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Oral Education in America

Page history last edited by wboyd1@... 11 years, 6 months ago

Before oralism began in America it showed up in other places of the world. First, in the early sixteenth century, a Benedictine monk, named Pedro Ponce de Leon, tutored the children who were deaf or hard of hearing of the Spanish nobility using oral deaf methods. Then, Samuel Heinicke began tutoring deaf students in Germany, his first a deaf boy, oralism began to spread. He taught his students how to speak by having them feel the vibrations of his throat when he spoke. By 1777, his reputation as a deaf educator was so well established that he was asked to open the first oral public school for the deaf. It opened in Leipzig, Germany and it was the first school for the deaf officially recognized by a government.

In America, during the later half of the nineteenth century, began the rise of oral theories of deaf education. Although there are a variety of these theories, they have in common an emphasis on the importance of oral skills (speech-reading and speech) in the education of deaf children. A leading proponent of oral methods was Alexander Graham Bell, whose mother and wife were both hard of hearing but did not use sign language. His vision was that deaf children have the ability to learn to listen and speak and to gain widespread acceptance. Bell started a school in Boston in 1872 to train teachers of the deaf to use the oral method. He was one person in the history of sign language who really tried to damage the lives of deaf people. In 1890, he established the American Association to Promote the Teaching of Speech to the Deaf, Inc, now now called the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf. Supporters of oralism believed the deaf need to learn spoken language to fully function in the hearing world.

In 1867, the Institute for the Improved Instruction of Deaf-Mutes in New York and the Clarke Institute for Deaf-Mutes in Northampton, Massachusetts, were the first schools to begin educating the deaf using only oral methods, and encouraging all deaf schools to do the same. Methods of teaching speech, speech reading, and listening spread to school all across the country.

In 1880, the International Congress on the Education of the Deaf met in Milan, Italy, to address the issue of Sign Language vs. Oral Communication.

Then, in the early twentieth century, after World War II, many veterans returned with hearing loss, the government funded research on hearing aids, powerful enough to benefit even children with profound hearing loss. As a result, children were able to use their residual hearing as well as visual cues to learn to speak, and unisensory education became a dominant mode of teaching speech. Being able to use residual hearing brought about hard of hearing students into oralism during this time.

Today, in the late twentieth century, cochlear implants and other new technologies have maximized auditory potential of children with hearing loss. Now, with early identification of infants and young children with hearing loss and the early intervention of technology and instruction, more and more children are learning to listen and speak at an earlier age. A movement that began in 1970 did not choose either signed or oral education for the deaf. Instead, it attempted to blend several educational methods to form Total Communication, which became a new philosophy for the approach to deaf education.


American School for the Deaf (2005). History of Deaf Education in America. Retrieved July 2, 2009, from http://www.asd-1817.org/history/history-deafed.html


Berke, Jamie (April 11, 2009). Samuel Heinicke-Father of Oral Education. Retrieved July 2, 2009, from http://deafness.about.com/cs/featurearticles/a/samuelheinicke.htm


Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (2005). Oral Deaf Education History. Retrieved July 2, 2009, from http://www.agbell.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?p=ODE_History


Whitestone, Heather (2008-2009). History Of Sign Language. Retrieved July 2, 2009 from http://www.start-american-sign-language.com/history-of-sign-language.html

History of Deaf Culture

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