world?

I'm thinking mainly of those who are born deaf and blind.
posted by bonaldi to Science & Nature (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Google Helen Keller
posted by Goofyy at 8:06 AM on February 26, 2004

Response by poster: That's very interesting stuff indeed. Although she was born with sight and hearing, so would have picked up some amount of language and frames of reference already, wouldn't she?
posted by bonaldi at 8:46 AM on February 26, 2004

I recommend this recent thread about Helen Keller, which links to a terrific New Yorker article that debunks many of the myths about her. The thread also includes the ubiquitous saucy comments courtesy of quonsar.
posted by orange swan at 9:56 AM on February 26, 2004

In a general sense, one of the things that is interesting about any deaf children learning a language is that if they learn ASL [or whatever other local sign language they might learn] when they learn to talk, they are almost naturally going to learn English [or whatever language they read in] second. Many deaf kids -- and this is not getting to deaf-blind kids just yet -- learn to read in a completely different language than they learned to speak in, since ASL is not at all the same, syntactically, as spoken English. Depending on the level of hearing-loss, some kids who are just mostly deaf -- i.e. can hear with strong hearing aids -- have at least an inkling of spoken English. Fully deaf kids who learned sign learn a completely new language when they learn to read. Depending how this is taught, this can be a major impediment to further schooling.

Deaf kids who speak ASL also have problems with pronouns since spoken pronouns have specifi referents "he" "she" "you" whereas in ASL, they are gestures: pointing towards the other person for "you, pointing at oneself for "I". It's hard to teach pronouns to kids who learned ASL as a first language because the idea of "you" being relative is confusing [they think the pronoun they should use to refer to themselves is "you" because that's what everyong else says]. Many people who are deaf-blind use a different version of sign language called deaf-blind manual which allows the signs to be felt on the hand of the person you are speaking with.

As far as how this relates to deaf-blind kids, I know less. I've gone to DB-link in the past but it has some new java app that is cruel to my browser. Easier for looking at is the A-Z to Deafblindness [made by a guy who is deaf-blind himself] which I think will keep you occupied for quite a while.
posted by jessamyn at 12:01 PM on February 26, 2004

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