by Richard L. Cohen, M.S.
Nationally Certified Deaf Interpreter
American Sign Language Instructor
Summer's Story - Coming of Age with the Cochlear Implant
Written by Summer Crider
Produced by Michael Munroe
VHS 27 minutes, ASL & Voice, Open Captioned
General Interest: A+
Recommended for public libraries.
When I was asked to review this video, I let out a deep sigh, assuming it was going to be another one of those propaganda spiels focusing narrowly on the ear and the joy of sound. It came as a pleasant surprise that the video's focus was on the whole person, with the impact of the cochlear implant often more symbolic than physical.
The video will not satisfy either the extreme proponents or opponents of cochlear implants. Instead, it will inform the public about the experience of one profoundly deaf person, Summer Crider, from birth to the time she started college. It's significant that this story is primarily Summer's own, even though it includes interviews with her family, friends and teachers. The technical details on the cochlear implant device itself are mercifully brief, simply explaining the basic functions, with the benefit of clear graphics.
What struck a chord is that Summer and I have somewhat parallel experiences. Both of us became deaf at the age of three from spinal meningitis, went to a school for the deaf at an early age, failed to adjust at a regular mainstream school, transferred back to a school for the deaf, and finally found all-important, precious peer support within the Deaf community. Summer's story mirrors much of Deaf folklore, which follows the thread of a deaf person feeling isolated and depressed until the Deaf community is discovered.
Summer had a love/hate relationship with her cochlear implant until she gained emotional stability and confidence through her peers within the Deaf community, finally accepting the benefits of the device instead of seeing it as a stigma. In the end, Summer states that she hopes to become the bridge between the "Hearing" and Deaf communities, as she grew up in both. In actuality, it seems to me, this video may be an encouraging new signpost to the Deaf community, which shows that the lightly traveled bridges have always been there.
Everyone - regardless of hearing status - who watches this video with an open mind will come to realize that Summer's Story shows that the cochlear implant is simply a tool which may be used within the cherished Deaf community.