AG Bell responds ASL Community about Nyle DiMarco


On Friday, April 8, 2016 in this morning, Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) published a statement responding to numerous letters from the Deaf community on their website.

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AG Bell Responds-4-8-16 PDF file

Here is the text and I am adding bold for emphasis and italics of my thoughts.

The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell), Washington, D.C., has received many responses to its letter to The Washington Post’s “The Reliable Source.”

AG Bell again wishes to recognize the tremendous success achieved by Nyle DiMarco, as well as successes achieved by many other deaf individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL).

Thank you for recognizing his success and other people’s successes, and I know there will be a “but” coming…

AG Bell continues to recognize ASL as a fully accessible, visual language. However, recent statements which indicate that deaf children who do not use ASL are language deprived or that all children should learn ASL remain as concerns. We believe that the view that all children should be required to learn a particular language is inconsistent with the ability of parents to make individual choices for their families and children who are deaf or hard of hearing. AG Bell has long advocated for the right of parents to make informed decisions for their children in consultation with professionals, adults who are deaf or hard of hearing, and other families/children. We also believe that families should be made aware of all communication and language options, including listening and spoken language (LSL), ASL, total communication, and other recognized approaches.

Informed choices? No, not all parents are provided information in an equal basis when they were told that their baby was diagnosed with a hearing loss. Too many parent literature are presented to families which are slanted to the LSL approach, and there is very little information presented about American Sign Language. Also making parents to ‘choose’ is detrimental for their baby. It is not about a choice anymore, it is language opportunities. Research has already stated that is biological necessity for Deaf babies to have American Sign Language, and providing bilingualism will greatly benefit for them. You need to stop thinking about options! It is about giving families all of OPPORTUNITIES!

AG Bell does not discourage families who choose ASL for their child based on the wants and needs of such child and his or her family. Just as the ASL community works to advance their belief in ASL and its benefits, AG Bell’s mission is to advance listening and spoken language for families, children and adults who are deaf and hard of hearing. We provide information and resources, including data from recent studies on learning language through listening and spoken language, to those who are in the process of making decisions for their child and who have decided to pursue listening and spoken language. For families and adults who choose listening and spoken language, AG Bell strives to provide a community of support from infancy through adulthood.

You are right that you, as an Association, did not directly discourage families who choose ASL, however it is your IDEOLOGY and PREDATORY MARKETING APPROACH that are so pervasive in all systematic levels that medical professionals are being irresponsible by pressuring families to choose learning language through listening and spoken therapies. You consistently do not recognize the harmful effects that you had on these families.

Our mission is backed by a body of research which supports that the learning of language through listening and speaking is a proven and frequently successful path for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, often resulting in children attaining LSL skills on par with their typical peers.

Show us the research and cite them. We are interested. We asked you to provide that.

AG Bell believes that all deaf or hard of hearing children should receive dedicated, quality services to develop and maintain communication, language and literacy skills. It is our hope that no family, child or adult who is deaf or hard of hearing will ever be criticized for their communication or language choice, whether it is LSL, ASL or a combination of approaches and/or languages. We believe that respectful open discussion will help us find common ground and ultimately achieve the best education, public access and communication outcomes for each individual with hearing loss.

You believe that respectful open discussion will help us find common ground, then did you set up an open meeting with the Student Body Government of Gallaudet University? They are waiting for your response by today and they want to have a meeting with you as soon as possible. These students are your “end-product” of your own ideology. Listen to them very closely.

Meredith K. Sugar, Esq.

President, Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Commentary by Amy Cohen Efron

Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is pushing very hard to infiltrate their so-called “LSL” approach to all levels, nationally, state-wide, locally, medically, legislatively, and systematically. Most of all, they are zealously pushing their ideology, which is called phonocentrism, to medical professionals who works with their families of deaf babies. Right now, they are officially certifying medical professionals with their Listening and Spoken Language Specialist certification that is tied to Continued Education Units. With these LSL certificates, it means that health insurance will pay for this. Not educational funds. Their focus are deaf and hard of hearing newborn babies to three years old toddlers. After that, AG Bell believes that these toddlers at age of three, are independent and able to function in schools without any additional help.

That is very wrong, and very dangerous way of pushing this. AG Bell consistently does not recognize that American Sign Language is a biological necessity for Deaf and Hard of Hearing babies, and refused to work with the concept of language opportunities. They want to have families to make the choice, and allow them to think they can choose.

Families, naturally, want Deaf babies to learn to say, “Momma, I love you”, and it takes a lot of effort for them to learn these precious words through medical intervention (i.e. cochlear implantation or any hearing devices) and language intervention (the so-called, “LSL” approach).

Why cannot Deaf babies “SEE” and “FEEL” families’ hands, saying I-LOVE-YOU as soon after their birth?

Amy Cohen Efron



AG Bell updated their website by adding citations.     (The ASL/Deaf Community will consult with academia to review each research source and then make comments – please stand by.)


Cardon, G., Campell, J., & Sharma, A. (2012). Plasticity in the developing auditory cortex: Evidence from children with sensorineural hearing loss and auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology, 23(6), 396–411. Quiz 495. doi: 10.3766/jaaa.23.6.3

Geers, A. (2004). Speech, language, and reading skills after early cochlear implantation. Archives of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, 130, 634-638.Geers, A., Strube. M., Tobey, E., Pisoni, D., & Moog, J. S. (2011). Epilogue: factors contributing to long-term outcomes of cochlear implantation in early childhood. Ear and Hearing, 32(1), 84S-92S.

Geers, A. E., & Nicholas, J. G. (2013).Enduring advantages of early cochlear implantation for spoken language development. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 56, 643-655. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2012/11-0347)

Hayes, H., Geers, A., Treiman, & R. Moog, J. S. (2009). Receptive vocabulary development in deaf children with cochlear implants: achievement in an intensive auditory-oral education setting. Ear and Hearing, 30(1), 128-135.

Moller, M. P., Carr. G., Seaver, L., Stredler-Brown, A., & Holzinger, D. (2013). Best practices in family-centered early intervention for children who are deaf or hard of hearing: An international consensus statement. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 18(4), 429-445.

Moog, J. S., Geers, A., Gustus, C., & Brennen, C. (2011). Psychosocial adjustments in adolescents who have used cochlear implants since preschool. Ear and Hearing, 32(1), 75S-83S. doi: 10.1097/AUD.0b013e3182014c76

Sharma, A., & Campbell, J. (2011). A sensitive period for cochlear implantation in deaf children. Maternal-Fetal & Neonatal Medicine, 24(01). 151-153.

Tomblin, J. B., Harrison, M., Ambrose, S. E., Walker, E. A., Oleson, J. J. & Moeller, M. P. (2015). Language outcomes in young children with mild to severe hearing loss. Ear and Hearing, 36(1) 76S-91S.

Yoshinaga-Itano, C., Sedey, A. L., Coulter, D. K., & Mehl, A. L. (1998). Language of early- and later-identified children with hearing loss. Pediatrics, 102(5), 1161–1171.

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17 comments on “AG Bell responds ASL Community about Nyle DiMarco

LSL is AN option, I get that. But again, just because a Deaf/HoH person can listen and speak, doesn’t mean s/he UNDERSTANDS or can read for understanding. Language is SO much more than using what hearing ability one has to listen and talking so others can understand!
As a teacher of Special and Deaf Education and an Early Interventionis for 10+ years and currently an Educational Sign Language interpreter, I see these children in the school system. Many “listen and speak” extremely well, but are not reading on grade level, have difficulty in a regular education classroom setting without support from a special ed teacher (one-on-one tutoring to reinforce learning objectives, individualized instruction targeted toward their learning weaknesses, etc), and struggle socially and emotionally (language is linked to these factors) quite often resulting in the failure to earn a high school diploma. Literacy levels and understanding (to what is spoken and read) is the key. OK, so these children are successful with the LSL approach, by the time they are three they are on the same level as their peers… but so many of them are NOT successful during the school years which directly impacts their sucess as adults.

THANK YOU for leaving this important comment! THANK YOU!

Parents and Staff,

AGBell…. After reading your “Dispelling Myths about Deafness” article Alexander Graham Bell (AGB)’s President Sugar recently wrote; you had stated that more than 95% of Deaf and Hard of Hearing children are born to hearing parents. Yes, I agree with your statistic. With that being said, oralism and cochlear implants are not always the right decision for these children. Also, not all parents of these children are given the option to choose for their children. There are many factors that determine whether or not a child will even be considered for a certain mode of communication. Many families miss out on the opportunity to learn sign language with their children at a young age because it is not given as an option when they are meeting with their physicians or those who are educating them about their children. A prime example is myself. I am a Deaf man; I started in an Alexander Graham Bell school in Michigan. My hearing parents were unaware of American Sign Language and thought at the time that was the perfect fit for me. They quickly learned that their Deaf child would not learn to speak, but to sign. I picked up American Sign Language quickly, even though no one explicitly taught me, because it was the only means of communication that worked for me (with hearing aids). Oralism did not fit my needs. I did not have access to language using this mode of communication. Eventually my family made the decision for me to move and attend Wisconsin School for the Deaf.

Now as an ASL Specialist at the Wisconsin School for the Deaf (WSD), as well as President of the Parent Staff Association at WSD, I pride myself in providing language access accommodations to all of our students. We experience the same that struggles our Deaf and Hard of Hearing students face daily. Children not only learn from their educators but from each other. Incidental learning is a crucial process for children when growing up. Children who are isolated do not receive an all-inclusive type of learning and are often found to be “socially awkward” because of it. For children who have hearing aids and cochlear implants, it often becomes difficult for them to learn from peers in group settings. A student maybe able to hear with an assistive listening device, but then they do not fully comprehend the language or environment around them. Identity also becomes an issue for children as they grow up alone in an assimilated hearing world. They know they are different than their parents and classmates but are unaware of Deaf culture and do not accept themselves for who they are because they are isolated. They should not be robbed of learning about the options available to them. The ramifications of these children’s life successes, emotional and social well beings can and have been damaging if they are not being accepted for who they truly are.

When language accessibility is provided, these struggles become a little easier to face knowing they have a language to express themselves as well as a community of people who the same culture. Children who are born Deaf or Hard of Hearing are gifts to our world. They shouldn’t be required to assimilate to a hearing culture. We pride ourselves in being able to teach our students using bilingual–bicultural language. We teach them this way so they are able to be successful in their future in both the hearing and Deaf world. We would never want to change our students. We just want what is best for them. We thank Nyle DiMarco for how he has shown the hearing world that anything is possible for Deaf individuals.

Stop oppressing Deaf children and their families for something that no equipment in the world can ever change. Deaf culture is here to stay with or without your support.
Thank you,

Christopher Rawlings, President
Wisconsin School for the Deaf – Parent Staff Association
ASL Specialist

Not only language deprived for some deaf children but for most they are socially deprived as well!

Ms Sugar:”AGBell continues to recognize ASL as a fully accessible visible language.” She can’t say the same thing about LSL being fully accessible.

LSL isn’t fully accessible for deaf children.

She doesn’t deny the linguistic deprivation, either

These are two extremely significant omissions.

there you have it: the smoking gun you need for the argument about linguistic deprivation among deaf oral children. A language not fully accessible equals linguistic deprivation.

WOW, more of the same from last Friday… AG Bell Association claims to have a body of evidence but their president, Meredith Sugar, is not citing them in her letter, once again. ASL and “approach” should not be in the same sentence as she put it. She’s just blowing out more snow… many of us know ASL is a language but with her writing, she’s trying to slip it past the reader that ASL could just be an approach. The ASL-enlightened and AGB folks want the SAME thing and it’s not good that Sugar and AGBell claim to want to support it and it somehow hints that ONLY they support it, not the ASL community.

The second thing, not related to that letter, is that the ASL community is backed by Deaf, HH, KODAS, DeafBlind, signing SLPs, signing audiologists, parents and hearing people … AGB folks are backed by hearing people, SLPs, surgeons, audiologists and parents. What I am leading to is that National Association of the Deaf has a Deaf president, AGB is an organization that claims to be for Deaf/HH and still they don’t have a president who is someone who benefitted from AGB methods. Y’all, this is just going to go on and on.

We have so many other great things going on in our sign language/Deaf/Hard of hearing/hearing aid-using, CI-using community with inspiring testimonies, ‪#‎whyIsign‬, ‪#‎Iamdeaf‬, Nyle DiMarco, videos, so I hope that part is visible to new parents of D/HH children. Love to all Deaf/DeafBlind/Hard of Hearing/hearing children whether they sign, don’t sign or just about to learn sign language, too. heart emoticon

H/T to Amy Cohen Efron for her blog post that has the screenshot of AGBell Association’s response to the letters addressing their president’s misleading 4.1.2016 letter to the Washington Post. (At this time, AGBell’s website is crashed, thus the sharing of the screenshot.)

‪#‎signlanguage‬ ‪#‎bilingualism‬ ‪#‎Deaf‬ ‪#‎hardofhearing‬

It is important to highlight that they are framing this as a cultural war and refusing to acknowledge that we are advocating bilingualism with full access rather than monolingualism that has partial odds of success. They are lying deliberately by calibgn it LSL– a language rather than a modality which is what it is. A modality. Teaching a deaf child speech does not equate to having them learn language- the building blocks for cognition, executive function, or social discourse.

I find AGBell’s response disappointing. They continue to deny deaf children their *NATURAL and BIRTH* rights of ASL. And I want to everyone be aware how clever they market their “LSL”. Let’s step back and take a look at thei reponse and see how they introduce LSL first then ASL, and so forth. And they didn’t even take a account that ASL is a language while others are just merely a communication tool. Besides, see how they play with letters causing confusion between LSL and ASL. I request AGBell association to stop using letters LSL, and ASL has been rightfully reserved acronyms.


Notice how Meredith Sugar deliberately wrote “…whether it is LSL, ASL or a combination of approaches and/or languages…”? She placed LSL first. And combination of approaches and/or languages? More confusion and more time consuming. What we know is that when people write “politically” or/and “marketability” KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT.

AG Bell Association, I want to say Thank you. Why? Under normal circumstances, I would be peeved. But you have bought the Deaf Community closer and united us stronger. By your insults and misinformation, you gave us an opportunity to prove you wrong. Our Deaf Community does not need cochlear implant to be successful in this world. We have writers, doctors, teachers, models, actors, etc. I could go on and on. But I won’t. I enjoyed watching my news feed of people who shows proof of their success. It gives our children Hope and shows that determination overcomes all. So #ThanksAGBell

I agree with Kevin Scott. Because of the “storm” from this past week, the ties of The Deaf Community will become stronger. I have known about AGB for years but they were more of an afterthought to me, like an annoying insect. They will continue to be. I am so proud of being deaf and part of The Deaf Community!

The A G Bell letter wants parents to make informed choices but the question is-informed by who and sbout what? We are talking about Deaf people so why the emphasis on listening and speech They are DEAF. they do not hear. A real power play to focus on what they can’t do. Kind of like the emperor has no clothes. The existence of thid organization demonstrates the “power over” model i am in control and i define you By virtue of who you are -Deaf’ – you will always be inferior to any hearing person
Deaf people must claim their power and define themselves!

sugar already acknowledges elsewhere that there are some lsl failures. in the comment pasted below, notice she used the word often, a subjective term. she didn’t say all. the capitalization is mine.

“Our mission is backed by a body of research which supports that the learning of language through listening and speaking is a proven and frequently successful path for children who are deaf or hard of hearing, OFTEN resulting in children attaining LSL skills on par with their typical peers.


I think you need to meditate and look into your heart. If you do then you would realize that Deaf children thrive when they use ASL 24/7. I do not understand why you are not willing to keep an open mind and listen to Deaf community’s concerns about Deaf children’s future as well as future of Deaf Community. You CANNOT assume what is best for Deaf children because you ARE NOT deaf yourself. You truly need to think long and hard about Deaf children’s well being. In fact, LSL IS NOT a language, it is artificial system unlike ASL. Thank you for reading.

As a teacher of the Deaf who has retired I am reading this shaking my head! Parents are still being given mis information. Signing does not inhibit listening nor oral language development. From my experience children relax and enjoy language when they sign. It’s natural and inclusive. Children who use Auslan or ASL learn about conversations. They understand about social interaction. They are then much more confident to give oral only conversations a go. That is not the reason we use it but it happens any way!
I saw with babies that when you take away the tension and play naturally using sign they enjoy learning. A secure child will love to explore and learn. They will explore art, music, dance, movement, vocalisations and all of our beautiful world.
Trust your babies.

Ms. Meredith Sugar,

After reading your letter in the Washington Post and seeing and reading the enormous widespread reactions and postings everywhere, I feel it is necessary to inform you that you have a long way to go in terms of understanding and empathizing with the Deaf people’s experiences from their infancy to adulthood.

Just so you know, I’m severely profoundly deaf who wears a hearing aid and is able to speak clearly. My hearing family was fortunate that I was able to speak with them and they never had to struggle communicating with me verbally. I was also fortunate that I was exposed to ASL when I was 6 years old and became fluent at it. That was way back in 1969 to 1971.

Even though I had the necessary communication skills to function in the hearing world, I still didn’t feel inclusive with them. I often was left out, ignored, and oppressed. I felt like I was “broken” because that’s how they perceived me. They made me feel inferior like a second class citizen. I had to work twice as hard to get myself through life and be employed with a steady income.

When I sign and socialize with people who can sign, I feel wholesome, at ease, and most of all, confident and happy. This is who I am and I cannot imagine a life without sign language. As a deaf person in general, the worst feeling to have is not being able to understand everything in the hearing environment and the hearing people not making an effort to make me feel inclusive and engaged.

What you need to understand is how we, Deaf people, work so hard to be accepted everywhere and constantly have to dispel the myth of deafness. You and your organization is only focusing on making sure we can talk and listen. You NEVER consider the fact that sign language is WHO WE ARE and we BLOSSOM with this.

Please, please work with us and stop putting us down with your lies, your greed and your ignorance. If you want the respect from us, then you need to listen and change your ways. Time have changed and AG Bell is still stuck in the 1800’s. Accept us and incorporate sign language into your beliefs. You’ll be surprised how far this will go. Believe me, once you incorporate sign language into your system, your organization will sky-rocket so high with huge success.

Work with us and we’ll help you succeed much, much more.

Hey AGBell,
How stupid are you?……Were you born deaf?…….Experienced being deaf?……Know what the deaf life is like?……Raised by hearing or deaf parents?….Got any deaf in your families or relatives without CI behind the ears?…..FYI,I am telling you what I think about you. I do think that you are so cruel for forcing the deaf infants and children to get the deadly CI for MONEY. You are collecting the punishment from God. He is the one who created us without sounds for his purpose. He did not creat the CI behind unborn babies’ ears inside the mothers’ bellies!!…For an example the baby was born with no holes on bottom of the ears which means that God does not want them to have earrings on their ears. That applies to unborn babies grow without C.implants behind the ears inside the mothers’ bellies….. You need to respect God’s created (me and deafies)…We are feeling very comfortable with the silencing sounds and no headaches at all…..Oh yeah!!!… Deaf people and I love being deaf and good sleep without noises. We have no problems being deaf all our lives….. About ASL…ASL is a MUST!…’s our choices…NOT yours!… What if the hearing person turns around while talks. We can not hear the person when person talks with voices while we stand behind the person. This is why,we need the interpreters even the captions!!!…We did not force you to learn the ASL…it’s your choices NOT ours. Just leave us (me,deaf infants,children,teens,adults and seniors) ALONE!….You CAN NOT get what YOU want……And again….How stupid are you?…..You are hearing and dumb. SMH

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