Oralism is one method of teaching a deaf child; this method does not allow the child to sign in or out of the classroom. The focus is on teaching the children to read speech cues, and focuses on teaching deaf people to speak instead of sign. This method was very popular for several years, but has gone into decline in the last few decades. The deaf community fought against oralism, because they felt that it isolated the children, and that it was a hindrance to the deaf culture continuing to grow and develop.
Deaf education is a very heated topic between the deaf community and parents of hard of hearing or deaf children. Many parents have begun to recognize the need for sign when the child is young, but still want their children to be mainstreamed and receive the training to learn speak and lip-read so their children can fit into a hearing society. Traditionally deaf education consisted of sending your deaf child to an institution where they were taught, but now parents can keep their children at home and still provide the same educational services through their local school district. Deafness is not as isolating as it used to be in schools and society.
Oralism tried to make it possible for the deaf people to function normally in society. Unfortunately, it made many people feel isolated as they struggled to communicate with their families. There was a great debate over manualism or oralism, with the hearing people wanting oralism and the deaf community pushing for manualism, which focused mainly on using sign language. Some advocates for oralism pointed at the higher reading levels of students who were taught with oralism methods over those who were taught using manualism.
Deaf culture revolves primarily around sign language and is passed down from one generation to the next. With the changes in deaf education moving from a state deaf school to mainstreaming the deaf people into normal schools, the deaf community is having a hard time reaching out to the deaf children of hearing parents. Although oralism is not as popular as it once was, the educational environment has changed significantly with the introduction of the Cochlear Implant and the different teaching methods at the schools. Deafness is no longer an isolating diagnosis within a hearing world.
The methods for addressing deafness will continue to change as technology and education theory changes. Deaf culture will continue to evolve as well. It is important to be respectful of the beliefs of parents who want the best for their child, and of the people are trying to communicate with the world around them. Although oralism is not as popular, many of the techniques to learn to read lips and to speak are still used to help teach a deaf child to speak today.