Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/375

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363
SPEECH FOR DEAF CHILDREN.
SPEECH FOR DEAF CHILDREN.

By LILLIE EGINTON WARREN.

LESS than thirty years ago no attempts were made to give speech to the deaf children of this country. Signs, writing? and finger-spelling were the means of communication employed. It had been a gigantic task to arrange a system of education for a class of persons previously supposed incapable of advancement, and it is not surprising that articulation in its early days fought hard for recognition among the older teachers. Happily, the spirit of opposition is waning, and there is now a friendly admiration manifested by them for the best intelligible speech given to the deaf. They are right in demanding that it be intelligible. It is easy to accustom one's ears to the articulation of a person seen daily, and if the pupil conversed with none but his relatives and teachers there might be no complaint about peculiarities. Such is not the case, however. With rare exceptions the deaf child must struggle in the world just as his hearing brothers and sisters do. The speech that comes easily to them is acquired by him at the expense of time and effort; it is his due that it should be made intelligible and agreeable.

As is generally known, the various States have large institutions for the deaf and dumb, or, as sometimes called, deaf-mutes. Dumb and mute are terms no longer applicable to the deaf who receive the best instruction; for it is now conceded to be a mark of neglected education to be unable to speak to some extent. Formerly they were dumb because deaf; now those who are dumb are so because untaught. The first superintendents to give articulation any place in their institutions considered it an added touch to give occasional pleasure. They were too strongly attached to signs to believe instruction in the various school branches could be given by speech and reading from the mouth. A comparatively few scholars, chiefly those who once heard, were put in classes and received lessons in speech a half hour daily, or four times a week, perhaps less. During the other hours there was no practical use of what was gained. In all the branches of the course, the teacher, in many cases a sign-taught mute, conducted the recitations in signs, finger-spelling, and writing. Spoken words were not used more than is German or French by the average child who has a lesson in the language with many others a few times a week. Thus articulation failed to obtain a fair opportunity to show its merits. Gradually some of the various obstacles to its success have been removed, and its teachers are making persistent efforts to secure to every deaf child a chance to speak and to read the lips.