The Sound of Silence
I have written six books and following a one-and-a-half-hour interview with a new friend and neighbour curious about the challenges of educating the deaf, he suggested I write a seventh on this subject. This may not develop into a book but I feel you are in for an interesting story even if you think you know the story of Michael Scott.
Paul D. Scott
Unlike to-day’s society, sixty years ago, young people completing high school and not destined for a higher education would leave home and get married, usually to their high school sweetheart. In our case, I married my high school sweetheart of about 5 years. Joan was a petite 5 foot two and with the most beautiful blue eyes. I was two and a half years older and had been working since my father removed me from school mid term in grade ten for a life of sales, manufacturing and entrepreneurship in many fields of endeavour. I was into my third job since leaving school and six months after our wedding day was given a promotion to a sales position in northern Ontario. My company was a very large housewares and hardware manufacturer with six plants in Canada. Sales people with potential were sent to the barren north to be tested for future advancement. As newlyweds, we were given the choice of Sudbury or Sault Ste. Marie. We chose Sudbury as it was much closer to our family and friends in southern Ontario. This choice made the job a bit harder as my territory extended west to the Manitoba border. Long drives and away from home for weeks at a time were not easy for either of us.
We survived by making new friends and I thank God for directing us to a small but active Baptist church where we met what has turned out to be many lifetime friends. For more and more Canadians to-day the church is not the center of a social life like it was for us years ago. I am not sure how we could have survived without our fellowship within that small church. Some of our friends are dead now. Others have travelled thousands of miles to share with us special occasions. We in turn have reciprocated. As Sudbury was the training ground for many large companies, the soil was fertile for meeting like minded, same aged friends. One couple that figured prominently in our early years in Sudbury were Norma and Russ. They were about ten years our senior and had two beautiful daughters that were about 8 and 10 years old. Russ was the art director for the local newspaper owned by his brother and we had some fine times together over the years. Our first meeting was at the church where we were asked for lunch after the service. Norma apologised when she found she had very little in the pantry. A slice of white bread and a hot dog wiener was the choice of the day and it was fantastic that these people could be so relaxed about it all, certainly not at all like stogy old southern Ontario.
We were so impressed that we continued this tradition when bringing other couples to our home for lunch after church. Our friends were equally taken with “humble hosting” and did it also; of course, it also helped because in those days the cupboard wasn’t always full. I think we managed a bit of butter and French’s mustard.
Time passed and our son Michael was 11 months old and as far as we knew he was a healthy little baby, but was he? Norma and Russ were not sure. Being parents, they had a far better idea as to how a normal child should act and re-act. They were concerned that Michael might have a hearing problem. A sinking feeling came over me as I feared the worst and after we did all we could to check this dear little baby, we were all in agreement that there was a problem. Michael was asleep in his crib so we went to his bedside and called his name in a normal voice, then louder, nothing, we got a pot from the kitchen and hammered a spoon to it as hard as we could with no reaction. This ten-minute exercise would be the beginning of a new life for Joan and I that would never be normal again. Our friends left with a heavy heart and we were now at the beginning of a lifetime of struggle. We felt we were at the bottom of a deep gorge that would be insurmountable. It is good that we as humans do not have the ability to see into the future. I am sure if we were to see the future we would be in fear and trembling as to whether we would be up to all the challenges that lay ahead.
Our family doctor would be the first call and that was the beginning of a whirlwind of doctors, specialists, hospitals and clinics, all leaving us with the same answers that we had a deaf child and there was nothing that would change this. Live with it and follow the rules set out by the system. It was evident to us at the time that there were no rules. All the government authorities, health, education, social services were next to useless. However, it took years to come to this conclusion and as I sit writing this story almost 60 years later, very little has changed.
Visualize this for a moment, I can see the picture in my mind’s eye as if it were taken yesterday. A small classroom with 6 or 8 desks and sitting at these desks are two and three-year-old children. Quite obviously, these babies had been disciplined to sit erect and show the parents that progress was being made. They were not being natural like other kids and having some fun. The teaching method for these deaf children was simple, take advantage of their residual hearing and try to get the babies to duplicate your noises.
Attached to the child’s chest was a bulky hearing aid, sometimes two if the parent could afford it. Loud speech and form words on your lips to display language, place the child’s fingers on your neck at the side under the chin to feel vibrations. Hopefully doing this the child would then try to duplicate a similar noise and words would be formed through their vocal chords. Not surprising, this rarely produced any satisfactory results.
Finger spelling and signs were forbidden in Ontario Schools for the Deaf for many years. Just imagine never hearing anything from birth and trying to comprehend speech and language at any age let alone these children were expected to learn at the age of 2 and 3 years old. RIDICULOUS and ARCHAIC!! Hind sight should have told us to not waste our time or depend on these so-called professionals for they knew nothing more than we did about educating deaf children. We were now the proud parents of two deaf boys. We were advised by our doctor that there was not a chance in a million that we would have another deaf child, so we were encouraged to have more children to help our Michael in his struggle with this handicap. The good Lord does know better than we mortals as being two deaf brothers has been a true blessing for them.
My job was not at all helpful to the situation as I was on the road three weeks out of five weeks and week-ends were the only time I could be of any help to Joan. We made sure she had wheels and we were so lucky to have made new friends in a couple from Calgary. June became a second mother to the boys and we found her to be a true friend in those difficult learning months.
Money was hard to come by. We were back depending on one pay cheque and in a new house that was purchased entirely through Joan’s income as a legal secretary for the few months before our first born. A car was a necessity as our home was typically in the suburbs of Sudbury proper. We struggled to purchase a 1950 English Morris Oxford car that was as heavy as a tank. Snow tires were out of the question and Joan was the only one that could start it by wiggling wires under the Bonnet. We were a 2-car family in a new home and with no money and two demanding deaf children. Oh, and a dog as well! Our circumstances dictated that we had to make a move to a more suitable location and job and be closer to our family as family support would be so important especially looking forward.
The Big Move
For the early 60’s a pay cheque of $8,000.00 per year was about average for an up and coming young family: however, I had to pay all my travel expenses out of this amount. I tried to keep my expenses to a minimum but I was living in hotel rooms 3 weeks out of 5. Many of my haunts were rather seedy but $2.75 per night sometimes including breakfast was what I had for a budget. It was hard to keep the expense account at $4,000.00 per year often leaving me under $3,500.00 a year to raise a family.
I knew I was being shafted by my employer especially when I was the top salesman in the country and working one of the most difficult territories. Things came to a head in 1962 at the year end sales meeting in Toronto. I had just come off a banner year outstripping my sales quotas and still not able to sustain myself financially. I just up and quit my job and with nothing behind me except my loyal wife, I returned to Sudbury jobless. No one in his right mind would do such a thing in the middle of winter in Sudbury with not a penny to back up such a foolish move. We had a new house to sell and a family to get to a better place and soon. I did manage to land a new job that suited me much better and my new boss and mentor saved me from borrowing $100.00 to move ourselves in a rental truck as he paid for a professional move. We settled into a brand new three-bedroom apt. in Etobicoke for the reasonable rent of $135.00 per month. This was a relief for us all and now we could pursue a better life and education for our boys.
I threw myself into my new job and Joan the same by getting connected to the Sick Kids Hospital in downtown Toronto. She started by taking Michael and Richard downtown once a week on the bus and subway for therapy and instruction but the rules were the same as in Sudbury for teaching and the poor teachers were not able to stray from the crazy curriculum. It was as frustrating for them as it was for the parents and especially the children.
It was now time to enroll our guys into a proper school environment and because we were just inside the city of Toronto boundaries, they could attend the Davisville school for the deaf in downtown Toronto. This was not a residential school so the boys were bussed back and forth daily.
The Davisville school was a small two-story building and was to service the deaf community of Toronto only. If you were living just outside of the city boundaries no matter how inconvenient it would be, your child went to Belleville which for many years serviced all the rest of the province and it was a residential school.
In June, along with the report cards was a notice attached to Michael’s saying that he was not going to be welcome for further studies at Davisville in September and further contact would be forthcoming to advise us where he would be housed.
Stormy days ahead
Further follow up calls revealed that the plan was for Richard to continue at Davisville and because Michael was not performing up to the standards set by the principal, Miss Grant, he would be transferred to one of the three hospitals in our area for the MENTALLY RETARDED.
These were fighting words and we were sure that our son while being deaf, might have some additional problems, but was not a candidate for a mental hospital. Joan declared “He will go to a Mental Hospital over my dead body” and her fight started.
Tests were on going at sick kids and more in-depth tests indicated that Michael might have a perceptual problem but this was something we were not familiar with and more tests had to be made. Miss Grant dug in her heels and was determined to put our child away from society. The Toronto board of education, (yes, the same one that recently has had a child molester as it’s head and our present premier Wynne prior to that,) concurred with this slug of an educator and so we now had a battle royal on our hands.
I was consumed with making sure my new job was secure and so all my efforts had to do with that. Joan turned her unknown talents to the phone and writing letters for the next three months until we resolved this horrible misguided bunch of bureaucrats.
During this period I was struck down with a terrible car accident that came close to taking my life. I was hospitalized for five weeks and Joan found that she was unable to take any more stress and was my hospital mate for a couple of weeks with a nervous breakdown. My new employer, John A. McMaster, mentor and good friend was very patient and held my job until I could work again. Government idiots changed some laws for a period of six months during this time and I was unable, due to a technicality to sue and so was left penniless once again. We had to lease a car until we were back on our feet.
Side line – comments - regarding Ontario Education
About ten years after our close call with the Mental Hospitals, there was a big expose at the Orillia hospital originally called the “Orillia Asylum for Idiots” circa 1931. NEWS FLASH, Huronia Regional Center in Orillia. It has been revealed that over 40 of the patients were found to have no mental problems at all, the reason for their incarceration was they were deaf and no other storage facility could be found. In 1960, Pierre Berton revealed that terrible acts of sex and physical abuse were perpetrated on patients at this facility by staff. To this date even a personal promise in 2013 by our present premier Kathleen Wynne to have inquiries made, have never been done. Even after this revelation 3 years before, this witch, Miss Grant was sending children off to this Auschwitz of Ontario, just because she wanted a near perfect record of graduates that could go for further education at Gallaudet College in Washington DC. What a scandal, that has never been properly revealed and probably never will. Our federal government has spent hundreds of millions of our tax money appeasing our native folk and Japanese during WW2 and Gays and Lesbians just recently, while handicapped citizens are left out in the cold. Perhaps if our educational system were better at teaching them to communicate, they would have had a better chance of getting treated with some respect. The smart money says that Ms. Wynne will be closing 3 schools for the deaf after 2018. Two are multi million dollar relatively new schools in London and Milton and one is in the Ottawa district. Instead of creating better ways of teaching challenged students, educators are still to this day storing kids away and giving them false hope that they are going to be smarter when they graduate. If the methods we have in our curriculum don’t work, find an empty building and create a new lower standard so that the students when turned out into the world will have a lesser chance of being all they can be. Put new - wet behind the ears student teachers in these storage barns and push the kids through with a false security of being educated. Nothing has changed except all the mental hospitals are closed and now all the schools for the deaf will be gone and parents and deaf children will be treated no different than 60 years ago. The schools will be required to take these deaf children into the regular classroom thus putting more pressure on the teachers and watering down the quality of education for both deaf and hearing students.
I know that I am not normal as the world turns and as I am far too old and tired to do much about the unfair treatment many parents of handicapped children must endure. I find my way of release is by writing about it. Awareness is a start to change. Over the years we have come to accept our challenges and look upon them as a blessing that few are given. So often in the past have we come close to giving up and wondered why God put this burden on us. We felt so inadequate, but giving up was not an option and so now when we see the folly of our grandson’s decisions, we feel we must be the same old pests that we have been for many years.
Finally, by the end of September in 1965 Michael was accepted at Belleville to go into residence for further education. Richard was at Davisville and the boys were again separated from one another and Michael from his Mom and Dad.
Remembering back to that fall day in 1965 when we were to take our dear frail little boy to his first day of school: There would be many agonizing days far away in a strange land with strange people. There was no way for us to warn or comfort our son of the traumatic day and future he was about to experience. His comprehension was entirely through his ability to read into your facial and body language and at the age of 5 years that talent was only just burgeoning. After what seemed to be an eternity, the drive was over and the tough part was upon us. We were met outside on the lawn of this ancient establishment. It had lush lawns and stately old stone buildings. Quite a grand old place but to a small child (overwhelming). Michael knew something was afoot and held our hands as tight as a little boy could. He was not going to let go. He was traumatised after my accident when he was farmed off to grandparents for many weeks while we were re-cooperating. His grandparents were strangers to him having not seen much of them while living in the north. He was not going to lose us again. But yes, he was, and it was killing us both inside. The woman smiled sweetly and then we had to hand our boy over to a stranger for a minimum of eight weeks. These were the government rules and not to be broken. Break the child, break the parents but do not under any circumstances, break the government rules. As soon as we forced our hands away from our boy he knew and knowing began to cry. We were advised to leave quickly. No long drawn out hugs but a sudden departure on our part and then the realization of the cruel and heartless way this was done.
When dealing with experts in their field and educated professionals, you are assuming their training has taken into consideration all the human factors as well as the practical side of the equation. I am convinced they do not. Joan returned to Toronto on the train and I made my way off to Ottawa on a selling mission. We both shed many a tear on those two journeys. My mind was far from where it should have been that week, selling a new product to new customers that had never heard of me or my product. I was only thinking of seeing my boy one more time before the Christmas holidays when he would return to Toronto by train for the holiday break. It was not to be.
I realised as soon as I drove up the long driveway that I stood very little chance of seeing Michael. The administration people would probably be sticky about giving directions to his classroom or dorm, and the school facility was far too vast to start looking on my own so in vain I asked to see him. Yes Mr. Scott, if you look out the lobby window you will see children playing over at the far building. He is with those kids but I must warn you, do not try to go over there. I would not want your son to see you in trouble with security. He has only just stopped crying this morning. My drive back to Toronto was much the same as to Ottawa three days before, very sad and teary. Doubts as to whether we had done the right thing were whirling through my head. What were our options? We seemed to have none.
Christmas seemed to take for ever to arrive. We were all so anxious for Michael’s return, not least of all his little brother Richard. The escort teacher on the train from Belleville to Toronto explained that this was a very traumatic trip for Michael as no one still could converse with our son to explain the reason for the trip. It might as well have been a trip to a concentration camp as far as this little fellow knew.
Our boys were always able to converse with one another as they had developed a special language that only a few people have, telepathic communication is being clairvoyant, psychic or telekinetic all meaning that you don’t need speech or hearing but you understand your friend who must have the same gift through mind thought transfer. Joan’s mother also had that talent and was shunned by our boys while in conversation together. They were surprised that Elsie could converse with them in this manner. They learned to accept her.
Christmas was over and a return to the real world where nothing was changed except to make Michael a little more at peace we drove him back to his school friends and the horrible routine of trying to learn with none of the tools needed. It was clear to us that if we were going to have any kind of normal family life, we were going to have to make some drastic changes so that we would eventually be four in one house.
Joan now had the task of arranging for Michael and Richard to be transferred to one single school. Ernest C. Drury school for the deaf was completed and would be ready for our boys and so many more children with multiple handicaps, deafness being the prime one. You had to be deaf first and that would allow you to go to school there even with other problems and handicaps. Don Kennedy was the administrator and well suited to his new job. A very kind and compassionate fellow that was a pleasure to know.
We had moved into a new home in Etobicoke that was just on the border of Mississauga. I had ordered enough business cards to last at least 10 years as we had extended ourselves way out thinking that this was to be our last home for awhile. Within eight months we were on the move again to the small town of Milton. Again, the rules were that the boys were to be in residence for at least 3 years, we could not have them home with us except on week-ends and holidays. The move to Milton meant that I would have a long commute almost daily to the city where most of my customers were located, but when the rules were slackened a bit after their first year, the boys could live at home and walk to school. We had this to look forward to and so purchased a very large 5-bedroom house on the main street with an extra acre of land for the boys to play. We were finally settled for some time into the future.
The next phase
Getting settled physically was great but still problems seemed to follow us around. Life was much easier for the family at large but the commute for me was tiring and often I would be late for my evening meal. At some point during this time frame we saw that there was a need for more input regarding the decisions made by the school authorities. Too often we parents will sit back and think that the professional educators know what is best for our kids. But human nature being what it is, many times the decisions are not made for the benefit of the child but for the profession. All the ranting and raving we as a couple made, (some of the teachers commented that the walls would shake when Joan and I entered the school building,) fell on deaf ears, no pun intended. We needed more support to further our cause and improve the quality of education for all the silent children that to this point had few spokesmen to plead their case. We were aware of parent’s groups of deaf and hard of hearing children in Toronto. Many times, we would encounter their rant against Total Communication. The loudest cries were from parent of hard of hearing children that had some residual hearing and functioned quite well under the present system. Many of these folks were not comfortable seeing their kids communicating with signs and or finger spelling. This may have been embarrassing for them. Our group, if we could get it established would be advocating a total change in the curriculum, a change to Total communication using residual hearing, finger spelling, signing and a 2X4 if need be. Any means to penetrate that wall of silence.
Most of the parents in our rural community were simple hard-working people that were having a tough time coping with day to day life. Many of the children were from broken homes and that made our project even more difficult. Many of the parent had no interest once their children were away and being cared for by the state. Having experienced these kinds of parents and seeing how many parents can divorce themselves from their kids if the government is willing to remove this difficult child from the house and their responsibility, is this not the same as our native parents many years ago, letting the church and the government take the responsibility for the unwanted. We taxpayers are paying not only for the government’s mistakes but for the irresponsible parent of these sad lives.
“The Halton and Peel Association for the Deaf” was formed and immediately got busy with a myriad of projects at hand with the end goal, bringing total communication to Ontario schools for the deaf. Our group was small when you realised that just a very few were doing the work for a much larger membership. That was OK because we now had a name and a purpose. Like with all special interest groups, if you want to make a point, money is a great persuader. We had none, even getting membership dues paid was a challenge and many of our members just did not have it to give. Handicapped and disabled children are born into all classes, rich or poor, well educated or not. Unfortunately, most of our membership came from the latter class which put a large burden on a very small group.
Money matters - and the story of Bob Rumball
Unfortunately, if you have a cause no matter how well serving it may be, and no money to help get your story to the public, you have a slim if not an impossible task. Jesus Christ was the only true success at getting his story out with out spending money. So far as I know, no one in our small group had any divine powers and certainly we had no high-profile benefactors. Hard work and perseverance were going to be the order of the day if we were going to accomplish our goals.
My friend Bob Rumball was in downtown Toronto in an old United church on Wellesley street just east of Yonge street. Bob had been asked to speak as a guest speaker, this was the church for the deaf, he had an interpreter. He was asked if he would take the church over as the minister was on his way to the Caribbean to establish the first church for the deaf down there. He agreed and learned to sign quickly because as he said, he wanted his audience to be watching him and not the interpreter. I dropped in quite frequently for a visit as my club was a block away on Dundonald street. This was in the mid 70’s, just as Bob was planning his move. He told me of his plans and I was very impressed. I wish I had made more of an attempt to make Bob a closer friend. I found him to be a bit distant and realized many years later that he had few personal friends outside the deaf community. I think that I was one of the first to hear about the birth of what would be one of the most fantastic stories of determination and will to help a needy group of under supported citizens in Canada. Bob had started the camp for the deaf in 1960 in the Parry Sound area and by the 70’s was ready to spread his wings from his church in Toronto to a facility that in any one’s eyes is no less than spectacular.
He found an estate just north of Sunnybrook hospital on Bayview Ave. Bob knew this was the site for his dream and knocked on the door and after introducing himself, he said, I want to buy this property. He was willing to pay $6,000.000. The owner said, but it is not for sale. Bob said, some day it will be and my offer stands. Sometime passed and Bob got a call, I will sell my property to you but I want $9,000.000. Bob agreed and went straight to the bank and borrowed the full amount and made the deal. Now you and I would have difficulty selling this story but Bob had been a pro football player for the Argos and had some wealth and exposure in Toronto which gave him immense credibility. As Con Smyth was Bob’s neighbour in Caledon, north west of Toronto, he hit Con. up for some financial support and off they flew with the help of Harold Ballard and that great wrestler Whipper Billy Watson. Bob wanted to go slow and build as he felt within his financial limits but Smyth had other more grandiose idea. Bob agreed and more and more money came flowing in from all of Smyth’s friends. Pressure was put on government and financial institutions and private sources and so a miracle was born. As Con would say to Bob, “it’s just the stroke of a pen away”.
Halton and Peel Association for the Deaf was also a contributor to this fine cause. Our challenge was now clear. Now how were we going to be involved. Rumball was involved in Milton with a farm just north of the town, it was set up and run by the Dueck family who had three deaf children of their own and any number of deaf or multi handicapped homeless children to whom they gave a loving home. They were members of our group and always needed something for their home or the farm. This could be our stimulus for raising money and finally we came up with a plan to hold a Walk-a-thon and a Swim-a-thon. Milton was a very small town in the 70’s and the school was a big boost to the economy of the region. Kids from the local schools would take part in a walk a thon and the students from the school for the deaf would use the Olympic pool at the school for a Swim a thon. We did not want the deaf kids on the highways and side roads as much as we were organised it would not be safe. The organisation of this event was enormous and Joan stepped up to the bar and did a marvellous job. As this was over 50 years ago my memory tells me that we did this at least twice but maybe three times. I do remember that we raised more than $40,000.00, which at that time was a lot of money. The farm for the deaf, the school and the new centre in Toronto all shared in the proceeds as well as two 16 MM films were professionally produced for distribution across Canada and parts of the USA. To our knowledge, we were the first to put out a public service TV ad, explaining some of the concerns of the deaf community.
My name is on the plaque hanging in the foyer of the centre on Bayview Ave. along with Con Smyth, banks and other notables. What a thrill to be a small part of such a great success story. I had a short visit with Bob at the camp just a few months before his death in 2016. He was 83 years old. He was a man’s man. Tough in his youth, not a large hulk of a guy but a man with a huge heart for the people that live in a world of silence. A football player that would pull an opponent up after he gave them a crushing tackle. He played the game hard but never on Sundays and when the Argos lost to their Montreal opponents on Sunday afternoon, he would smile and say I was preaching and you should have been there. Great men are not easy to find, Bob Rumball was part of my life and I was privileged to have had him as a friend.
More education but not too much learning
Our boys continued at the Ernest C. Drury school in Milton and were now finally living at home and walking to school daily. This was our plan for them and now we needed to get the curriculum updated to the 20th century. Our boys were not learning a language yet to our satisfaction but were now involved in learning social skills such as cooking and a trade. Richard was anxious to join the football team as the deaf really could play that game and win. They were tough and did well thus giving them a reason to have pride in their accomplishments. The leftist philosophy was starting to show its ugly head way back then when it was decided to drop football from the school program as it was felt that the boys might get injured. This was far too rough for these kids. It was a tough game especially for their opponents. Our guys were just fine thank you very much.
Richard was about to enter the Tool and Dye course as he was especially gifted in turning things out in the metal field but that course was cancelled for lack of funds. He had few other choices and ended up as a welder. Michael went into the woodworking field and upon graduation worked for a woodworking plant that we established and was a key employee, who could operate and fix all the machines, make the jigs and do all jobs when necessary. After we sold the business it lasted only 9 months and left us with worthless paper and Michael unemployed. For the past 31 years he has been underemployed working on a Sticker, after leaving our company following its bankruptcy.
Back to the story -We were becoming very frustrated that total communication was not coming into focus yet with the educators of our province. Michael only had a few years to go before his graduation and he was not learning a language or how to communicate. Once again, we stormed the walls of the school and demanded some action. When asked by the senior school principal, “just what do you expect from us Paul?” I almost lost it and pounded my fist on the desk demanding that they graduate my son with the ability to read and comprehend a newspaper. They were never able to fulfil my demands. We could correct one problem that the educators never seemed to fathom, that was that difficult students whether it be because of a learning disability or a discipline problem, these kids were bunched together and given the first-year teachers with no experience, rather than a seasoned teacher that was far better suited to teach these difficult students. Michael was separated from the disciplinary boys and given more experienced teachers going forward. It did help a bit.
One year after Michael finished school, Richard refused to attend the graduating program calling it a sham, he complained that finally in his last year, the school introduce signing and total communication. He complained that the grade 1 kids knew more than he did and that was not fair. Thousands of bright minds were denied a decent education, we have seen many of our boy’s friends enter the world without the tools to give them a life they were entitled to but denied by stupid educators that achieved only one thing in their lives, that being to reach the title of a “Peter principal” graduate. I have written about “The Peter Principal” and all it means is an individual has been promoted way beyond his or her ability in the job at hand.
Many of these boys were denied a full and happy life and had their lives snuffed out too early by not having the tools to live a normal life.
Michael and Richard have made a life for themselves and we have watched them get employment, marry fine deaf girls and raise two boys each to adulthood. Michael, the candidate for a life in a mental hospital paid his house mortgage years ago and has been a success financially without any monetary help from Mom and Dad or the government. Richard has done the same. Our grandsons are a delight to us and we are very proud of all four of them. They, by the way are hearing and are starting to take the burden from us in helping when needed with their parent’s special needs.
Our boys were born deaf, they call it a nerve deafness and it cannot be treated. When the Cochlear implants were introduced in the early 1960’s they were very experimental and could create more problems than enough. By the seventies and early eighties, we asked our boys if we should look further into them having this operation. There was no hesitation, the answer was NO. We were not aware that the deaf have their own culture and a part of this is their language (signing). Our boys had entered that culture despite the educator’s reluctances in understanding the complexities of the deaf community and still not ready to bring signing into the schools for the deaf. As I write this piece in December of 2017 there are a total of 324,000 Cochlear implants in the world and in the USA 58,000 adult and 38,000 children with this procedure. We were told that our boys would not qualify for a Cochlear implant if they were born with nerve deafness. I am not sure to this day if that is true. As the procedure, bypasses the normal hearing mechanism and enters the nerve, it would make sense that if the nerve is damaged, this procedure would be unworkable. Many students that I have observed with Cochlear implants are doing well with good communicative speech and they seem happy although they do not receive all the information that four little hairs conduct in normal hearing. Some students need special help when detailed notes must be taken at lectures. Many in the deaf culture reject Cochlear implants as a rejection of their culture. They feel that being deaf is something to be proud of and is special. Getting a Cochlear implant means that you have rejected your culture. Others, the small (d) deaf integrate with both cultures, the hearing world and the non-hearing world. They sign as normal as they speak. Some have categorised deafness to
(D) profoundly deaf, no hearing at all in any range
(d) somewhat deaf but with a small amount of hearing in some ranges
(HH) some hearing but with difficulty
Total Communication simply means that everything comes into play and is acceptable to get the message conveyed; Residual hearing, signing, fingerspelling, facial expressions, body language, gestures and more are all used.
Don’t be hesitant to approach a deaf person. You will find that if you use all your skills they will be most patient and obliging. They will try to understand you and you will find that you will be less patient than they. A paper and pencil is the last resort and works very well in most cases except for those with a perceptual problem. Then the conversation slows down considerably.
This has been a story for the most part about Michael Scott, Michael, in addition to being as deaf as any tests have shown is also burdened with a problem many people have and that is to have a brain that is kind of equal on both sides. Reading SAW could be interpreted as WAS, 9 as 6, NO as ON. Being able to be left handed for some jobs and right handed for others. This is a mild form of perceptual handicap and can usually be dealt with.
However, as we were told, when Michael sees a written page, it is just a scramble of letters that make no sense. Therefore, his communication skills are not normal and why he has such a hard time in the hearing world. Michael is doing better now after over three months living with the heartache of having his wife of 23 years leave him and the two boys. Alex and Matthew are supporting him and helping in place of their mom. We ask that you join us and include this family in your Christmas prayers.
God is good.