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Newly Named Executive Director of ASD Is The Second Deaf Leader In School's History

By Suzanne Carlson, scarlson@courant.com - The Hartford Courant
summarized by Jennifer Reed, staff writer

Jeffrey S. Bravin, the second deaf leader in the history of the American School for the Deaf (ASD) in West Hartford, Connecticut, realizes the importance of the new role he will assume in August. He says of his new position, “Bottom line: I’m going to be a role model for all the deaf children here” as he will demonstrate that a deaf person can hold a position of great standing.

Through an ASL interpreter, Bravin shares details of who has held the position since 2001. The first deaf director, Harvey Corson, oversaw the facility from 2001 to 2006.

Established in 1817, ASD was not only the first special education facility in the Western Hemisphere, but it is also where ASL and deaf education originated.

Bravin himself has a profound genetic hearing loss that has spanned four generations in his family. Bravin’s wife and three children are hearing.

His family has a long history of involvement in deaf education. His father played a role in the appointment of Gallaudet University’s first deaf president, I. King Jordan. Jordan most notably said, "deaf people can do anything hearing people can do, except hear."

Bravin attended Lexington School for the Deaf in New York and then earned a degree in politics. He then went on to earn master’s degrees in deaf education and school administration, returning to Lexington School for the Deaf as a teacher.

After teaching, he became a resource specialist and then moved into the development director position on a trial basis as the superintendent during this period, Oscar Cohen, felt Bravin’s deafness might hinder him from performing all the necessary tasks, such as public speaking and frequent phone calls. Three years later, Bravin proved he could do the job as well as any hearing person. The school benefitted from his successful fundraising.

Eventually, Cohen pressed Bravin to apply for the assistant development director job at ASD. He has held this position for the past two years. His family enjoys West Hartford and has become a part of the Beth Israel Jewish congregation. The community has embraced Bravin and both his congregation and his children’s schools provide ASL interpreters for him.

Although ASD moved into a new, high-tech structure in September, Bravin looks forward to further improvements.

Bravin explains that ASD teachers speak English while signing in ASL, something equivalent to hearing French and Spanish simultaneously. Because of the mental taxation of this method, he wants to transition to teaching English and ASL individually. He says, “The ability for students to acquire language is, above all, the key to education.”

In our modern times with advanced tools, such as cochlear implants and hearing aids, doctors are guiding parents, 95% of which are hearing, to forgo teaching their deaf children ASL and focus on oral methods.

While he believes deaf people should make use of technology, Bravin feels not learning ASL “is a serious misstep that is not supported by research.”

Before age five, hearing children learn about 200,000 to 300,000 words, and deaf children learn between 70,000 and 100,000 words. Research confirms that those deaf children who do not learn ASL show a significant reduction in language acquisition, which can affect them throughout their lives.

Read the full story here.

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