JANUARY 12, 1953
NEW YORK, Sunday—On Friday morning I visited a public school on East 23rd Street which is run for the deaf children of New York City. The building has been renovated, and some of the rooms are equipped with group earphones which are helpful in teaching deaf children how to speak.
The less a child hears, the more difficult it is to teach him to talk. Deaf children can read lips, but still may not be able to make intelligible sounds unless they grow accustomed to using sounds in the same way that the average person does. At the school they are trying an experiment with the two-year-old children. They believe that putting hearing aids on babies of that age, and giving them some pattern of sounds, will perhaps advance them, in the course of three or four years, more than if they had not heard anything at all.
The teachers seemed to me infinitely patient and dedicated in their work. There are so many things to teach a deaf child if it is to lead a fairly normal life and look after itself. For instance, eyes must take the place of ears in crossing a street or in taking part in many of the ordinary activities of children. Even a child of normal hearing is apt to believe that the world takes care of him, and you have to teach him certain rules which will make him less likely to be run over. A deaf child runs many more risks, and for his own safety must learn a good many more things. Fortunately, other senses are sharpened when one is impaired. Still, many adjustments are necessary, since a deaf child tends to withdraw rather than to do things with others.
I found two older boys in the hearing aid room testing out what they could hear with different hearing aids. To guard against reading her lips, the teacher in charge stood behind them and had them repeat what she said. In this way they were forced to hear only through the aid. I found some of the children hard to understand, and discovered in each case that they had a lower level of hearing.
Graduates of this school go to regular high schools and compete with normal children. Many of them turn out to be brilliant in their studies. It is sometimes difficult to get jobs because people will not believe they can actually compete with others of normal hearing. It has been proved over and over again, however, that they are as good as many normal persons, and are perhaps a little more conscientious because they know it is harder to get a job.
On Friday evening four of us went to see Margaret Sullavan in "The Deep Blue Sea." I thought the acting was excellent, but I am not quite sure that I clearly understand what the playwright was trying to get across. I have always liked Margaret Sullavan's performances, particularly that in "The Voice of the Turtle." In this instance, was she just the possessive woman who did not understand that the young man gave her all he had to give, even though it was not up to her standards, or was she always looking for that real perfection in life which one never finds? Searching for perfection in life is frustrating. In any case, "The Deep Blue Sea" will leave you thinking, and perhaps you will know more of what was in the playwright's mind than I do. It is well worth an evening just for the acting.