Thursday, September 17, 2009


If you're like me, you think the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus" is awesome. And shame on you if you've never watched it. It's an excellent movie and an excellent example of how learning sign language doesn't necessarily hinder your verbal ability.

When they first find out their son is deaf, they go the medical route. You know, ENTs who say that they need to only speak and not sign. Well, that doesn't work because the boy can't hear anything and the parents can't communicate with him. Frustration abounds.

So they decide to check out a school for the Deaf that uses total communication. This (TC) is my preference. More about that later. Anyway, the mom and the son learn sign language and are able to communicate without any problems. The dad, on the other hand, doesn't take as much initiative (I think he's in denial and hoping the deafness will just go away). But the son uses sign language as a teenager. He doesn't speak, but that doesn't mean he can't speak.

At the end of the movie, you see the son grown up and speaking and signing at the same time. A great triumph for the Deaf community--we can rub their noses in it and say/sign, "See, I told you so!"

Let me be clear hear. I am not against the oral method. If the child is hard of hearing or moderately deaf and  hearing aids help, I say go for it. I would still add sign though. However, if the child is profoundly or severely deaf and benefits very little (if at all) from hearing aids, why not take the total communication route? To be honest, if I had my perfect situation, I would have the child in a school that taught ASL. But that's just me. I see TC as a very valuable way of helping the children understand things and still feel part of the group.

So let's see what you have to say. I'm sure there are plenty who disagree. Let's "hear" it!


  1. No disagreement from me at all. You're right on when it comes to severely or profoundly deaf children, a combined program of both speech and ASL is the best way to get education into the child's head. Those with enough hearing to understand communication (and not just one word at a time!) could benefit from a more oral program, but ASL will still be useful.

  2. 30 years ago, TC wasn't even an option in this town. Glad for the people who worked against this town's tradition to create the TC program. I know plenty of people from both types of education, who were successful, but almost all of them learned to sign eventually.

    Captioned Trailer for Mr. Holland's Opus -