Establishing a sound foundation for children who are deaf or hard of hearing: Karl White at TEDxUSU

I’ve watched the following video a couple of times and I want to share it with you. However, I’m withholding my comments for the moment. I would really like to encourage you to watch it and leave your comments below. After a few comments, I will engage with you.

Before you watch the video, here’s a bit of what it’s about (taken from the YouTube description)…

Published on Dec 5, 2012
Over the past decade, tremendous progress has been made in ensuring that families have access to hearing screening when a baby is born. Approximately 95% of babies now receive a hearing screen shortly after birth. Now, greater emphasis must be placed on training early childhood education and health care providers.

Dr. Karl R. White is a Professor of Psychology at Utah State University and the founding Director of the National Center for Hearing Assessment and Management (NCHAM). Dr. White is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on early identification and treatment of hearing loss in infants and young children.

The video is about 18 minutes long — and I’m sure this will be controversial among the readers here. That’s fine with me. Enable CC on the video if you like. In addition, I’ve provided screen grabs of a few of the slides that Dr. White uses.










Please share your thoughts below but I have a few ground rules: 1) Treat Dr. White with respect and extend the benefit of the doubt, and 2) do the same with other commenters. In other words: keep it civil, mature, and fair.


This entry was posted in culture, technology, video. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Pingback: Establishing a sound foundation for children who are deaf or hard of hearing: Karl White at TEDxUSU. | Rob Williams - Strategist and Deaf Advocate()

  • Pingback: Establishing a sound foundation for children who are deaf or hard of hearing: Karl White at TEDxUSU. | Rob Williams - Strategist and Deaf Advocate()

  • Katie

    Hi Rob, interesting video!

    I can see why you think this video might be controversial – it seems anything that mentions cochlear implants as a viable option or discusses any approach to deafness other than 100% ASL is often seen as controversial. But I just can’t get onto the “controversial bandwagon” with this one. Dr. White’s point was to talk about providing access to language for deaf kids, and he did this very well.

    His point, as I understood it, was that the biggest difficulty parents face when their child is identified as deaf is that of learning to communicate. Parents are most often confused because they don’t know how to begin communicating with their child, and professionals don’t always know how to advise parents on how to do so. This is a very real and all too common problem that is very worthy of discussion.

    1) He started by mentioning ASL, and said that kids who use ASL, when given accessible and appropriate language models, “can communicate every bit as well as hearing people can communicate”. This is a very fair – and very true – statement.

    2) He also showed two boys who use cochlear implants speaking. These boys (just like the boys using ASL) showed us that when given accessible and appropriate language models (and, when appropriate, technology), kids with CIs can also communicate every bit as well as hearing people.

    I’m not sure if I’m reading too much into your warning, but if this was the controversy you were worried about, I don’t see it. The boys using ASL and those using English with the help of CIs were never compared. There was no “ASL/CIs are better/worse than…” rhetoric. This part of the talk, I believe, was handled very fairly.

    I do have an objection to the talk, though. Dr. White didn’t impress that the boys – both those who used ASL and those using CIs and spoken English – look (at least to me) to be exceptional examples. He mentioned that the boys using ASL have two ASL-using parents at home, but didn’t mention how difficult it is to learn and use ASL with a child when neither parent knows the system. He didn’t mention that CIs require an extensive amount of work, both on the part of the child AND his parents, to be used as well as the boys we saw were using them. We heard a girl talking who’s speech was incomprehensible. BUT, we didn’t hear why. Were her parents against her learning ASL? Were they not made aware of the amount of work that speaking/listening training involves? He also didn’t mention that this girl, unlike the boys from the movies, is the average (more common) example of what we often see regarding communication in deaf children. Parental education and involvement are paramount! The boys, both sets, clearly have exceptional parents.

    But Dr. White’s point that all babies should be screened for hearing loss is dead on. I agree that ALL babies should be screened. He continued saying that “the reason that most babies can speak at 12 to 15 months of age is because they’ve been listening to language for a year”. If a baby is denied these precious months of language acquisition (whether it be of spoken or signed language), his development will suffer. He said that by identifying hearing loss early, we can help kids “develop language and be able to communicate and become successful”. This, in my opinion, is NEVER a bad thing!

    In order to do so, Dr. White explained that early intervention (identification), exceptional education and appropriate technology should all be used. I was impressed that when talking about technology, he didn’t limit his discussion to CIs, but also talked about two way video conferencing and additional testing/screening methods. Far too often the word “technology” is used to be synonymous with “cochlear implants”. I’m very glad he didn’t do this. He concluded with two very important points: we should understand what’s possible when educating deaf children, and that deaf children (whether they sign or speak) can do everything that hearing children can do.

    I think it was a great talk that handled an often touchy subject fairly. And I’m curious to see what others thought of it as well 🙂


  • Nick

    Very interesting video!

    I can definitely see why this video could be perceived as controversial. It discusses deafness and using spoken language and not perferring ASL. I felt that the presenter’s presentation was very well rounded. He provided evidence that ASL is a great language choice for familes who have access to the langauge, or for families that want to go in that route. He also said equally that early intervention was important for both the spoken language side and the ASL side.

    I also liked how he discussed the focus of the program he is affliated with saying ASL isn’t the focus of that program. I felt he was being fair and not putting down ASL or Deaf culture. In fact, he never mentioned Deaf culture since he was focused more on spoken language. Really what we have learned since the introduction of cochlear implants are that people get them for various reasons, and parents implant their children for various reasons. I think his overall point is to say that early intervention gives deaf children a fighting chance to succeed. This is true on both sides; both areas will say if you don’t catch hearing loss early on, then the child doesn’t develop language nessasary to do well in school.

    This is a great find though! Please post more if you do!