CBS’s “60 Minutes” 1992 & 1999 Interview with Roz Rosen TRANSCRIPTS

Transcripts of 60 Minutes interviews with Roz Rosen (Nov. 8, 1992 and June 9, 1999)

“Caitlin’s Story [Part One]”

CBS News Transcripts

Sunday, November 8, 1992

SHOW: 60 MINUTES (7:00 PM ET)  

ANCHOR: ED BRADLEY

CAITLIN’S STORY

ED BRADLEY, co-host:

One thing about 60 MINUTES, you get to meet a lot of people. But we don’t remember ever meeting one who captivated us quite as much as this seven-year-old charmer. Caitlin is one of two million Americans whose loss of hearing is so profound that she hears almost nothing, except when she’s hooked up to a remarkable device called a cochlear implant, which is surgically implanted behind her ear. Some 7,500 people around the world are now implanted with the device. We don’t know what difference it’s made in their lives, but we do know what it’s done for Caitlin.

(Footage of Caitlin in music class)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Watching six-year-old Caitlin Parton in her music class, you’d never guess she’s any different from the rest of her classmates. But Caitlin is profoundly deaf. She hears, sings and talks almost like any of the other first graders at the day school here in New York City because she has a cochlear implant.

Four years ago when she was almost two months old, Caitlin got meningitis. The illness destroyed the hearing in both her ears and severely affected her balance. The first day out of the hospital, her parents–Steve Parton, an illustrator, and Melody James, an actress and director–took her to Central Park.

Mr. STEVE PARTON (Caitlin’s Father): She got up and started to run, and she fell down. And she rolled over and laughed and laughed. And got up and ran a few more steps and fell down, but she got up again. And she ran a few more steps and fell down and just burst into tears. And we’re–you know, we’re devastated to see a kid who is trying to do something that she knew she could do before and not understand why it wasn’t working. To see her frustration was, was very hard.

(Footage of Caitlin’s parents)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) And when Caitlin got home, she found what had been one of her favorite toys.

Ms. MELODY JAMES (Caitlin’s Mother): And she picked up this little whistle, it’s called Tommy Toot, and she blew it, and she threw it across the room and said, ‘It broke.’

BRADLEY: You could hear the whistle.

Ms. JAMES: Oh, yeah. It–it wasn’t the whistle that was broken. It was her ears.

(Footage of deaf children signing, speech therapy class, a visual of a drawing of a cochlear implant and how it works)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) The Partons faced a choice. They could either bring Caitlin up using American sign language sending her to deaf schools, or they could try a more oral approach, fitting her with hearing aids, teaching her to lip read and sending her to regular or special education classes.

Since Caitlin had been a hearing child, the Partons chose the oral approach and turned to the New York League for the Hard of Hearing for help. Caitlin got high-powered hearing aids and intensive therapy, but they didn’t work.

Then the Partons heard about the cochlear implant. The device works by actually delivering sound to the brain the way the ear should. It consists of a microphone which sends signals to a processor, which relays those signals to a receiver and electrodes which have been surgically implanted in the user’s head. The electrodes stimulate the auditory nerve and the brain hears.

The surgery and the implant can cost as much as $ 40,000. And only those people who have hearing loss so profound that hearing aids can’t help them are eligible. Doctors warn the implant will not restore normal hearing. It will provide a range of sound depending on the individual user.

Mr. PARTON: They said that the device would give Caitie a greater awareness of environmental sounds. That’s all that they promised us. They said that she might be able to hear cars and dogs. And as parents living in New York, that sounded pretty good.

(Footage of Bradley talking to Caitlin)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Four years after being implanted, Caitlin is getting a lot more than environmental sound. She now hears and speaks well enough to hold conversations with strangers.

How does it work?

CAITLIN: Well, the sound goes inside a tiny microphone around here and it goes down into the computer, which is in this box, and then it goes back up again in here, and then it goes into my brain.

BRADLEY: What happens if you take it off?

CAITLIN: Well, then I just hear nothing, just nothing. It’s like this. (Clams mouth shut) Nothing comes out.

(Visual of Caitlin in therapy)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) You just don’t put in an implant and hear as well as Caitlin does. Intensive speech therapy is as important as the device itself.

MARY (Teacher): Ring, ring, ring! (Holding a play telephone)

CAITLIN: Hello!

MARY: Hi, Caitie. It’s Mary.

Mr. PARTON: Very good.

(Footage of Caitlin in therapy)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) In therapy twice a week at the New York league for the Hard of Hearing, Caitlin learns how to attach meaning to the sounds she hears through the implant. It’s a laborious, painstaking process. Here she’s strengthening her listening skills by being forced to rely on hearing rather than lip reading.

MARY: I was wondering if you and Daddy could go shopping for me?

CAITLIN: OK.

MARY: What are you going to do?

CAITLIN: I’m going to go shopping for you.

(Footage of Bradley in therapy with Caitlin)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) To see how well Caitlin could do with a stranger, I took the role of therapist. We made a kite together, covering Contact paper with different colored shapes. I covered my lips to make sure that she was hearing me, not just reading my lips.

I want a blue heart and a pink rectangle. Perfect. Perfect. And put it on the red diamond.

CAITLIN: On top, or not?

BRADLEY: On either side. One on one side; one on the other side.

CAITLIN: Mmm.

BRADLEY: Sticky, huh?

(Visual of Caitlin in therapy with Bradley)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) I then asked Caitlin to take off the processor to see how well she could do without it.

If I say, show me the kite. (Caitlin shakes her head no) Can you read my lips now? (Caitlin shakes her head no) Where is the kite?

CAITLIN: What light?

BRADLEY: The kite.

CAITLIN: Kite. There.

BRADLEY: But, now you can’t hear me?

CAITLIN: I didn’t hear you or see it. I don’t know what you said.

BRADLEY: Put it back on.

(Footage of Caitlin in therapy)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) There’s still more work that goes into having a cochlear implant. Every two months Caitlin has to have the device tuned by audiologists. Here they’re adjusting sound levels for her. And then there are the semi-annual evaluations.

Man’s Voice (Computerized): Show me the birthday cake.

(Caitlin points to the birthday cake)

Woman’s Voice (Computerized): Birthday cake.

Man’s Voice (Computerized): Show me the shoe.

(Caitlin points to the shoe)

Woman’s Voice (Computerized): Shoe.

(Footage of Caitlin in therapy)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) She currently tests two-and-a-half years above her age level in language skills and three years above her age in comprehending language. Roz Rosen is president of the National Association of the Deaf, the largest organization of profoundly deaf people in the world.

Have you ever considered an implant for yourself?

Ms. ROZ ROSEN (President, National Association of the Deaf): (Signing through Translator) No.

BRADLEY: Why?

Ms. ROSEN: (Through Translator) I’m happy the way I am. I wouldn’t want to be any different. I have a good life. I have a good job, wonderful education, nice family. I wouldn’t want to trade that for anything.

(Footage of people signing)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Rosen and many National Association of the Deaf members are part of what is called ‘the deaf culture’–two million plus people who use American sign language and who socialize mainly with deaf people. Rosen and her organization are fighting to get the FDA to withdraw its approval of cochlear implant use in children. Why? She told us through an interpreter that deafness isn’t a disability that needs to be fixed by implants.

Ms. ROSEN: (Through Translator) Instead of thinking of deafness as a disability or thinking of deafness as an absence of sound, we think of deafness as an enhancement of–of vision.

BRADLEY: But it is also the absence of sound.

Ms. ROSEN: (Through Translator) That may seem to be the most important feature to most people, but to deaf people, we don’t really even think about sound.

(Footage of Rosen and the interpreter walking on a street)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Rosen believes that hearing parents of deaf children aren’t really qualified to decide whether to use implants because they don’t realize that the deaf culture is a better alternative, one where being deaf is not considered a deprivation.

Ms. ROSEN: (Through Translator) Many people have said to me, ‘What’s it like to be a deaf person? You don’t hear the birds sing, the leaves rustling as the wind breezes through the trees, the crash of the ocean as it hits the shore. Aren’t you missing those things?’ And I said, ‘No, all of that is music to my eyes.’ Deafness is like a prism. It plays up brilliantly those things that may be missing to other people.

(Footage of Rosen talking to Bradley)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Rosen is concerned about the long-term psychological effects of using cochlear implants to try and convert a deaf child into a hearing one.

Ms. ROSEN: (Through Translator) The impression that the child gets with all of that focus on the ear, on the mouth, that maybe the parents would love me more if I could just hear a little better, if I could just talk a little better, instead of Mom just accepting me just the way I am, loving me and going on with learning and communicating.

(Footage of Harlan Lane)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Harlan Lane is not deaf, but he wrote the National Association of the Deaf position paper opposing implant use in children. He’s a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and he says the real proponents of the implants are the people who he thinks make money off them–the surgeons, audiologists and the speech therapists.

Mr. HARLAN LANE (Psychology Professor, Northeastern University): It’s these people who say sign language isn’t good enough. You’ve got to speak even if we have to do surgery on your brain, even if we have to turn your life into a speech clinic. These are the bigots of–of our world.

BRADLEY: You believe that all of these people are doing this–the implants–because it’s the way they make their living?

Mr. LANE: Yes. I think that they believe in the value of these devices because they are foolishly convinced that the deaf child has a desperate plight. So they do it out of a lack of respect for the views of deaf people and they do it most of all because that’s what they do. They haven’t really taken enough pause, I think, to consider that deaf people themselves don’t believe in this.

Dr. NOEL COHEN (New York University Medical Center): No one gets wealthy on–on cochlear implants. We bill for what we can, we collect on some of what we bill for. But there are not big bucks in cochlear implants.

(Footage of Cohen)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Dr. Noel Cohen of New York University Medical Center was the surgeon for Caitlin’s implant. He believes in the device because it gives children an alternative to cope with their deafness.

It is a disability?

Dr. COHEN: I think so.

BRADLEY: But they don’t view it that way.

Dr. COHEN: I disagree with that. The–our–our society is primarily a hearing society. We all hear. A minority of people are unable to hear and–and rely on–on signing and there’s nothing wrong with that. What we’re trying to do is to give a young child the option of dealing with it in another way.

Do you think you made the right decision?

Ms. JAMES: Yes.

BRADLEY: No doubts.

Mr. PARTON: No question at all. No question. Caitie is so happy. She’s enjoying herself so much that there–there isn’t a doubt in my mind.

BRADLEY: What about the argument that they make, the National Association for the Deaf, that parents aren’t really qualified to make the decision whether to–to implant a child or not? That hearing parents don’t know enough about deaf culture to realize that deaf people don’t need to be fixed with surgery and that parents have a basic conflict of interest because they want the children to be like them, hearing?

Ms. JAMES: People who make that argument, I don’t feel they know what it feels like to be a parent. I love this little girl with everything. The work is Caitlin, the art is Caitlin. That’s the priority. We felt if we put everything in now, she could have a life that would be very rich and full. And she could make her own choices.

Mr. PARTON: All we have done is given Caitie a tool and an option. She’s experienced the delights of our culture that are not open to someone who cannot hear. That’s not a small thing, to hear the spoken word and to hear the sounds of the world. And if Caitie chooses at some time in her life that these gifts are no longer pleasurable, she has the option to turn off the implant.

BRADLEY: If someone said, ‘Caitlin, you can have the implant or no implant,’ what would you say?

CAITLIN: That I want to have the implant. And–and I also–I wish I was like everyone else, you know. But I think I should have the implant.

======================================

“Caitlin’s Story [Part Two]”

CBS News Transcripts

Wednesday, June 9, 1999

SHOW: 60 MINUTES II (9:00 PM ET)  

CAITLIN’S STORY 

ED BRADLEY, co-host:

In tonight’s “60 Minutes” Classic, we’d like to bring you up to date on Caitlin Parton, a captivating young charmer we met back in 1992. When we first met her, Caitlin’s life had been irrevocably changed by the Cochlear implant. The device, surgically implanted behind Caitlin’s ear, allowed her to hear, even though she was one of two million Americans whose loss of hearing was so profound that she heard almost nothing without it. Take a look.

(Vintage footage of storyboard for Caitlin’s Story produced by Ruth Streeter; of Caitlin in class)

Unidentified Woman #1: This Caitlin?

Unidentified Girl: Yeah, that Caitlin.

Woman #1: OK.

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Watching six-year-old Caitlin Parton in her music class, you’d never guess she’s any different from the rest of her classmates, but Caitlin is profoundly deaf. She hears, sings and talks like almost any of the other first-graders at the day school here in New York City, because she has a Cochlear implant.

(Vintage footage of Caitlin; of Caitlin’s parents)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) When she was almost two years old, Caitlin got meningitis. The illness destroyed the hearing in both her ears. And on the day that her parents, Steve Parton and Melody James, took her home from the hospital, Caitlin found what had been one of her favorite toys.

Ms. MELODY JAMES (Caitlin’s Mother): And she picked up this little whistle–it’s called Tommy Toot–and she blew it, and she threw it across the room and said, ‘It broke.’

BRADLEY: You could hear the whistle.

Ms. JAMES: Oh, yeah. It–it wasn’t the whistle that was broken. It was her ears.

(Vintage footage of people using sign language; of hearing aid being put in Caitlin’s ear; of Caitlin learning to lip read; of poster: Children should be seen and heard; of New York League for the Hard of Hearing sign; of Caitlin during therapy; of computer-enhanced diagram and person indicating parts of and how a Cochlear implant works; of operation)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) The Partons faced a choice. They could either bring Caitlin up using American Sign Language, sending her to deaf schools, or they could try a more oral approach, fitting her with hearing aids, teaching her to lip read, and sending her to regular or special education classes. Since Caitlin had been a hearing child, the Partons chose the oral approach, and turned to the New York League for the Hard of Hearing for help. Caitlin got high-powered hearing aids and intensive therapy, but they didn’t work. Then the Partons heard about the Cochlear implant. The device works by actually delivering sound to the brain the way the ear should. It consists of a microphone which sends signals to a processor, which relays those signals to a receiver and electrodes which have been surgically implanted in the user’s head. The electrodes stimulate the auditory nerve, and the brain hears. The surgery and the implant can cost as much as $ 40,000, and only those people who have hearing loss so profound that hearing aids can’t help them are eligible. Doctors warn the implant will not restore normal hearing. It will provide a range of sound depending on the individual user.

Mr. STEVE PARTON (Caitlin’s Father): They said that the device would give Caitie a greater awareness of environmental sounds. That’s all that they promised us.

(Vintage footage of Caitlin with Bradley)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Four years after being implanted, Caitlin is getting a lot more than environmental sound. She now hears and speaks well enough to hold conversations with strangers.

How does it work?

CAITLIN PARTON: Well, the sound goes inside a tiny microphone around here, and it goes down into the computer, which is in this box, and then it goes back up again in here, and then it goes into my brain.

BRADLEY: What happens if you take it off?

PARTON: Well, then I just hear nothing, just nothing. It’s like this (Caitlin buttons up lips tight). Nothing comes out.

(Vintage footage of Caitlin and father during speech therapy)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) You just don’t put in an implant and hear as well as Caitlin does. Intensive speech therapy is as important as the device itself.

MARY: Ring, ring, ring, ring.

PARTON: Hello?

MARY: Hi, Caitie, it’s Mary.

Mr. PARTON: Very good.

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) In therapy twice a week at the New York League for the Hard of Hearing, Caitlin learns how to attach meaning to the sounds she hears through the implant. It’s a laborious, painstaking process.

(Vintage footage of Bradley, therapist and Caitlin during therapy)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) To see how well Caitlin could do with a stranger, I took the role of therapist. We made a kite together, covering contact paper with different colored shapes. I covered my lips to make sure that she was hearing me, not just reading my lips.

I want a blue heart and a pink rectangle. Perfect. Perfect. And put it on the red diamond.

PARTON: On top or not?

BRADLEY: On either side. Sticky, huh?

(Voiceover) I then asked Caitlin to take off the processor to see how well she could do without it.

If I say, ‘show me the kite,’ can you read my lips now?

PARTON: (Shakes head no)

BRADLEY: Where is the kite?

PARTON: What light?

BRADLEY: The kite.

PARTON: Kite. There.

BRADLEY: But now you can’t hear me?

PARTON: I didn’t hear you or see it. I don’t know what you said.

BRADLEY: Put it back on.

(Vintage footage of Caitlin having her Cochlear implant tuned; of sound machine; of Caitlin during testing)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) There’s still more work that goes into having a Cochlear implant. Every two months, Caitlin has to have the device tuned by audiologists. Here, they’re adjusting sound levels for her. And then there are the semi-annual evaluations.

Unidentified Man #1: Show me the birthday cake.

Unidentified Woman #2: Birthday cake.

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) She currently tests two and a half years above her age level in language skills, and three years above her age in comprehending language.

(Vintage footage of Roslyn Rosen using sign language)

Ms. ROSLYN ROSEN (President, National Association of the Deaf): (Through Translator) …and the disappointments…

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Roz Rosen is president of the National Association of the Deaf, the largest organization of profoundly deaf people in the world.

Have you ever considered a–an implant for yourself?

Ms. ROSEN: (Shakes head no)

(Through Translator) No.

BRADLEY: Why?

Ms. ROSEN: (Through Translator) I’m happy the way I am. I wouldn’t want to be any different.

(Vintage footage of Rosen and Bradley; people using sign language; of newsclipping of Rosen’s 1991 column called The President Signs On; of The Broadcaster newsletter; of Rosen, Bradley and interpreter)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Rosen and many National Association of the Deaf members are part of what is called the deaf culture: the two million-plus people who use American Sign Language, and who socialize mainly with deaf people. Rosen and her organization are fighting to get the FDA to withdraw its approval of Cochlear implant use in children. Why? She told us through an interpreter that deafness isn’t a disability that needs to be fixed by implants.

Ms. ROSEN: (Through Translator) Instead of thinking of deafness as a disability, or thinking of deafness as an absence of sound, we think of deafness as an enhancement of–of vision.

(Vintage footage of Rosen and interpreter walking; of Rosen and Bradley)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Rosen believes that hearing parents of deaf children aren’t really qualified to decide whether to use implants, because they don’t realize that the deaf culture is a better alternative, one where being deaf is not considered a deprivation. And Rosen is concerned about the long-term psychological effects of using Cochlear implants to try and convert a deaf child into a hearing one.

Ms. ROSEN: (Through Translator) The impression that the child gets with all of that focus on the ear, on the mouth, that maybe the parents would love me more if I could just hear a little better, if I could just talk a little better, instead of Mom just accepting me just the way I am.

BRADLEY: Do you think you made the right decision?

Ms. JAMES: Yes.

BRADLEY: No doubts?

Mr. PARTON: No question at all. No question.

(Vintage footage of Caitlin at school)

Mr. PARTON: (Voiceover) Caitie is so happy. She’s enjoying herself so much that there–there–there isn’t a doubt in my mind.

BRADLEY: If someone said, ‘Caitlin, you can have the implant, or no implant,’ what would you say?

PARTON: That I want to have the implant, and–and also, I wish I was like everyone else, you know, but I think I should have the implant.

BRADLEY: That was in 1992. The debate over Cochlear implants continues today. The National Association of the Deaf is re-evaluating their position, and has withdrawn their public opposition to the use of Cochlear implants in children. Something else has changed. Today, even those severely deaf who obtain some benefit from hearing aids may be candidates for the Cochlear implant. To date, over 20,000 people around the world have been implanted. We don’t know what difference, if any, the Cochlear implant has made in all of their lives, but we went back to see Caitlin to see how she’s doing with her implant.

(Footage of storyboard for Caitlin’s Story produced by Deborah De Luca Sheh; Bradley and Caitlin meeting again)

BRADLEY: I can’t believe that’s you. Wow.

PARTON: Hi.

BRADLEY: How are you?

PARTON: Good. How are you?

BRADLEY: You’ve grown.

PARTON: Yeah.

BRADLEY: What should I have expected except for you to grow? Look what I brought. Do you remember that?

(Vintage photo of Bradley and Caitlin)

PARTON: Yeah. We have it up.

BRADLEY: You have the same picture?

PARTON: Yeah.

BRADLEY: This has been on my bulletin board since I met you. You were how old then?

PARTON: Oh, six.

BRADLEY: Six. So tell me what’s the biggest difference then and now?

PARTON: I guess I would have to say that I’ve matured a lot and–but it’s been fun.

BRADLEY: Oh.

PARTON: It has been.

(Footage of Caitlin in school with other teens; of Caitlin having her Cochlear implant tuned; of evaluation)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Caitlin is now 13. She’s able to hear and speak well enough to attend a mainstream public school, where last year she even made the honor roll.

PARTON: A little louder.

Unidentified Man #2: This is where it was last time.

PARTON: It’s too loud.

Man #2: Too loud. OK.

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) While she no longer needs regular therapy sessions, Caitlin still needs to have her device tuned by audiologists several times a year. And her 10-year evaluation showed she’s performing at an extremely high level with her Cochlear implant, scoring nearly 100 percent in all of her tests. Hearing in the real world is a bit more challenging for Caitlin, but she seems to be doing just fine.

Do you ever feel different these days, Caitlin?

PARTON: I don’t feel any different than the person next to me. I mean, I may have what people call a disability, but it plays no part in how kids treat me. I had one situation where a kid who was trying to ruffle my feathers said, ‘You’re deaf,’ as if that was an insult. And I said to them, ‘Duh!’ I mean–I didn’t understand how that was supposed to be an insult.

BRADLEY: Uh-huh.

PARTON: I mean, that’s just the way I am. I mean, I have an implant, and I hear.

BRADLEY: You turn it off when you go to sleep?

PARTON: Yeah.

BRADLEY: And when you turn it on first thing in the morning, what’s that–what’s that like?

PARTON: At first it’s a shock, almost. You know, my brain’s going, ‘Oh, sound again.’ And my brain takes a little while, but it’s like a couple of seconds, to figure out what the different sounds are–the background noise, who’s talking, what they’re saying, if the radio is on, if water’s running.

(On phone) Yeah, you could say that.

(Footage of Caitlin on phone)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) Because of her Cochlear implant, today Caitlin is able to enjoy those normal activities of a hearing teen-ager, like talking to her friends on the phone, and hearing their voices on the other end.

PARTON: (On phone) Oh!

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) She’s even learning to speak French.

Vous parle Francais?

PARTON: Oui. Je parle Francais un peu.

BRADLEY: Un peu?

PARTON: Un peu.

(Footage of Caitlin listening to music in her bedroom; of Bradley and Caitlin at piano; Caitlin playing “Sound of Silence” on piano)

BRADLEY: (Voiceover) And she loves listening to her favorite CDs. But that’s not all. Caitlin doesn’t just enjoy hearing music, she enjoys making it.

PARTON: (Voiceover) I wanted to learn to play the piano, because I thought it was a beautiful instrument. I loved the way it sounded. It was very melodic, and I wanted to be able to share that musical experience with other people.

BRADLEY: What does hearing mean to you?

PARTON: To be able to hear means so much, because without hearing, I’m missing wonderful sounds. Without that, I–I don’t know how my life would be without those sounds, because with those sounds, my life is filled. I’m living it to the fullest.

(Announcements)

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