NOTE: USDB Superintendent Noyce wrote a letter to the Utah Deaf Education Core Group about their "Please Read" section at the bottom of the website (www.utahdeafeducation.com) and they responded with a document. Mr. Noyce's letter and their response is posted below.
On Sun, Feb 20, 2011 at 9:34 PM, Steve Noyce
USDB staff, Advisory Council and Utah Deaf Education
I am pleased that the Utah Deaf Education Core Group is
promoting language and communication mode choice for
parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing in
Utah . Everything that I have initiated and promoted as
superintendent has been done to support parent and family
The development and staffing of a Parent Infant Program
that employs specialists in American Sign Language/English
BiBi and Listening and Spoken Language is meant to give
support for strong program options that truly give
families viable choices.
My direction to Associate Superintendent Howell and
Director Day Mullings to create an orientation process
that gives families comprehensive access to information
to make an informed choice is meant to give parents a
reasonable opportunity to make a choice. I wish we could
guarantee that people will not share bias with families.
We have been trying that for decades. Because that has
failed, we created a process that requires that a strong
advocate and example of ASL/English be paired with a
strong advocate and example of LSL. Director Mullings
developed, with a community team, a process that gives
families abundant opportunity to make a choice that is
best for each individual family. Associate Superintendent
Howell gave input and I approved the plan. There is no
time limitation on families; they are encouraged, however,
to make a language choice as early as possible so that the
language can be implemented to give the child the best
opportunity to establish a first language.
USDB has gone to considerable effort and expense over the
past several years to provide professional development to
ASL/English teachers. Nearly all ASL/English teachers
will have completed the two year training cycle this year.
They are well-versed in the components of Signacy,
Numeracy and Oracy. The Oracy component of ASL/English
is the "listening and speech" component of ASL/English.
For this reason, families who want "both" signing and
speech are encouraged to place their children in the
Listening and Spoken Language is a life choice, just as
LSL/English. Use of sign language is contrary to an LSL
approach just as use of English Sign Systems is contrary
to an ASL/English approach. The Principles of Auditory
Verbal therapy, http://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=5nlyw&m=Jaccse4lW8njdw&b=1hVh3zNpNfwyiwTddi6U3A.
aspx?pid=359, and the Principles of Auditory Verbal
aspx?pid=356, identify the components of an LSL approach.
This by no means that advocates of LSL don't respect or
value ASL as a language or as a viable approach for
children who are deaf.
If we are to truly value and respect the choices that
families make we need to dialogue and open lines of
communication. I have requested that the administrative
staff of USD meet with the leadership of the Deaf Education
Core. They have declined to meet with USD and specifically
with me. I hope they reconsider.
Steve Noyce, Superintendent
Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind
742 Harrison Blvd.
Ogden , Utah 84404
February 24, 2011
Thank you for recognizing that we are supportive of family
and parental choice at USDB. In our attempt to respond to
your letter of February 20, 2011, we developed the document
that follows. It explains why, despite procedures and
policies that have been put in place to support parental
choices, we feel that more needs to be done to reduce the
promoting of one program to the detriment of the other.
We understand and respect the desire of families who choose
LSL to retain the "life choice" of not using sign language;
however, there are families who would like to receive
intensive speech training, yet want their children to
receive exposure to ASL. Conversely, there are families
who choose to focus on ASL acquisition for their children,
yet want their children exposed to formal oral training
at a young age (during PIP). We hope this document answers
your questions and helps in understanding our perspective.
(Let us also explain briefly to those copied on this
letter, who may not be aware of the reason behind our
declining to meet with you and your administrative staff;
it was because of the upcoming evaluations and a long
history of having ASL/English bilingual issues trivialized.
We felt that it wasn't appropriate to meet at this point.)
[We also need to clarify that the three components of the
ASL/English bilingual approach are Signacy, Literacy and
Oracy (not Numeracy as listed in your letter).]
Utah Deaf Education Core Group
WAYS THE TWO PROGRAMS AT USD
ARE NOT BEING GIVEN EQUAL CONSIDERATION
EXAMPLE ONE: Requiring PIP parents to choose ONLY one of
the two options offered at USDB
Under the current system, parents can now only choose one
option: either the Listening and Spoken Language (LSL) or
the American Sign Language (ASL/English) approach. They
are no longer able to choose to receive both speech
services and ASL tutoring like they have in the past.
What about parents who want to have their child to receive
training in both communication methods, in whatever
combination they desire? Where is their choice?
EXAMPLE TWO: Not allowing formal speech services for PIP
parents who choose the ASL option or ASL services for
parents who choose the LSL option
The ASL/English option provided by PIP does not include
formal speech, lipreading and listening training. We
understand that ASL/English specialists working for PIP
can work on oracy skills during home visits, but that the
families cannot use the clinical speech services offered
to LSL families. Speech therapy has been, in fact, taken
away from families who were already enjoying the service,
who had chosen the ASL/English bilingual option.
It is true that parents who choose the LSL option are
similarly not allowed to have a Deaf mentor to teach them
ASL. We feel this is a violation of the basic human
right to communication and assert that this choice should
be available to all parents. In any case, for most hearing
parents and people reading this, it does not sound as
outrageous and unfair to not to have ASL tutoring as it
would be to have formal speech services denied or taken
away as has happened.
In this way, parents are receiving subtle messages that
if they want their child to receive formal speech training
from trained speech therapists, they should enroll them
in the LSL program. Otherwise they would lose the
therapists that were already working with their children
and obtain speech services from ASL/English specialists
that may not be as highly trained to provide this type of
service (no offense to the hard working ASL/English
specialists we have at USDB!).
EXAMPLE THREE: Using Pathways as the orientation DVD for
new PIP parents
Pathways is the name of the thirty-minute DVD that is
being used as part of the orientation offered by PIP. The
film explains five approaches for communicating with a
deaf child: AVT, ASL/English Bilingual Education,
Auditory-Oral, Cued Speech, and Sim-Com. The film also
emphasizes that pathways develop in the brain through
auditory input but does not state that language also
develops through visual input. Another critical piece of
information is not shared: that young deaf brains process
ASL in the language center just as young hearing brains
process spoken language.
During the five minutes of discussion on ASL samples of
ASL users included a child who has Deaf parents, a high
school student who is not as academically advanced as
could be, and a two-year-old, recently-implanted girl who
has just started to learn ASL. Of the samples, only the
little two-year-old girl represents a possible reality
for hearing parents viewing the DVD. The high school
student, moreover, does not show the actual vitality
and academic success that numerous students who go through
ASL/English bilingual programs do have.
In a nutshell, ASL/English bilingualism as a language
choice is not accurately represented. The overall tone of
the ASL portion of the DVD is that ASL is not a viable
approach. Hearing parents are sensitive to subtle
inferences like these. The imprecise information regarding
the ASL/English bilingual approach can very well convince
parents that LSL is the way to go.
In this way, LSL is being promoted at the detriment of the
ASL/English bilingual option.
EXAMPLE FOUR: The renovation of a cottage on the Ogden
campus for the sole use of LSL families
A significant expense was made towards the complete
renovation of a cottage on the Ogden campus into a
state-of-the-art facility for LSL families. Families
who choose the ASL/English bilingual option are not
even allowed to use services provided at this building.
The last time one of us visited the cottage, there were
no signs of the advances in technology that have been
developed for and by Deaf people, such as flashing
doorbells and alarm clocks or the videophone. This
omission of important components of Deaf/hard-of-hearing
lives seems to indicate a disregard and lack of respect
for visual cues and technology that are available for
This is an example of expense and planning spent on one
program (LSL) over the other (ASL/English).
EXAMPLE FIVE: The spreading of negative information about
the ASL/English bilingual programs available at USDB and
about sign language in general
There has been a history at USD of resistance towards sign
language in general. Now that the ASL/English bilingual
approach is available to parents under USD, this
resistance is also seen towards this program as well.
Following are three examples showing this resistance
among current USD staff. More examples can be seen in
letters posted by parents at www.utahdeafeducation.com.
In the third letter posted on our website, a parent
explains that when she decided to choose the sign
language option, the USDB Pre-School representative
expressed her opinion that the mother was "a horrible
mother for allowing [her] children access to sign
In two other examples referenced below, the parents
discuss Jean Massieu School , the largest ASL/English
bilingual program under the auspices of USDB. However,
we are aware that the same is happening for the other
ASL/English bilingual programs at USD.
The mother of an eleven-year-old revealed to her ASL
instructor at a local community college that, when the
total communication program at USD merged with JMS during
the fall of 2010, she decided to mainstream her child at a
local school rather than enroll her at JMS. She explained
that the main reason she did so was that she had received
a lot of negative information about JMS from teachers,
staff and administrators at USD. She told the teacher
that she "believed them." It is very natural for parents
to listen to those in authority.
In our final example, let us summarize an excerpt from
the fifth letter on our website; in this letter a couple
discusses trying to place their normal, high-functioning
daughter at JMS. During the IEP re-evaluation, the IEP
team expressed their opinion that (and we quote), "the
only reason a child should go to JMS is if there are other
issues that makes the child unable to hear or if they are
low function." The parents mention Mr. Noyce as having
been "very strongly opposed" to the desired placement.
When the parents declined the IEP recommendation to not
place the girl at JMS, (again we quote) "Mr. Noyce made
us sign [a paper] that if her education declined, they
were not responsible [and] reminded us over and over
again that the only children that belonged in JMS were
those [who] were falling behind." The parents add that
due to the education she received at JMS, the girl is
now on the honor roll in a mainstreamed classroom.
These examples are probably just the tip of the iceberg
in how the administration and staff at USD are unfairly
influencing parents away from signing, in general, and
from the ASL/English Bilingual programs, in particular.
As a state agency funded by taxpayers, Utah School for
the Deaf needs to ensure that parents do, in fact, receive
unbiased information on the two programs. For this to
happen, it is imperative that USD staff and administration
genuinely feel that the two options are equally feasible
and that it is truly the parents' choice.
Utah Deaf Education Core Group