A Legacy of Hearing Loss Watching previous generations struggle with deafness led to a career in speech-language pathology for this family member. First Person/Last Page
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First Person/Last Page  |   December 01, 2018
A Legacy of Hearing Loss
Author Notes
  • Ceylon Gibson, MA, CCC-SLP, is a speech and language specialist with the Anaheim (California) Elementary School District, and also has 30 years of hospital-based experience as a clinician and case manager. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood. ceylongi@gmail.com
    Ceylon Gibson, MA, CCC-SLP, is a speech and language specialist with the Anaheim (California) Elementary School District, and also has 30 years of hospital-based experience as a clinician and case manager. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 9, Hearing and Hearing Disorders in Childhood. ceylongi@gmail.com×
Article Information
Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Hearing Disorders / First Person/Last Page
First Person/Last Page   |   December 01, 2018
A Legacy of Hearing Loss
The ASHA Leader, December 2018, Vol. 23, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.23122018.72
The ASHA Leader, December 2018, Vol. 23, 72. doi:10.1044/leader.FPLP.23122018.72
My grandmother was “deaf and dumb.” That’s what they called people who were deaf in the early 1900s. My grandfather was considered a “mute” because he was not an oral communicator. My grandparents had five children, one of whom—my mother—was born with hearing loss. My family was (in the parlance of the time) “deaf, dumb and Negro.” The journey of my family led me to become a speech-language pathologist.
My grandmother was diagnosed as a toddler with a bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss. Until her diagnosis, she was labeled as stubborn because she didn’t listen to her parents. As a child, she attended various special schools away from her Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles, and eventually went to The Berkeley School for the Deaf. As a result of her educational experiences, she communicated using a combination of oral speech and “Ameslan” (American Sign Language). After completing school she married, had a family, and became a seamstress. By her mid-50s, she was a widow.
In raising her children, she paired signing with oral speech. All of her children fluently communicated with her using the same approach. They pronounced some of their words with the same errors as their mother’s: doughnut, for example, was pronounced “do-neet.” When they first entered school, they spoke using her speech patterns. Later, all learned to read and write Standard American English. None of them received hearing screenings or speech-language treatment. No one ever suspected my mother was born with a hearing loss.
My mother was the only girl born to my deaf grandparents. She had very different educational experiences from those of my grandmother. She was not identified as hard of hearing. She attended an all-black neighborhood school in Watts, where she sat in the back of the class and received no support for her hearing loss—and consequently had poor grades. Unlike my grandmother, she was not considered “deaf and dumb.” Instead, she was thought to be just “dumb.” By the time she was diagnosed with a profound loss in the left ear and severe loss in the right ear, she was in her late 40s. She got her first hearing aid when she was in her early 50s.
When I started college at California State University, Chico, in 1977, I intended to major in deaf education. It seemed like a natural fit, since I was already interpreting for my grandmother. However, the sign language method taught was very different from that used by my family. I decided that major was not a good fit, but I was fascinated by communication sciences and disorders in general, so I decided to become an SLP.
Coming from a “deaf, dumb and Negro” family shaped my core values as a clinician. I am an advocate for those who are different. I currently work in early childhood education in one of the largest elementary school districts in California. I am part of an infant/preschool evaluation team that assesses children who may benefit from special education. When I diagnose and treat my clients and families, I am passionate about accepting those differences and carving out an individual plan that best meets their specific needs. I embrace their differences.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
December 2018
Volume 23, Issue 12