The issue of understanding and determining where Deaf and hard of hearing children should fit in society is a very complex issue with a vast array of individual circumstances, which must each be considered. In fact, the term "deaf" has two distinct definitions. First, the word itself, "deaf," (with no capitalization) refers to the actual auditory deficiency. However, when it is written as "Deaf" (with a capital "d") it refers to either the Deaf community as a whole, or to an individual who associates herself with the Deaf community. Since people who are Deaf consider themselves to be part of a culture, even a mistake in capitalization can change the meaning of an entire text. Moreover, the term "hard of hearing" is never capitalized because it is not associated with a culture-it is simply a label used to describe a slight to moderate loss of hearing. Although these may seem like minor details unrelated to the issue at hand, it is imperative that they are understood in order to completely grasp the complexity of the issue.
The years that are spent in adolescence are filled with confusion and a roller coaster of emotions as everyone tries to fit in with the popular group and create an identity. Most people enter early adulthood and still have no idea who they are or where they belong in society. Ironically, if the child does manage to create an "identity" it is usually little more than a carbon copy of the child's group of friends. The term "individuality" is a terrifying word and it is easier for children to assimilate and become replicas of each other. Unfortunately, when a child suffers from late deafness, either due to illness or trauma, the task of creating an identity is even more complicated as they watch their world seem to turn upside down with very little warning. Suddenly they are caught between two different worlds…on one hand they have the hearing world which they have been a part of since birth, but they are no longer able to communicate with the people in that society like they used to. On the other hand, they have the Deaf community which is more than likely foreign to them, but yet they have something in common with the people in that community.
It becomes a very emotional topic for everyone involved because people do not realize that it can happen. The two most common causes for late deafness are meningitis and prolonged ear infections (Martin 6). This is especially frightening considering that "90% of children in the United States will have at least one ear infection before six years of age (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 1992)" (Martin 6). Although not all ear infections will lead to a permanent hearing loss, children with reoccurring ear infections run a much higher risk of permanent damage. Often the loss is gradual and may not even be detected until the child is experiencing significant delays in school. There are two opposing sides to this complex issue; both seem to have a good understanding of where the child belongs. The issue is not so much what to do with a child who has a late hearing loss, but rather, it poses the question, "does the change in one's ability to hear impact that person's identity and ability to function within the society in which that child has been raised?" Those who believe that losing one's hearing changes a person's identity and ability to function within society disagree with those in the Deaf community who believe that deafness does not change any aspect of a person, and in fact, it is something to be celebrated. In other words, while the people outside of Deaf culture focus on what they see as the problem, those that are a part of Deaf culture are focusing on the person as a whole. In order to better understand this conflict, one must examine each of the opposing sides and the fundamental beliefs that provide the framework and foundation for each argument. Once both sides have been considered, one can have a better understanding of why it is such a complicated issue to face.
The people who are not a part of the Deaf community are frightened by the thought of losing one of their senses. The very idea of waking up one morning and not being able to hear would be devastating to most people simply because of how deafness is viewed by the vast majority of society. People in the hearing world tend to focus on the hearing loss itself and use that as a basis for the three fundamental assumptions about the effect a hearing loss would have on a person's identity and ability to function in society. First and foremost, deafness is seen as a negative thing-an imperfection that should be corrected if the technology is available. Secondly, without the ability to hear, people fear that they will miss out on important things in life. Finally, regardless of whether a person associates with Deaf culture or not, they still must be able to function in a hearing society. One must look at each of these assumptions in depth in order to gain a better understanding of the position that is taken by people outside of the Deaf community.
When a child loses her hearing due to illness or injury, there is definitely a period of grieving that both the child and parents will go through until they are ready to accept the changes that are ahead of them. This grieving process is most noticeable in families in which most of the members are hearing because society has taught people that anyone who has a characteristic that sets them apart should still try to assimilate back into "regular society." Throughout history, any kind of difference is seen as an inconvenience and therefore needs to be corrected. In fact, in the early 17th century, Galileo writes to the Grand Duchess about the advancement of technology. He is careful to point out that God has given humans the ability to use reason, along with technology in order to better mankind (Galileo). His whole argument stems from the idea that if God did not want humanity to advance in technology He would not have given us the capacity to reason or analyze. Today, there are a number of different forms of technology that can assist those with a hearing loss. Assistive technology includes everything from traditional hearing aides and FM systems to the newest advancement-cochlear implants, which were first introduced in 1984. A cochlear implant is a two part device that is actually implanted into the cochlea of the ear where it sends electronic pulses through the cochlea to compensate for the damaged or missing hair cells that would normally be stimulated as a result of sound. The outer part of the implant attaches via a magnet to the part that was implanted inside of the skull. The outer portion is connected to a speech processor which receives the signals and actually produces the sound (Schwartz 42-43). Although the cochlear implant uses electronic signals to imitate the lost hair cells, even a person who has had the implant for a long period of time and understands how to use it properly will not have normal hearing. However, as time passes and technology continues to improve, the possibility of truly "recreating hearing" is not all that unrealistic.
Secondly, it seems like common sense to say that if a person is missing one of her senses she is going to miss out on some important things in everyday life. Many times younger children, especially if they are unaware that they have a hearing loss, will pretend to hear and simply try to lip read. Even if both parties in an exchange are aware of the hearing loss, many people think lip reading means the entire message is getting across. However, this is not the case at all. In fact, McCay Vernon and Jean Andrews estimate that only about one third of spoken language is visible on the lips (Schwartz 258). In addition, the shape of a person's mouth, the presence of facial hair, and the clarity of the pronunciation all play an important role in the success level of lip reading. Moreover, many times the speaker and the listener are not standing face to face which also makes it more difficult to follow the conversation simply by lip reading. Finally, since Deaf individuals need to be constantly watching the speaker, their eyes get tired faster than people's ears, so they are not able to maintain attention quite as long.
Another major problem with children who have a hearing loss at an early age is that they miss out on the constant auditory feedback and language models that hearing children receive (Schwartz 258). The language just is not there most of the time. Either parents do not know how to sign or they forget to sign as they speak. Either way, giving language to a child with a hearing loss is a proactive process that is not as inadvertent as it is with hearing children.
The potential significance of hearing for learning is suggested by John Locke's discussion of innate ideas in his work "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding." He believes that everyone is born without innate ideas, a condition he describes as having a "tabula rasa," or clean slate (Locke 60). Locke posits that a person is incapable of the process of thought without some kind of experience or some form of knowledge to think about. Furthermore, Locke believes that most of the ideas people have depend entirely on their senses and are therefore called sensation (61). Therefore, one could easily argue that a person who has a damaged sense (such as a hearing loss) would be at a huge disadvantage relative to others as she is not able to experience everything because of her diminished ability to hear.
Not only is deafness seen as a problem causing people to miss out on important events in life, but everyone must admit that they live in a hearing society. At all ages, the hearing population vastly outnumbers the Deaf and hard of hearing population. For the large number of people living with a hearing loss over the age of 65 it is safe to say that the loss was gradual and due primarily to aging. Deafness presents fewer challenges to the self-identity of this population. However, there are significant numbers of Deaf children and young adults in society as well. In her book, Choices in Deafness, Sue Schwartz says, "in order to function 'normally' we deaf people must be very observant" (257). That is to say that Deaf people must be aware of all of their surroundings at all times. In fact there is a large movement, especially with the new technological advances, to push for mainstreaming (putting Deaf students in regular hearing classrooms), as well as oralism (relying on speech and speech reading alone) (Schwartz 51-52). For most deaf individuals, living in a hearing society begins at home. Although many people outside of Deaf culture have a tendency to think that deafness is hereditary, 90 -95% of deaf children are born to hearing parents and, of course, late deafened children are most likely from hearing families (Padden and Humphries 5). Since this percentage is so high, parents have a natural reaction to not want their child to be different from them. A deaf child who is born to a hearing parent is far more likely to become assimilated into the hearing world more quickly than a deaf child born to Deaf parents. Parents dread dealing with the stereotypes and trying to overcome language and cultural barriers. Consequently, it is easier to give the child some sort of assistive technology and work with whatever residual hearing is left. The issue that most parents face is that they focus on the problem that their child does not have perfect hearing, hence they do not look at their child holistically. At times they forget that their child is a "child first and a child with a hearing loss second" (Schwartz 38). The biggest concern for parents with children with a hearing loss is how they are going to be able to function in the hearing world once they are out of school.
Although the hearing community has a valid point that losing the ability to hear will have some impact on a child's life, the Deaf community disagrees with the notion that a hearing loss changes a person's core identity and ability to function within society. For instance, think of the acorn…throughout its life, it is faced with constant, dramatic changes. It falls to the ground, is covered with dirt and finally breaks apart and a small, insignificant sprout emerges, which then slowly grows to become a strong and healthy tree. Others will call the acorn different names depending on what it looks like on the outside, yet at its core it always was and always will be an oak. Furthermore, the changes the acorn endures do not impact its ability to fulfill its purpose, its oakness. This is much like the human spirit. Throughout life, people are faced with constant challenges and outward appearances change in response to those circumstances. However, in the end, a person's core, her true identity, remains unchanged. It is only the outward identity, how others perceive her that modifies itself as time elapses. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton states in her work, Solitude of Self, "In youth our most bitter disappointments, our brightest hopes and ambitions, are known only to ourselves…there is something of every passion, in every situation, we conceal" (Stanton 100). Stanton understands the importance of knowing one's inner self and realizing that it does not change, regardless of what happens in life. She looks at individuals from a holistic perspective, much as the Deaf community does.
In order to better understand this idea of looking at a person holistically, one must first understand the three fundamental assumptions that create the foundation for the Deaf community's side of this issue. First, the Deaf community believes that Deafness is not something that is negative; rather, it is something to be celebrated. The second fundamental assumption for the Deaf community is that a person's ability to hear has nothing to do with any other aspects of life-they live by the saying, "I can do anything except hear". The final assumption for the Deaf community is that they have their own language, their own culture, and consequently, their own society.
Although the thought of a child losing the ability to hear is a scary thought for many parents, the first hurdle that must be overcome is the idea that deafness is a bad thing. People in the Deaf community have made it very clear that they are proud of who they are and are not ashamed of being Deaf. To them, it does not carry any stigma-it is something to be proud of and share with other people. They do not view themselves as damaged or even inferior to anyone else. The only difference is they are not able to hear as others do. In their book Deaf in America: Voices from a Culture, Carol Padden and Tom Humphries relate a number of first-hand accounts of Deaf culture from individuals who live through the experience of either being born deaf or losing the ability to hear later in life. A representative story concerns Howard who grew up in a family of Deaf people. Howard first realized he was Deaf at the age of six. His parents send him to a school for children who are Deaf and hard of hearing and, for the first time, the word "deaf" no longer meant "us;" it now meant "them, not like us" (Padden and Humphries17). Up until the age of six, Howard didn't realize that there could even be a negative connotation that went along with the word "deaf." This negative connotation only arises when people focus solely on the fact that deaf and hard of hearing people have an auditory discrepancy and they do not see the entire person for who they truly are. The Deaf community sees the discrepancy as being as insignificant as classifying a person by her hair or eye color.
What the Deaf are celebrating is the totality of the individual. What happens as a result of the individual's core self is a choice. The Renaissance intellectual Giovanni Pico, Count of Mirandola, discusses the ability to shape oneself in whatever way a person sees fit in his, "Oration on the Dignity of Man." Pico states, "Whatever seeds each man cultivates will grow to maturity and bear in him their own fruit" (Pico 255). He is convinced that humans have the ability to control their own destiny and how they are perceived by others. In fact, he compares a person to a chameleon that is able to change its outward appearance and adapt to ever changing surroundings (255). Only the individual knows what is underneath the ever-changing skin of the chameleon--the inner core that contains his or her destiny. For Pico, this core is the purpose of one's life rather than the initial or external entity-the oakness instead of the acorn. Therefore, Pico might argue that a person's deafness is not part of her core, but rather it is a part of her destiny or what she becomes. He would say that she was born with the both the seed to hear and the seed for deafness, but circumstances arose that cultivated the seed of deafness. Regardless of whether the outcome was with her at birth or it was to be acquired later, her core does not change.
Not only is Deafness something to be celebrated, it also does not interfere with any other aspect of life. That is to say that the ability to hear does not hinder a person from being successful in life. In fact, there are a number of influential people who have made a positive impact on society regardless of their inability to hear. For example, a child with a hearing loss often attempts to communicate proficiently in both English and American Sign Language. This means that the child is trying to excel as a bilingual student when her peers are struggling to be successful as English-only students. For years it was thought that because people were Deaf they were unable to speak and therefore were inferior to their hearing peers. However, as Sue Schwartz points out in her book, Choices in Deafness, many Deaf people are able to speak and simply choose not to. Most of the time this is because they are self-conscious and don't want to sound different from everyone else, so they just don't use their voices. Other people manage to become very skilled at lip reading and use their voices so much as to make others wonder if they are really Deaf (258-259). There is no correlation between a person's ability to hear and her cognitive ability.
In fact, there are hundreds of successful Deaf and hard of hearing adults who have managed to become contributing members of society. The magazine, The World Around Us is dedicated to publicizing stories about successful Deaf and hard of hearing children and adults in hopes of inspiring other Deaf children. For instance, the March-April 1997 issue of The World Around You included an interview with the performer CJ Jones who became Deaf as a result of spinal meningitis when he was seven years old. Ever since his first role at the age of six, Jones has been passionate about performing. After acting in and directing a number of more local plays, he moved on to try his luck in Hollywood. He broke into TV with his role on "A Different World." He has also done a lot of his own writing and is just waiting for his big break (1-2). In many ways, he is already an enormous success. Furthermore, in the September-October 1998 issue the editor interviewed John Stanton. In 1988, Stanton applied to college, hoping to impress the admissions office with his aspirations to become a Deaf lawyer. He was accepted and four years later went on to Georgetown Law School. He is now a successful lawyer at a very prestigious national law firm (1-2). He refused to let his inability to hear get in the way of his dreams. He relied on his ability to lip read and his speech to become successful.
The claim that Deafness does not affect other aspects of a person's life reiterates the fact that people must be looked at holistically. The philosophers of China believed in a holistic approach to finding the "Tao" or the way-the one true path in life. For example, the beliefs of Taoism featured the search for a sense of the ultimate reality. According to Lao Tzu, "reality, however designated, is One: it is an all-embracing unity from which nothing can be separated" (Blakney 29). Therefore, the ability to hear is not a separate aspect of a person. It remains a part of the unyielding whole of the individual but does not diminish the other aspects of the whole. Confucius further emphasizes this idea in The Analects of Confucius when he says "if you let yourself be distracted by minor considerations, nothing important will ever get finished" (Waley 175). That is to say, if people continue to look at the individual differences between each other, nothing will ever get done. People will be so caught up in trying to put labels on everything that they will disregard the plethora of similarities that are right in front of them. To the Deaf community, deafness itself is a "minor consideration" in the whole of an individual.
The final fundamental belief that supports the Deaf community's point of view is the conviction that the Deaf have their own culture and their own language. Even if people decide not to be a contributing member of the hearing society, they are still able to be a contributing member of the Deaf community. Nonetheless, there are some very distinct differences between the hearing community and the Deaf community that must be understood. For example, the Deaf community is a contact group of people meaning they employ a great deal of physical interaction. For example, the Deaf tap each other on the shoulder to get a person's attention and it is not uncommon for people who have just met to give each other a hug (Schwartz 260). In addition, Deaf people are very visual and very animated. They use their facial expressions and body language to convey nonverbal cues such as tone of voice and "volume" (Schwartz 260). Most importantly, the Deaf community is very close-knit. Once a person is introduced in a social setting, that person tends to become part of the social "extended family." Everyone is very accepting because each person knows what it feels like to be left on the outside. In Carol Padden's work "The Deaf Community and Deaf Culture," part of the American Deaf Culture Anthology, Padden points out that when Deaf people get together for a social event, they usually stay long after the party is over just conversing with one another (Padden 13). Especially in towns where there is a small Deaf population it is important to have a sense of camaraderie with others in the Deaf community.
Another important aspect of Deaf culture is the pride that Deaf people have in themselves and their culture. They are eager to share information about their culture with anyone who shows even the slightest interest. Deaf adults enjoy working with local school systems to mentor younger children. This can entail anything from coming in to tell stories to taking the students to a local Deaf club to socialize with other Deaf people. It is crucial for Deaf children to have role models who are fluent in American Sign Language to provide a proper language model. Another benefit to having Deaf adults come into the classroom is that it teaches the children that it is okay to be Deaf (Schwartz 260). Especially in a setting where the students are mainstreamed and therefore often not understood by their peers, it is important that they understand that the only difference between them and their peers is their auditory deficiency. It is particularly important for students who lose their hearing due to illness or trauma to realize they have not become different people. They are still fundamentally themselves; they must simply adjust to a difference in what they are able to hear. However, they are still "normal"-they are not stupid or inferior in any way.
Although both the hearing and the Deaf communities present valid arguments for why a late-deafened child should or should not be accepted into their community, the issue is not black and white. For some children, the idea of losing the ability to hear changes a person's identity and ability to function in society, while others seem to adapt to the change without allowing it to affect their identity. Since there are so many variables that must be considered when dealing with this issue, many professionals, including myself, agree that it is best to take a middle ground position and deal with the issue on an individual basis. There are three fundamental beliefs that are the foundation of the entire issue which specifically support those who chose to stand on the middle ground. In order to better understand the middle ground position, one must look at each of these beliefs in depth and understand their relevance to the issue at hand.
The most important assumption is that people have an innate need to feel accepted and part of a larger whole or society. Personality theorist Alfred Adler contended that human beings have an "urge to community" (Myers 337). There have been numerous studies that support this claim that humans benefit from social interaction and having a sense of belonging. Ironically, people often live under the impression that in order to be an individual and understand who they are, they must be a part of a larger group so they have others to compare themselves to (Myers 337). In addition, society is set up so that everyone is a part of many different groups. For example, each child is born into a family and is therefore automatically part of that larger whole. Once that child reaches the age of five, he or she is sent to school and is once more a part of another larger whole. The social makeup of the group is irrelevant, as long as the members feel as though they all belong. One of the most difficult times in life is the years during adolescence. Children are trying to deal with physical and emotional changes in life which force them to re-evaluate who they are and where they fit in society. Unfortunately, this process is complicated even further for those who suffer from late-deafness. Now, they must figure out which society they fit into. For some children, it is best to stay in the hearing world and learn to accommodate for their inability to hear. For other children, it is better to leave the hearing world and enter into the Deaf community. Either way, the important thing is that the child once again learns how to feel accepted and a part of a larger whole. Regardless of the group chosen for the child, it is through the constant interactions with others that people feel complete and happy.
Not only is it important for people to feel as though they belong to a larger whole, they must also feel as though they have a specific role within the group or community. Without a specific role, the feeling of being accepted is not possible. An ideal example of the division of roles among a whole is demonstrated in John of Salisbury's "The Body Social." He uses the analogy of the human body to explain where all of the different parts of community reside within the "body" of society. For example, he believes that the Prince is the head of the body, the senate fills the heart, and the husbandmen are the feet of the body (77). Without each member of society, the body would not be complete and therefore would not be able to properly function. Moreover, if people do not take their place in society seriously, they will damage the progress of society as a whole. Once again, differences among people do not matter because each person's role is specific and vital to the body. For example, if everyone were the same and played the role of the hands in society, what good would they be without the rest of the body? It is like the old saying, "a place for everything and everything in its place."
Anne Fadiman looks at the issue from a slightly different perspective. Fadiman's book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, relates the cultural difficulties encountered by a Hmong family in California who sought medical treatment for their epileptic daughter Lia while retaining their cultural practices of spirituality and healing. Fadiman describes the importance of figuring out the role of the doctors, as well as the role of the parents in the conflict between two cultures to save the life of a little girl. Unfortunately, western medicine contradicts many of the traditional practices of the Hmong culture. Yet, if the parents remained entirely immersed in their culture, their child would surely die. The question ultimately was is a life worth saving if the child would be dead in the eyes of the Hmong. As members of both the Hmong and American culture, the family had to decide to accept the roles of each culture to an extent. Both roles are important and therefore cannot be discounted. In Lia's life, both roles are a part of who she is and therefore must work together in order to be successful. In the same way, a child who is late-deafened is often seen as caught between two cultures-the hearing world and Deaf culture. To force the child to pretend that nothing has changed and continue in the hearing world is extremely difficult, even with the vast technological advances available. However, it is also unfair to utterly separate the child from the hearing world in which he or she was raised and expect him or her to flourish in a completely foreign Deaf culture. Therefore, many professionals believe that it is best to use a bi-bi (bi-lingual bi-cultural) philosophy, in which both English and American Sign Language are taught and both hearing and Deaf culture are valued. The child must allow the role of each culture to bend a little bit in order to gain the most benefit from each.
The final fundamental belief of the middle position is the most complex, and therefore, the most difficult to understand. The idea is that a person's core identity is constant, yet outwardly constantly adapting. That is to say, the circumstances are constantly changing, and people adapt to those changes, yet at the same time, each day they retain the definition of who they fundamentally are. In other words, no matter what happens in life, a person will always be himself or herself because it is simply impossible to be anyone else. Think back to the acorn…even in the midst of constant change, the core identity, the oakness, remained unshaken and unchanged. People are often shaped by events that occur in life-those events become a part of who they are-part of their outward identity. To better illustrate this point, one can look to B.F. Skinner and his theories on behavior as a result of conditioning. In his work, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, Skinner states, "the man that man has made is the product of culture that man has devised" (Skinner 189). This suggests that the events that occur in peoples' lives help to shape their identities, but not fundamentally change them. Skinner then goes on to say, "every cell in his body is a unique genetic product, as unique as that classic mark of individuality, the fingerprint. And even within the most regimented culture every personal history is unique" (189). Therefore, no matter what culture a person lives in, or enters into, that person will always remain the individual they were destined to be in life.
Kenneth Burke extends these ideas by describing the relationship between a person's life experiences and how that person both views the world and is viewed by the world. In his essay "Terministic Screens," Burke uses the analogy that everything that happens in life is like a screen through which people understand their present and define their future. Although Burke's screens are created through the language people use, the same concept applies to events in life. Burke states that language reflects, selects and deflects peoples' perceptions of others (Burke 45). By using certain words to describe something, people "color" how others perceive the topic being discussed. In other words, life is described using the screens, or linguistic labels, that a person sets up. For example, when someone looks at a child with a hearing loss, that person could see that child through a number of screens or use a number of labels to describe her. For example, the person might choose to use the term "girl," "young," "blonde," or even "hearing impaired." The "terministic screen" that the person uses to describe the child colors how the child is viewed by others; but it does not change the identity of the child. By looking through screens, people limit their ability to see the child holistically. As a result, the image of the child is tainted and the true identity-the core of the child is not adequately represented. Therefore, even though the screens of life are constantly changing and people adapt to those changes, the changing screens do not affect the individuality of the child.
Those who support Deaf culture have the right approach in that they are more willing to look at the child holistically and not simply focus on the labels given by the hearing world. However, one cannot deny the importance of the impact of the hearing world on the late deafened child. As Sue Schwartz states in Choices in Deafness, "Deaf people have the choice of shunning Deaf Culture and being only a member of the hearing world to the fullest extent it is possible for a deaf person to be…and we have the choice of being a member of both-which most of us are. As individuals, we can embrace Deaf Culture, become a part of it, share its richness, be proud of the accomplishments if d/Deaf people" (Schwartz 264). She reiterates the fact that it is ultimately up to the child as to where in society she fits, but at least she knows that an alteration in her ability to hear does not change her true identity.
What is more, Elizabeth Cady Stanton claims, "to throw obstacles in the way of a complete education is like putting out the eyes; to deny the rights of property, like cutting off the hands" (Stanton 101). She reaffirms that each person has the right to celebrate who they are and revel in power of being an individual who is equal to everyone else. She continues saying, "nothing strengthens the judgment and, quickens the conscience like individual responsibility; nothing adds such dignity to character as the recognition of one's self-sovereignty; the right to an equal place, everywhere conceded; a place earned by personal merit, not an artificial attainment by inheritance, wealth, family and position" (102). In essence, live life the way that you choose, but look at everything and everyone from a holistic point of view.
John Stuart Mill further supports the idea of free choice and taking the best from every point of view in his On Liberty and Utilitarianism. In fact his ideas so closely model Aristotle's goal of finding the golden mean that he is often referred to as the "Aristotle of the Victorian Age" (Mill 323). He celebrates differences of opinion but says that everyone has an equal right to believe as she chooses. Mill argues that if all the world minus one were to believe one way, those people would be no more justified to silence the one who opposed them, than that one would have the right to silence all of mankind (323). He goes on to say that the only way a person can assume to know the whole of any subject is to look at it from all angles and listen to persons from all points of view with every type of mind (328). Mill undeniably believed in looking at situations and people with a holistic point of view.
If a person honestly takes away all of the screens and labels that surround Deaf and hard of hearing children and simply looks at the entire child, she will notice a sense of belonging to the hearing society, as well as a deep seeded attachment to the Deaf community. A person does not have to be Deaf to be accepted into the Deaf community. However, when a child loses hearing, whether at birth or at the age of 17, it is important to surround her with role models who will supplement every aspect of her life. She needs both hearing and Deaf role models. It is important for such a child to know that, even though she is now able to identify with two different cultures, her innate self does not change. It is simply her outer being that is seen and labeled by others that adapts to the new circumstances of her life. A bi-lingual bi-cultural approach not only allows her the opportunity to look at herself holistically, but it helps her to celebrate her true identity as she sees fit. As Stanton states, "nature never repeats herself and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another" (100). Each child is unique from all of the others. As educators, it is our responsibility to embrace those differences as a part of a larger whole-the entire child. We need to stop creating labels and start looking at children. No two acorns will ever produce identical oak trees. Even though acorns-and children-may go through similar changes in life, the core essence of each is unique and invariable.