ERG SES C 09, Children and Education
In a time of transition for educational research, it becomes fundamental to cross boundaries and to approach areas that have been seen as “antagonists”: education sciences and health sciences. It is our aim to congregate these areas’ contributions towards our subject of study. The doctoral project we are developing is framed within Education Sciences, specifically Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.
Our general focus is cochlear implantation in prelingually deaf children, their (re)habilitation and education, this implying to approach the periods before and after the surgery.
According to Senghas and Monaghan (2002:70) “[p]relingual deafness refers to deafness that occurs prior to the individual’s acquisition of a first language and includes deafness at birth through 3 years”. This type of deafness, whether from birth or acquired, implies that children are deprived from hearing in a critical time for linguistic acquisition. Therefore, other ways than vocal or sound stimulation may be needed so that children can develop linguistic competences. This leads us to linguistic issues related to sign language and, further, the bilingual education for deaf.
Last decades’ technological development brought cochlear implants (CI) and other hearing aids which goal is to enable or restore deaf people’s hearing. Considered by some as an important medical and technological progress for the treatment of deafness as a hearing impairment, the CI is also seen as a new element of oppression of the Deaf Community, as a cultural and linguistic minority, that for centuries fought against oralist educational practices and policies.
Therefore, a great controversy emerges concerning deaf children implantation. Since the beginning of the 90’s, more and more babies have become implanted in Portugal and in other countries all over the world. Currently, in a worldwide perspective, babies with less than 12 months age are implanted and the numbers of implantation – from children to adults – raise above 200 000 people. The CI came to be seen as a kind “miracle restoring hearing to deaf children” (Hyde, Punch, & Komesaroff, 2010), not only by health professionals, but also by parents. This fits the medical model of deafness (Ladd, 2005; Lane, 2005; Senghas & Monaghan, 2002).
Although cochlear implantation has gradually become widespread and more accepted (even within Deaf Communities) some issues are still in discussion, as: ethical and moral issues around parents’ decision for cochlear implantation; cultural aspects involved in educational, linguistic and communicational choices for the children. Notwithstanding, other aspects remain obscure in the debates: funding of cochlear implantation by the national health systems; type of information and support given to parents before and after implantation; constitution of medical, rehabilitation and educational teams involved in implantation and follow-up; educational options for those children; implications of CI throughout the implanted person and its family lives. These are some issues we intend to approach and develop in our project, in order to know better our national reality and also to contribute to the international scientific literature about cochlear implants.
It is important to indicate that our perspective of deafness is framed within a socioantropological or sociocultural model of deafness (Bisol & Sperb, 2010; Emery 2009). This model sees deafness as a relationship and the deaf person is not seen as someone who possesses a handicap or a deficit. Our perspective is that deafness is a biological characteristic of human variability manifested through the sensory deprivation of hearing, but not a deficit or an abnormality. We also support the idea that sign language should be the first language of deaf people (Coelho, Amorim, & Mendes, 2012) and that bilingual education is, perhaps, the most reasonable proposal for deaf children, whether users or not of cochlear implants.
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