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Toryn Triplitt credits success to Birney Elementary oral deaf program

When I was little the doctors told my parents that I would never learn the basic skill of talking. Instead, my family worked very hard to make sure that didn’t happen.

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

Toys were often included in speech and listening therapy as well as at mapping appointments to keep a young Toryn Triplett’s attention.

I spoke in front of the Fresno Unified School District’s Board of Education, on April 3rd,  in support of Birney Elementary School’s Oral Deaf Education program. There has been talk of shutting down the oral education program at Birney and combining it with a sign based program at Norseman.

Because of the combination, the oral program will be shut down. Fresno Unified would be eliminating the opportunity for parents to get their deaf or hard of hearing kids into a language based classroom. This would be robbing them of getting the chance to make a choice as to what education would be best for their kids.

As a deaf kid, your speech skills tend to be delayed, and it requires early intervention to prevent that. As someone who went through the program and knows how hard the work is to catch up to other kids your age, I am grateful for all the teachers and speech therapists who were patient and worked with me, both at the school and outside.

I began attending Birney Elementary immediately after activating my first Cochlear Implant at 18 months. I attended until I was almost four years old. During my last year at Birney, I was attending a normal mainstream preschool as well as still being enrolled in the oral language program. At four years old,  I went back to Birney once a week to continue speech therapy.

Birney emphasizes language development while following a traditional preschool curriculum. I am grateful for what the teaching staff Birney had done to further my education, to make sure I attended a mainstream public school with no learning aid, or speech or learning issues.

Kori Friesen | The Feather Online

Journalist Toryn Triplitt, ’20.

My belief in this whole situation is that parents deserve the choice to choose what education or language development is best for their children or their family as a whole. By combining the programs and eliminating the oral education option, parents are being denied the choice or chance to get a vocal education for their deaf or hard of hearing children.

A hearing family who has a deaf child who receives a cochlear implant often choose an oral education for them. A family who does not already know sign language fluently has to learn sign alongside the child which can result in communication issues and frustration on both ends. But deaf families obviously would have no conflict in choosing a sign based education.

Children who receive cochlear implants early tend to have better success rates in developing speech and language skills, as well as listening skills. But these high success rates are only achieved through early intervention.

Whether it is in an oral education classroom, at home intervention, or speech therapy. But regardless of if there is early intervention, every child will still have their own individual struggles.

A decision has not been concluded about the fate of Birney’s Oral Deaf Education Program, as when we spoke there was a discrepancy between what the parents and teachers had been told and what the board was told.

For updates on this issue, return to this article, and stay tuned to The Feather Facebook.

For more articles, read COLUMN: Deaf journalist shares struggles and Students strive for success in classrooms, learning

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