A debate that has raged (literally) for over a century centers on the best way for members of the Deaf community to communicate with the hearing population. Basically, the question is whether the Deaf should be encouraged and taught to use the communication system of the hearing world or to use a system that is unique to their own silent world. Those on one side, often referred to as “auditory/oral” advocates, argue that the Deaf would be given a greater handicap if they were not taught the communication system of the hearing world from a very young age. Those on the other side are typically referred to as advocates of “manual” or “total” communication. They argue that the communication systems of the hearing world, systems that are based on a spoken-auditory language like English, cannot be learned by deaf children during the crucial early developmental period in which fluent language learning occurs. Rather, visually based communication systems, such as American Sign Language (ASL), should be used instead and introduced at a very early age. The parents of deaf children, the majority of whom are not deaf, have to make a decision based on fragmented and polarized information - a decision that can have consequences for the rest of their children's lives.
Students will read selected material supporting arguments in favor of both the auditory/oral” and the “manual” communication systems. The intention of the reading list, lectures, and discussions will be to present information used in support of both the “auditory-oral” and the “manual” view. Ultimately, the student will be asked to state their personal views on this issue and, in the course of doing so, will learn how to support their opinions with factual information from the literature. During the course of this seminar, students will acquire knowledge and basic information about sound, hearing, speech, language, cognition and development, as well as clinical information about hearing impairment and prosthetic devices for the hearing impaired, including hearing aids and cochlear implants.