The Saskatchewan Deaf Association wishes to respond to the slated closure of the Newfoundland School for the Deaf by reminding parents and educators of the drastic results of the closure of the R.J.D. Williams Provincial School for the Deaf in 1991 for similar reasons.
Declining enrollments, the cost of maintaining facilities and programming and the focus on educating deaf and hard of hearing students (D/HH students) in local communities have all been cited as the reasons for closing the Saskatchewan school for the deaf.
It’s been nearly twenty years since the school closed and the Saskatchewan Deaf Association has witnessed first hand, the demise of many D/HH children who are “oral failures”. Roger Carver, executive director of Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services says, “We don’t have strong supports and networks for these children and their families as the oralist agenda is exclusively promoted by the first point of contact for parents, namely SPARC, Saskatchewan Preschool Auditory Rehabilitation Centre and its twin, the aggressive cochlear implant program manned by the same staff belonging to SPARC.” Furthermore, when it becomes clear that a child is not benefiting from his or her cochlear implant or isn’t able to benefit from auditory verbal therapy, there are no referral mechanisms or alternative resources for parents, especially for those who live in remote communities.
Joanne Weber, the only Deaf teacher of D/HH students in Saskatchewan adds, “we desperately need to assess the state of affairs here in Saskatchewan. There are many cries for help and support from all corners of the province.” The Saskatchewan Deaf Association (SDA) has established a committee that is currently engaged in a series of meetings with the Ministry of Education. The mission of SDA is to alert the Ministry to the plight of these D/HH children who cannot meet the goals of the oralist agenda and to insist that the Ministry exercise leadership in establishing ALL options for children with a hearing loss.
“On a national level, educators of D/HH children are increasingly cognizant that technology of the very best kind cannot always convert a deaf child into a hearing child, and it is time that Saskatchewan falls in with other provinces in providing all options in communication and educational placements for D/HH children”, Joanne Weber says. “We don’t want to see Newfoundland lagging behind either.”
Allard Thomas, president of SDA says, “ We, in Saskatchewan, have remained silent about our demise, and it is time that the rest of Canada learned from us. The price is too heavy and the road is very long toward rebuilding what was thoughtlessly tossed out in the first place. I am very concerned that D/HH education in Newfoundland will never recover from this most devastating decision. Indeed, it remains to be seen whether the province of Saskatchewan can indeed rebuild D/HH education to the point where we can confidently and proudly offer ALL options for D/HH children and their families.”
In reference to the assurance made by Darin King, the Minister of Education in Newfoundland and Labrador, that deaf and hard of hearing students can expect to receive a “quality education" in the future Thomas notes, “it’s only an empty promise made by a politician. Our minister of education promised in 1991 that ‘excellent programs’ for deaf and hard of hearing students are ‘absolutely guaranteed’ for the future. Twenty years have passed, and this ‘guarantee’ has failed to materialize, much to the detriment of these students.”
For further information, please contact:
Allard Thomas, Saskatchewan Deaf Association, Ph: 306-565-8420 (TTY); Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Roger Carver, Saskatchewan Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, Ph: 1-800-667-6575; E-mail: email@example.com