Friday, September 24, 2010

Vermont Launches Nation's First Deaf-Autism Program

I recently read the book Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin, a well-known person with autism. (The link goes to my review.) One of the interesting points in the book was that when a child is young, autism can look like deafness, and vice versa. The way the child behaves and ignores sounds can be indicative of either. But what do you do when a child is both deaf and autistic?

The Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a nonprofit organization that serves both Vermont and some of New Hampshire, has launched what they're saying is the first program for people who are both deaf and autistic.

The program started on August 30 of this year and currently 8 students are enrolled. According to Robert Carter, the organization's president, "By creating a program that really addresses both needs, we're not dealing with the frustration of trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole."

An interesting point in the article is that the organization is also now able to research ways to communicate with anyone, deaf or hearing, who communicates best using non-auditory language. In Temple Grandin's book, she writes about autistic children who find it very difficult to speak or listen to others speaking. I wondered at the time if sign language would help them. This organization is going to find out.

(via Deafness)


  1. As a parent of an autisic with communication problems, and both us parents are deaf too, one an cultural deaf sign user, we found our child could not attain sign language either. He isn't deaf however as well, 100% of the advice we had was NOT to teach an hearing child with communication issues but with an ability to speak, any sign language at all.

    Which proved problematic in that the Mother only used that mode. But especially the 'BSL' version of sign (UK), as this could provide grammatical issues in education and prevent him learning English at school, as well as deter speech. So if it works for the deaf child it is NOT suggested for an hearing one with issues. There are a lot of unsubstantiated claims sign is a 'cure all' for many communication issues, but in the mental health and Autistic area can just provide more problems than it will cure in some cases.

    We are fortunate one parent has clear and good speech, an ability to lip-read, and takes considerable effort to encourage non deaf communications, however this has meant one parent is acting as an interpreter for the other !

    Sign may work for some, it depends on how serious the communication issue is, and if learning language is the main problem, if that is the case, it may well mean nothing really is an answer to fluent communications. We were 'warned' NOT to adopt ever, a total sign approach, even at the expense of our own in the child's best interests. Which we manage after a fashion !

  2. Very interesting, MM. Thank you for your comment!


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