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Alex’s Story

May 21st, 2008 by | Tags: | 42 Comments »

Alex Warren is a high school senior with a cochlear implant who learned to speak with the help of Cued Speech.  (For more information on Cued Speech, visit the National Cued Speech Association website.)  Next year, Alex will begin working toward a college degree at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a top engineering school.  Here is his story:

I was born deaf in 1989. My parents didn’t know about it the time until when they noticed that I didn’t respond as normally as other babies at my age did. That was when they consulted a doctor and concluded I was deaf. My parents were told by everyone (parents of deaf children, doctors, and school staff) that I either get a cochlear implant or not get one. [They were] also told I should learn sign language, but my dad knew it wouldn’t work well. So my mom found a book at the library about cued speech and she liked the idea of using the hand to display sounds rather than words themselves. So my parents and my transliterator at school used cued speech. As for my implant, I had the surgery when I was five years old because the doctor who performed the outpatient surgery recommended that I get the implant as soon as possible because children adapt easily to the implant rather than adults who receive the implant later in life. As I grew up with the implant, I had to learn how to adapt when conversing with hearing people and when teachers were talking in the classroom with his/her attention focused on a large group of students.

I am graduating high school in the top 10% of my class with a diploma and a career passport from the college tech prep program Manufacturing/Pre-Engineering Academy. I did an internship in high school, which was my first job, in a machine shop where I learned the manufacturing processes of fabricating tools. This experience exposed me to the world of engineering and how the manufacturing industry operated. I will be doing another internship working as an engineering aide for the Air Force Research Laboratory. This fall, I will be going to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univeristy in Florida to major in Aerospace Engineering.

I would like to share my story so parents will understand what opportunities there are for their deaf children and for deaf adults as well, and I hope this condensed biography will inspire deaf children to realize they can do anything. Don’t hesitate to ask me any more questions.

Written by

Elizabeth Rosenzweig MS CCC-SLP LSLS Cert. AVT is a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certified Auditory Verbal Therapist. She provides auditory verbal therapy, aural rehabilitation, IEP advocacy, consultation, and LSLS mentoring for clients around the world via teletherapy. You can learn more about Elizabeth's services on her Website or Facebook.

42 Comments

Jean Boutcher

May 21, 2008 at 11:49 pm

Hi Alex,

Were you born profoundly deaf? If not, how much could you hear? Do you listen and understand your hearing teachers fully without the C.A.R.T.?

Meow

May 22, 2008 at 12:22 am

so you were in the top 10% of your class…Did they pity on you and give you excellent grades just because you’re hearing challeneged? What a pity….

Elizabeth

May 22, 2008 at 12:27 am

Meow (#2): The only “pity” here is your biased attitude. Intelligence and hearing loss are not correlated at all. Please keep your ignorant comments to yourself. Thank you.

Amy

May 22, 2008 at 8:04 am

Alex’s story is a great example of what parents did to make the sounds of speech accessible to their children, especially when they had to “wait” to get a CI. At the time he was implanted early but by today’s standards it is “older.” I can only imagine how difficult it was to wait like that! My boys were both implanted in infancy and every day seemed long while we waited to get to enjoy the clear and easy communication that we now share. Looking at it from your parents’ perspective, they must be extremely proud and incredibly gratified by the decisions made in your childhood!

Meow, that was another disgusting comment that helps parents see the bias against cochlear implants by some people. We don’t appreciate it. Was that your best attempt at a rational argument?! I have a feeling that Alex has no desire whatsoever to be treated differently from his classmates, particularly in the grading arena. Ya can’t fake the grades in Aerospace engineering, LOL! Just wouldn’t “fly!” Good luck, Alex.

Meow

May 22, 2008 at 9:31 am

No, I am not being biased at all. I was just stating the comment. I have known alot of teacher felt sorry for the hearing challeneged students. They gave them good grades. It is true. Go research yourself.

Open-minded Deaf person

May 22, 2008 at 9:46 am

Alex,

Thanks for sharing your story. I am truly proud of you.

The only common thing between us is that we were former deaf babies but our time are so different as CI era occured years later after I entered the world.

I am a supporter of CI for deaf babies only if parents commit to AVT program.

Good luck at your college life. I will appreciate if you post your experience whatever you feel comfortable.

Thanks again!!

Rox

May 22, 2008 at 10:15 am

I have a question about cued speech. Are all of the possible sounds in English represented? What about the glottal stop in “uh-oh”? What about accents? Is “tomayto” cued differently than “tomahto”? What about foreign phrases that are used in English, such as “savoir-faire”? If one wants to start learning a foreign language, can it be done through cued speech, or do they need to set up a different system (learning French cued speech?)?

Meow

May 22, 2008 at 10:48 am

“former deaf babies”? ? ? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha….That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard of…ha ha ha ha ha….You will be deaf forever. When you take CI off, you’re deaf. When you put CI on, you’re deaf. CI is artifical device to make you hear. CI and Hearing are totally DIFFERENT! duh!

May 22, 2008 at 10:55 am

Alex, good to see you writing. It was nice meeting you in Cleveland. Good luck with school and hope you got that internship.

Rox,

All the possible sounds in English are represented. Accents definitely are cued differently. My girlfriend cues “sorry” as in “sawree” while I cue “sah-ree.” A lot of deaf cuers have used Cued Speech transliterators to learn foreign languages. While there are slight variations to Cued Speech for each foreign language, the system essentially is the same. For more info feel free to contact info@cuedspeech.org

Meow

May 22, 2008 at 11:31 am

Cued Speech is useless.

Rachel

May 22, 2008 at 12:13 pm

“No, I am not being biased at all. I was just stating the comment. I have known alot of teacher felt sorry for the hearing challeneged students. They gave them good grades. It is true. Go research yourself.”

This is just simply based on other people who you know personally and your experiences, Meow.

As a CI user, I never allow anyone to feel sorry for me. Everyone treats me as a normal person who just happens to be deaf and hears with a cochlear implant. Alex was in the top 10 percent simply because he worked hard to succeed. I was awarded the Faculty Cup, an award given to one graduating high school senior who demonstrated the greatest academic, leadership, social, and personal development. I did not win it because my high school felt sorry for me. I won it simply because of who I was as a PERSON in high school, a student who worked hard, took rigorous classes, was involved in several extracurricular activities, spent hours studying, etc. I know several other deaf people/people with hearing loss who share similar achievements like me and Alex simply because, again, they work hard and are well-rounded in life by taking rigorous courses, being involved in extracurricular activities, spending hours studying, etc, not because people felt sorry for us.

May 22, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Hi Alex,
Good luck in College next year. Sounds like you are well on your way to a bright future. Thanks for sharing your story.

Meow

May 22, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Rachel,

You said ” Everyone treats me as a normal person who just happens to be deaf and hears with a cochlear implant.”

What is normal? What is your definition of normal? is CI normal? is Deaf normal?

Rachel

May 22, 2008 at 12:50 pm

My definition of a “normal person” is someone who is no different from any other human being in general. So, people see me as a person rather than specifically as a CI user or as a Deaf person. Yes, people with CIs and people who are Deaf are normal too because they are people too.

Meow

May 22, 2008 at 1:58 pm

Okay. So you’re saying that people with CI and Deaf are not different?

DeafPride

May 22, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Rachel – yes, right! You may not know the facts how the school was trying to support you. Ask your mother. She knew the facts. Enjoy your summer break.

Rachel

May 22, 2008 at 3:06 pm

DeafPride,

Yes, I do know all the facts how the school was trying to support me. My mother never made the decisions alone about how the school should support me as I attended all of the IEP meetings with her, and my mother always discussed my needs with me before finalizing our decisions.

I never allowed the school to give me too much support as I wanted to challenge myself and learn to be independent. For example, just before I started high school, at an IEP meeting, I asked the department head of special education and my teacher of hearing impaired if I could take French during my first year of high school, and they immediately said “NO” because they felt that I wasn’t capable enough to take a foreign language as a hearing impaired student. I had to fight, and it was not easy to fight as they repeatedly said no and I burst into tears. We finally came into an agreement that I could try during my first year of high school. Not only did I excel in French I, but also I took French Honors and AP French all the way through my four years of high school. It was not because I got a lot of support. It was because I put my extra effort into studying French.

Just before my senior year of high school, my teacher of the hearing impaired told me that she wanted to be in English class during my senior year as she was during my first three years of high school, and I told her that I preferred to have no support during my English class in my senior year as I wanted to learn how to handle taking the English course by myself as there are no support teachers in colleges. So, I did not have a support teacher for English in my senior year, and I did very well and had no issues, and I was well prepared for English in college. Again, my English teacher didn’t just simply give me an easy way out. Not only did I put my effort into studying, I took my time to ask my English teacher for help whenever I didn’t understand something just like any other students who hear normally would do too.

My teachers never came after me, and said, “I want to help you.” I had to take the time to ask the teachers and acknowledge to them my concerns.

Rachel

May 22, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Another note to make – My teachers in high school and even in college always think that I hear perfectly well, and they always questioned me and my parents why I needed accommodations. I had a few teachers who didn’t want to give me any accommodations because they felt that I didn’t need any.

Amy

May 22, 2008 at 4:38 pm

You can’t fake AP exams– they’re the same all over the nation. I don’t think Rachel’s teachers fudged her scores out of pity because it would put their credentials as AP administrators on the line! And I highly doubt that you can fake entrance exams and SAT scores to get into Aeronautical school. Rachel and Alex’s successes are real. Kids with CIs, in the mainstream, have verifiable, testable results. What we see in them is a future that means less cost to society, more productivity, and thus, higher mental health scores. That’s just the way it is, folks. Like it or not, many mainstreamed kids today have success based on their abilities, and completely unrelated to their hearing loss.

May 22, 2008 at 5:15 pm

“Rachel – yes, right! You may not know the facts how the school was trying to support you. Ask your mother. She knew the facts. Enjoy your summer break.”

DeafPride,

This is Rachel’s mother. Everything Rachel says is 100% true. We raised her with a philosophy that she should have minimal accommodations, only those that were determined necessary in order for her to have full access to the academic material and not anything and everything just because they were available. This is because real life does not accommodate. Rachel took this philosophy and made it her own.

It is highly insulting of you to try to diminish the success of these kids by stating that they did not earn what they achieved.

Meow

May 22, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Rachel’s mother,

That’s your opinion. Real life DOES accomodate. Why would you think there is no accomodation in real life? Please clarify.

I am surprise Rachel is asking for your help. Does that make her (your daughter) smart? hmmm…

Amy

May 22, 2008 at 8:21 pm

Meow, are you for real? What mother would not help her child or comment on her blog? That’s not the same as “accomodations.” Rachel’s mother helps her like any mother helps their child; that is neither here nor there. Rachel needs very precious little accomodations in her educational life and virtually none anywhere else, unless you count a different alarm clock. You can hardly call that special treatment. Sorry, but your arguments don’t fly.

May 22, 2008 at 8:48 pm

Rachel, your number 18 comment is soooo true. That’s the way it is for us. I have to send research stats to get them to acknowledge that having one ci isn’t as good as two hearing ears. They always tell me how “fine” he is and how “it’s not because he couldn’t hear me”. They assume he always hears perfectly because of good speech. He’s at the top of his mainstream class and I find it difficult to MAKE THEM UNDERSTAND HE’S DEAF! The fact that he only has one ci yet still making straight A’s (except conduct,ugh!), makes it more difficult for them to “get it”.

DeafPride

May 22, 2008 at 9:40 pm

Melissa: sure, go ahead and defend her when she doesn’t really need you. :-)

May 23, 2008 at 7:41 am

Meow and DeafPride,

Your nastiness is exactly why hearing parents run as fast as they can from the deaf culture. What hearing parent do you think is going to listen to anything you have to say when they see your disrespect for another hearing parent?

Meow – Real life does not accommodate for hearing issues. No one can turn off background noise in real life situations. All people do not walk around with FM transmitters so that a hearing impaired person can hear them optimally. Captioning is not present in most situations. Therefore, Rachel learned how to hear optimally in these types of situations and how to adapt when she could not.

As for defending my daughter and helping her – Meow mentioned her mother, and so I spoke up. If you read through past entries in this blog, you will see that I often speak up. If you see speaking up on my daughter’s behalf on a blog as an issue, then you don’t understand being a mother. In addition, I also speak up because, as all do who post here, I feel very strongly about deaf children.

Anonymous

May 23, 2008 at 9:33 am

Melissa, we see the same attitude on the other side (from parents of deaf children, oral, CI, AVT, cued speech, etc.), so what Deaf people do you think will listen to anything YOU have to say?

Meow

May 23, 2008 at 10:45 am

Melissa,

Does your daughter know ASL? Does she ever use it everyday?

Rachel

May 23, 2008 at 10:58 am

My mom (Melissa) is more than welcome to comment here on this blog. I think it’s important for her to share her experiences of raising me.

Meow,

No, I don’t know ASL.

Meow

May 23, 2008 at 11:13 am

Ahhh!!! You don’t know ASL…..How interesting. I assume your mom rejected you as Deaf so she wanted you to get CI. Now she doesn’t reject you anymore because you already have CI. That’s sad. Your mom apparently ddidn’t believe in ASL. What a pity.

Rachel

May 23, 2008 at 11:22 am

No, my mother did not reject me in any way who I am. She got me CIs simply because she wanted me to have an easier life in the hearing world.

Plus, my CIs worked so well as I was able to learn to hear and speak well and thus, my parents felt that there was no need for me to learn ASL.

I’m perfectly fine not knowing ASL as I can communicate well, and thus, I don’t regret my parents’ decision for choosing to raise me with the AVT approach and getting me CIs as I’m very happy with my life and who I am as a person.

Just a mom to three boys

May 23, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Meow,
Tuck your tail and skedaddle. It’s folks like you who just seal the deal for me and others.

Meow

May 23, 2008 at 2:38 pm

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha….just a mom to three boys..Keep yourself to your little piggy boys… LOL

Proud ASL user

May 23, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Meow,

As a native ASL user and a big supporter of the bilingual philosophy, using ASL and English, I want to say that your attitude is such an embarrassment. We now have the opportunity to share our experiences and opinions in forums like this for the first time because the internet allows us to do so. You do not need to have this belittling, arrogant attitude- that is exactly why hearing parents run away from us who embraces ASL. Not all of us think the way you do, stop misrepresenting us. Rachel, please keep in mind that many of us do not think this way. Best of luck to you!

Amy

May 23, 2008 at 4:40 pm

Anonymous, Melissa’s comments aren’t aimed to “attract” all deaf persons, though they are not of the offensive nature, either. Her comments are usually aimed at assisting those who are parents or interested in CIs (and, also, supporting her daughter). And I can guarantee that she’s attracted plenty of those over the years. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say she’s helped hundreds, and I’m one of the thankful recipients. Her point was that people like Meow are continually scaring parents of deaf children away from deaf culture. They purport to respresent it, and the routinely send rude and obscene emails to people like us. It’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve gotten dozens of them. Now why on earth would I ever want to have my implanted children hang out with people that have no respect for human decency? But the interesting thing is that deaf culture advocates seem to want to convince hearing parents to use ASL, not implant, etc. In the past week, I’ve been told I’m going to hell for implanting my child, and one email said “you suck.” I can’t recall ever seeing any blog or email by any implanted person or parent who spoke like that about non-implanted deaf individuals, or those who use ASL. There’s something rotten in Denmark, folks, and it needs to be changed. Once a child has been implanted for years and years, is it really productive to send hate emails to the parents, or to the blogger?!

Meow, you have a complete inability to behave decently. If your conscience doesn’t bother you, it should.

DeafPride

May 23, 2008 at 4:50 pm

Anon #26:

What you said is fairly true.

Not everything can make life easier because of the technology (batteries included).

Anonymous

May 23, 2008 at 10:07 pm

Let’s see….
“Meow – Real life does not accommodate for hearing issues. No one can turn off background noise in real life situations. All people do not walk around with FM transmitters so that a hearing impaired person can hear them optimally. Captioning is not present in most situations. Therefore, Rachel learned how to hear optimally in these types of situations and how to adapt when she could not.” This is the kind of audist attitude that we hate to see and find offensive. You don’t think that real life doesn’t accommodate Deaf people, but that’s only because you haven’t experienced it. Let’s see, yesterday, I go to Starbucks and order my own food. They can’t understand me, so they were very accommodating by getting me a paper and pencil. I go to the movies, and they’re very accommodating by providing rear-view captions. I go to the Doctor’s office and they’re very accommodating by providing an interpreter. It’s pretty ignorant to say that real life doesn’t accommodate.

May 23, 2008 at 11:10 pm

If Rachel is at a party and many people are talking, it’s harder for her to hear in background noise. How are people going to accommodate her other than speaking closely to her ear? They are certainly not going to have FMs readily available or a CART reporter. If she is in a car with a group of people who are talking, who will turn off the engine noise?

There are most certainly accommodations, but there are also several situations where it is much easier for Rachel to navigate her way in life because she can hear and speak well. She can attend movies without captions and so isn’t limited to theaters with rear window captioning or specific open captioned movie showings. Her speech is very clear, and thus she is easily understood by all. She actually can hold a conversation in the car because she learned to listen optimally with her CIs, including training in hearing in background noise.

I’m glad that you have a doctor who provides an interpreter, but none of our doctors who are in private practice have one readily available. Maybe the ones at the academic medical center do. We’ve never had to ask. That Rachel can call the doctor on the phone, make her own appointment, and then easily converse with him/her when there does make her life easier. Maybe for you having to rely on reading and writing and interpreters is something you are so accustomed to that you don’t think of it as a hardship, but, given the choice, almost all people would opt for easier communication with all, and that is what today’s CI AV kids have.

Shel

May 24, 2008 at 10:24 am

Meow,

Although I understand where you are coming from with your comments, negative and insulting comments will not endear the Deaf Community to those who support CI and AVT therapy to the exclusion of ASL, nor to the new parents who know nothing about Deaf people, Deaf Culture nor ASL.

It is our responsibility to educate and dialogue on a positive note. Sure, heated debates and fights will occur, but we need to take the high road and argue the issues rather than attack on a personal level.

Rachel and Melissa,

I don’t agree with the axiom that Deaf children who have CI and AVT THERAPY don’t need ASL. This perspective bespeaks of a monolingual mindset. It is always better to be bilingual or even trilingual, and so on forth. (I will expand on this on my blog/vlog at a later date.)

There are success stories with CI, but there are also quite a few stories of children who did and do not benefit from CI and AVT therapy that excludes ASL. It is the latter that is being swept under the rug. This is not being acknowledged by the AVT proponents, just as proponents of oralism in the past have denied the evidence that oralism has harmed, and continue to harm Deaf children.

All I have seen on this blog are success stories. While I acknowledge this is Rachel’s blog and she can decide whatever she includes in her blog, I feel this is like propaganda, and free advertisement for the CI companies. It is my perspective that this blog perpetuates the myth that people can be “former deaf babies”. One can NEVER become Hearing. They are DEAF, with or without the CI technology.

What I would like to see is balance. Rachel, I would like to see stories of Deaf people who have NOT benefited from CI, and what happens to them. New parents of Deaf babies benefit from more complete information (pros and cons)rather than propaganda that oralism or AVT is the way to go. See Barb DiGi’s vlog about her 93-year grandmother’s sorrow. This is precisely what happens with so many families even to this day.

Rachel, while I congratulate you on your learning French as a second language, I challenge you to take ASL courses. This will only benefit you in that you would be trilingual, and help you walk a mile in ASL Deaf people’s shoes.

I know you have said you have no desire to learn ASL. What I don’t understand is why, when you are so willing to learn other languages? This is just my curiosity speaking. Is it because you don’t view ASL as a language? What is it about this particular language that turns you off?

Shel

Rachel

May 24, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Shel,

There is only so much that I can do in my life that I have to make choices based on what I desire to do the most and what would be most beneficial to my life. I have so much more desire to learn other foreign languages such as Spanish and Chinese because I feel that they will be more beneficial to my career and my personal life as I would like to go into a journalism career, and I love traveling abroad. So, I would like to broaden my communications with other countries around the world.

I feel that if I learn ASL, I would rarely use it as I come across only perhaps one person using ASL once a year, or even less. I know that I could join the deaf culture and use it, but it’s just not my priority right now.

Concerning my blog showing only success stories – This is not propaganda nor free advertisement for the CI companies. The purpose of presenting CI success stories is, first, to let parents of newly diagnosed deaf babies know what is possible for their children with CIs as long as they are involved with their children’s lives and correctly use the AV approach or whatever other methods they choose to use, and, second, to counter claims by some that the CI is not an effective technology. These stories also show that deaf children CAN be raised successfully without the use of ASL. It is also to counter the claims of some deaf psychologists and others that CI users who were raised the auditory-oral approach or with the AV approach have very good self-esteem and that they’re not feeling that something is missing because they don’t know ASL.

While I present the success stories, I present information on how to raise a successful CI user who is raised with the AV approach by having an AVT section on my site – http://cochlearimplantonline.com/index2.php?auditory That is also why I brought in Elizabeth as another blogger on my site so that she can provide parents with information about AVT and oral deaf education.

CI and AVT/Oral success stories are not unusual today as I have met hundreds over the years at CI conventions, schools that have oral programs, AV centers, and any other AVT/CI/Oral related events. Just visit one of these places to see them. The unsuccessful stories that you are noticing are most likely due to lack of parental involvement.

Rachel

May 24, 2008 at 1:39 pm

“I don’t agree with the axiom that Deaf children who have CI and AVT THERAPY don’t need ASL. This perspective bespeaks of a monolingual mindset. It is always better to be bilingual or even trilingual, and so on forth. (I will expand on this on my blog/vlog at a later date.)”

Parents choosing to raise their deaf children with CIs and AVT does not mean that they discourage their children from being bilingual or multilingual. They can be bilingual or multilingual by learning other spoken foreign languages such as Spanish, Chinese, French and others as they can hear and speak. Here’s an entry about two CI users who are being raised with the AV approach and are learning more than one spoken language – http://cochlearimplantonline.com/blog/?p=113

To be bilingual, it does not have to be English and ASL. It can be English and French or English and Chinese or whatever. Choosing which languages to learn should be a personal choice.

Just a mom to three boys

May 24, 2008 at 7:15 pm

Shel,

I don’t see other sites showing negative sides of their favored approach either. It does go both ways. The only thing close that I have seen is Jamie Burke’s post on the test scores in schools for the deaf.

The AV therapists I know are not allowing children to become what some are terming ” av failures”. Just as any approach if it’s not working for a child, they want the child to have language, period. At that point families are aided in finding a more appropriate approach. We’re not talking 4 years in and oops your child isn’t cutting it. The children in the Center we attend begin as babies/toddlers. They are not coming in as school age children going to AV therapy. It just doesn’t work that way. These therapists are so highly trained and evaluating every week. They know within months if the approach is working for a child. Rachel is a product of being a young child who benefitted from AV. She didn’t begin this as a Kindergartener. My son has had 4 years of AV training under his belt before he even sets foot in Kindergarten.

Just a mom to three boys

May 24, 2008 at 7:17 pm

I believe Rachel is communicating just fine with the Deaf culture she is around here through written English. It seems as if everyone from the DC can not nor will not accept that she doesn’t sign. The birthright of every person is language. Rachel has language. Why can’t this suffice?