Hearing impairment not a learning barrier with current trends in deaf education
August 05, 2012
American deaf educator Scott Benson said he was born deaf, but gender stereotypes prevented an earlier diagnosis of his condition.
"My parents were told that boys develop slower than girls," Benson said of his initial visits to the doctor - in front of a capacity-filled audience at the University of the Cordilleras (UC) Auditorium last July 24, 2012.
Benson and co-educator Noralee Ortiz talked on "Trends in Deaf Education" before a combined audience of students, teachers and administrators from Baguio City universities including UC, as well as from the Easter School SPED and the Baguio School for the Deaf.
By the time he completed a series of tests, Benson said doctors have determined that "he had the walk of a deaf child" explaining that hearing loss affects ones sense of balance which is essentially controlled by fluids in the inner ear.
Finally he was told two things: that he had a "profound hearing problem" and the bombshell - that he can never acquire speech skills.
Benson, however, delivered his UC lecture using both speech and sign language. He said the development of these personal abilities has been the result of years of training and the involvement of his parents. "There was a summer program for parents with deaf children," he said. "Not only did my mother attend the program, she learned enough to become a teacher for the deaf."
Benson who continues to teach deaf students for the last 14 years and holds a Masters degree in Education major in special education, said early intervention can spell the difference in learning acquisition for children who are hearing impaired.
"Deafness is not the same as blindness or cognitive delay," he said. "The hearing impaired can have access to communication and thus can adapt to mainstream learning processes. Early intervention will provide parents the option to decide on communication approaches such as lip reading, a combination of voice and sign, or the American Sign Language."
He said once a person with hearing impairment acquires communication skills, "They are just as capable of learning as children without hearing problems." UC Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Cleofas M. Basaen said while the university has not had enrollees who are hearing impaired, UC has a team of faculty members who are capable of facilitating the learning needs of the hearing impaired.
Dr. Basaen who organized the forum together with UC's assistant vice president for Corporate Communications Engr. Aloysius C. Mapalo said UC's team of special education professors Michael James Abad, Dr. Rolando Mamaat, Dr.Constantino Narciso Sanchez, Eric Yang-ed and Giselle Balleser has been at work teaching education students in the baccalaureate program and in the graduate school the necessary skills to facilitate learning among differently- abled students including the hearing impaired.
She said UC has had a number of visually impaired students who have graduated through the university's inclusive education programs and policies. Ortiz, who holds a Masters degree in Mexican-American Studies, said she was impressed with the quality of deaf education in the Philippines.
She said she and Benson were able to watch President Aquino's State of the Nation Address and saw that there is a sign language interpreter at the bottom of the television screen. "We do not have that in the US," she said.
Having worked with children of Mexican immigrants who are hearing impaired Ortiz said a collaborative environment is essential in educating hearing impaired children. Ortiz who has volunteered to teach the deaf in Vietnam together with Benson said she saw in the Baguio School for the Deaf a sound "collaborative environment."
"The parents are involved and there is no language barrier," she said. "Everybody knows how to communicate using the sign language."
The technology of "assisted listening devices" has come a long way that even Benson has decided to finally take his hearing aid off in favor of a cochlear implant. "It (hearing aid) was good until I was about 40," he said.
He went through the procedure last December and found after that he has had to "learn a whole new world of sound." Benson said a cochlear implant delivers a "Dolby" audio system compared to a hearing aid. Unlike the hearing aid, he said, the implant allows him to follow where the sound is coming from.
The drawback in a cochlear implant is the cost. Benson says "it's like paying for two brand new BMWs." Government worker Louven Matib's son Darren Rei is one of two documented patients in Baguio City who has had cochlear implants.
He could not afford the procedure on government wages, thus he and his wife sought public and private assistance for their two year old son's cochlear implant. He said a doctor from the Philippine General Hospital performed the procedure and it was successful.
"When Darren heard the word 'hi' for the first time, his reaction was like touching a candle flame. He was that surprised," he said.
Matib said his son is now undertaking speech and occupational therapy and confirms that indeed his son could follow the direction of sounds. He said what pleases him is that Darren can now respond when his name is called. "That is the greatest reward," he said.