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May 2, 2003

Glad they never found the cure

From: Belfast Telegraph - May 2, 2003

Deaf talkabout

Glad they never found the cure

By Bob McCullough

EDUCATION was in the news again at the weekend with a profile on See Hear of
Mabel Davis, the only deaf head teacher of a deaf school in the British
Isles, and her assertion that we should no longer pay any attention to the
Conrad Report - a well-respected history of deaf education.

The Conrad Report was published about 30 years ago and is famous for saying
that the average deaf school-leaver has a reading age of between eight and
nine. The American author Harland Lane, who made the outrageous claim that
only one in ten deaf adults read a newspaper, reinforced the statement.

In her usual forthright way, Mabel dismissed this as irrelevant. It might
have been true in the bad old days before the national Curriculum, and she
said this had been a weakness of special schools; but she was adamant that
if deaf children were appropriately placed they could succeed at school and
she was very proud of her own pupils.

All this flashed through my mind the other day as I sat waiting my turn to
see the ENT specialist about a throat infection at my local hospital and
watched several mothers with their babies. I of course have no idea why they
were there, but as I watched the mothers gazing devotedly on their offspring
I felt this pain in my heart at the trauma they would have to face if told
their child was deaf.

Apart from autism and deaf-blindness, there is no other disability that
causes such a breakdown in communication among families and I could imagine
them going over the potential difficulties, and trying to think through the
problems of education and employment in later life.

I was 11 when it happened to me, and I can still remember the constant
visits to clinics and specialists as my father and mother spent money they
could ill afford trying to find a cure for my problem.

Well, all I can say is that I'm glad they never found a cure.

I have had a very rich and satisfying life with a loving wife and family and
a long and satisfying career. Evelyn became deaf at five after an attack of
mumps and we met when she was 11 and I was 14 at a small private school. We
met again when I was 20 and she 17 and have been together ever since.

All this would never have happened if the so-called "cure" had been found
and I would like to reassure parents that deafness is not the end of the
world and that with the right help and guidance your child can be both happy
and fulfilled.

Come and see for yourself the confident and successful youngsters at prize
day for the Young Authors and Artists in the Ulster Museum at 11am on May 8.

- Stephen McWhinney, manager of Deaf Senior Citizens, has asked me to point
out that the official launch of the charity on Monday, May 12, is by
invitation only. It is for professionals and volunteers in the field of

Copyright 2003 Belfast Telegraph