Monday, May 30, 2011

Primer #2 on Deaf Can/Can't

I previously posted on the idea that deaf kids don't have great literacy skills. (Summary: Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, same as hearing kids. They just add a few more variables to the mix.) Recently, some other ideas of what deaf people can and can't do have come up in conversation.

Sidenote: Have I mentioned that if you're calling them "hearing-impaired," you're wasting your breath? The only people I've met so far who prefer that over "deaf" have been folks who lost their hearing in old age.

First off, I'm a big believer in keeping the mindset that my students can do just about anything they want if they work hard enough. Once in a while, though, something comes up that makes me bite my lip, unsure what I should say.

I've had a couple of students who wanted to enter law enforcement—in the most recent case, preferably the FBI. Specifically, not a desk job—an out in the field, gun-toting Fed.

He hears relatively well with hearing aids, and speaks clear as day.

But ...

I can't help but think, what would it be like to be his partner in a dicey situation, where hearing the click of a gun's safety going off can make the difference? Or in a chaotic, noisy environment where they're not in each other's line-of-sight, so communication isn't clean and clear?

Or do I just watch too many TV shows like White Collar?

What do I tell a student in a situation like that? How do you combine being supportive and realistic?

This isn't exclusive to deafness. Sometimes you come across a person who's bound and determined to be a singer. They work hard for years, pay lots of money for lessons, but can still barely carry a tune. At what point do you lovingly say, "Look, hon, you have other talents. Put your energy into those and throw in the towel on this one. You can still sing along to the radio in the car."

Or what about someone who longs to be a published novelist, but just doesn't have the unteachable knack?

Of course, that gets into the argument of whether there are components of writing that can't be taught ... and that's another post.

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