Dr. Heuer’s Letter to Indy Senators opposing HB1367

Heye all – there is a campaign to oppose Indiana HB 1367.  It unfathomably passed the House of Representatives after getting introduced by Rep. Noe who also serves on the ISD board (conflict of interest anyone) and is now before the Indiana Senate.  See past entries at People of the Eye (POTE blogsite here) for more info. and other letters folks have written.  In the past POTE has tried to house letters from the campaign to get Purple not to sponsor DVTV due to bullying and audism and with the letter writing campaign to AG Bell Association to stop sending unwanted and insulting temporary membership cards to teachers of the Deaf calling them “hearing specialists.”

We invite you to share your letters for Oppose HB1367 here so that folks who are not tweeters or FBers can easily find stuff.  Also check out Maisha’s blog for the updated #liesagbelltold me pix and text entries – Survivors Speak Out against Lies, Deception, and Misconceptions.  http://wheresmaisha.blogspot.com/2012/01/deaf-survivors-of-ag-bell-association.html

To have your Oppose 1367 letter (English and/or ASL) posted here – just drop it off (in full or as a link) in the comments or email me it to repost here.

Biggest thanks to Chris Heuer for creating and sharing his honest and articulate letter to the Indiana Senate via Deafecho and for his permission to reprint it here.


(posted at Deaf Echo on February 2, 2012)

Dear Senator:

My name is Dr. Christopher Jon Heuer, and my dissertation, professional research, and work all fall within the fields of literacy, language acquisition, and Deaf Education. HB 1367 will soon come before you for review. I hope you will consider my arguments against it and oppose it. At the very least, I urge you to demand FAR more investigation into it than has been made to date, and allow for an appropriate amount of time for all parties concerned to conduct such an investigation.

1) It makes far more fiscal sense to leave the outreach center where it is and either hire additional staff or make staffing adjustments that will address the concerns of bias being voiced by supporters of Hear Indiana than it does to establish an entirely new center. The former costs less, the latter may cost far more. Simple as that. If this argument is wrong, where is the detailed analysis, the detailed cost breakdown necessary to justify approval of a new center? To justify an investigation into the cost of establishing one is one thing. To approve the establishment of a new center without sufficient investigation into the matter is entirely another.

2) If you agree that the supporters of Hear Indiana have valid concerns about bias–if you agree that because the center is located on grounds occupied by people who strongly support ASL as the pathway to language acquisition, then the construction of a “neutral” center should ensure that NO approach is presented more strongly than any other. I will now attempt to show you why this is unlikely to happen:

a) Staffing – If a new “neutral” center is staffed by for example seven people, and only two are familiar with ASL, the other five, biased or not, are not in an equal position to inform parents about this option.

b) By default, medical approaches and oral approaches ALREADY stand at the forefront of available options. Ninety to ninety-five percent of parents of deaf children are themselves hearing. Ask yourselves what you would do if you discovered your child was deaf. Would you want him to be able to hear and speak, or would you want him to sign? (Or both?) Would you go to a doctor first or would you go to the deaf community first? I’ve been a member of the deaf community for decades, but I’m also the father of a four year old hearing child. Please bear with me… it’s crucial you understand this.

In a recent trip to the ENT, it was found that there might be issues with my son’s adnoids… a very common condition. One possible result, if not countered, could be the development of something called adnoid facies. I knew nothing about this so I looked it up. The website I first looked at is among one of the top ten listed in a google search under “adnoid facies.” This is some of the information listed:

• Eustachian blockage causing glue ear-deafness

• The deafness and inattentiveness interferes with the learning

• child grows with lowered intelligence and understanding

This information, provided by an ENT, is incorrect, and is misleading (most likely not deliberately, but it still is). Deafness does not interfere with learning or cause lowered intelligence or decreased understanding. If that were true, you would not be getting this letter at this level of discourse. Rather, a lack of language acquisition is what causes an interference with learning and subsequent lowered intelligence and lack of understanding.

But this distinction is not strictly a medical issue. It’s also an issue of one’s approach to providing a child with access to language. But how is a parent supposed to know this from reading medical literature and speaking with ENTs and the like alone? And in addition to that point, how likely is it that an ENT, trained in medicine, is going to know enough about the mechanics and specifics of language acquisition to suggest ASL or cued speech as a viable option (either independently or in conjunction with a medical or technological approach)? There is ignorance all around, and in some cases bias, as will be discussed below. The point here is that information about medical approaches to dealing with deafness is abound, as is information about technological approaches. Information on other approaches, including ASL, is not as widespread or supported in medical literature, which is likely to be the first type of literature parents investigate.

c) In addition to the argument above, my own research as well as testimonies by other parents (I will quote one such argument below) shed light on instances in which hearing parents of deaf children are told by medical professionals to not sign or cue to their children so that the child depends entirely on his or hear hearing aid or cochlear implant. Hear is a quote from one such article:

Just as cued speech and its purposes are misunderstood by many, ASL is also met with misconceptions and ignorance. I read through websites with outdated opinions that suggested that ASL will make a child “retarded,” or worse, suggested that deaf people already are mentally disadvantaged. Misleading literacy statistics don’t always point out that lower reading level abilities only reflect a person’s grasp of English, and have nothing to do with their mental capabilities or abilities to express themselves fully in their native language.

Another bias against ASL that we discovered was that it should only be used as a last resort if hearing aids, cochlear implants, and speech therapy do not work for a particular individual. Some attitudes we encountered regarded deaf schools and ASL as the final option, something to fall back on, rather than embrace up front. Much of this probably stems from doctors and audiologists; I “met” a woman online whose son was receiving sounds from his implant, but whose audiologist scolded them for signing and told them only to use it if the implant didn’t work. In the meantime, the child was at risk of losing valuable language-learning years.

In summary, the information I have provided you with should be more than sufficient support for the argument that HB1367 deserves far more investigation than it is getting. The approval of a new outreach center without proper and in-depth planning regarding how it will be staffed, what information it will provide, how it will provide it, and how the government of Indiana can ensure it is doing what it is supposed to be doing is not a good idea. I therefore urge you oppose this bill, demand sufficient investigation, and be perpetually on guard against future proposals such as HB1367 that do not adequately address the entirely reasonable and well-supported concerns I have outlined above.

Thank you for considering my arguments.


Christopher Jon Heuer, Ph.D.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dianrez
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 18:22:48

    Dear Senator;
    I am a Deaf professional, now retired, and have two grown children who are hearing and a Deaf son who is attending college at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in New York.
    When my son was born, since I have a master’s degree in counseling, I proceeded to do due diligence in finding an appropriate program for my son. I investigated four programs: two in hearing public schools, one in a nursery school through twelfth grade state-funded program for disabled children, and one in the local school for the deaf. I also explored what the University audiology department could do for us.
    I chose the school for the deaf. I recognized that they are the REAL experts. Both Deaf and Hearing professionals put my family and my son through parental support, home education, infant education, audiology services including fitting of aids, communication training, and schooling from age 3 months to age 18. I can wholeheartedly tell you that this was the best decision and I do not regret it for one second. Not only are staff at the School committed to their profession, they have a commitment to the community of deaf people at large and deep respect for Deaf adults. The staff at the other programs impressed me as superficially competent and committed: they work a 9 to 5 day and go home, responsibilities fully discharged and their work put away till the next day with no further thought. I wanted professionals who were concerned about the outcome of their work in the future Deaf adult.
    I am a Deaf person and this may seem like a bias to you, but I am also a product of the educational system. I personally experienced the weaknesses of the oral-auditory system and the language of signs, and the pitfalls of inappropriate education. I live in the Deaf community, so I personally know many who were failed by the system: most were confined to oral education until age 8 or so, and then taught academics, reading, content, and thinking skills. This is a very late age to begin, even age 7 is late. I have for twenty years counseled and tried to rehabilitate these people, but many of them were so far behind in schooling by age 18 to 22 that they could not compete in the workplace nor in higher education. This is an unacceptable situation and can be laid directly at the steps of the “pure oral” philosophy being applied to all students. It is my strong conviction that a combined approach FROM INFANCY is best for all children, with the most effective techniques emphasized later on as they become evident for each individual child. This is independent of whatever devices or surgery has been applied to the child.

    Here is a boilerplate letter from this point on, one that I completely agree with. Please review it again even if you have seen it before.
    The points are especially relevant to what you are doing.
    Please register my opposition to HB 1367 and Vote NO to this bill, rather than revamp or enhance already existing services at ISD’s Outreach. (Note: following is the standard letter that went to all House representatives, in part)

    I hope you will investigate House Bill 1367 deeply and listen to those of us that oppose it. Without justification based on facts, it takes a necessary service away from the ONLY state entity that is an expert in Deaf Education, the Indiana School for the Deaf, and gives OMB untrammeled discretion to set up a new agency at an unknown cost… all without having proven through official documentation that the existing entity isn’t doing the job that it was charged with. This bill is not a study. This bill is a predetermined action to dismantle services from ISD’s Outreach. It lacks transparency. It was created without Deaf professionals and Deaf people’s input. Once again For Deaf WITHOUT them. Please put the brakes on the bill. …(truncated for this blog)

  2. handeyes
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 18:31:24

    Awesome Dianrez

    would you like me to put it up in full as a separate entry as many folks dont read comments and so we can truly see how many POWERFUL independent and successful Deaf writers & thinkers are out there that AG Bell and co keep trying to portray as isolated and dependent

    let me know and if yes, pls send me the rest

    again biggest thanks



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