Deficit-thinking Smashed to Smithereens

Although everyone in the deaf blogosphere is probably sick of deficit-thinking by now, I can't help but pitch in and share an experience where I personally saw it get smashed to smithereens.

As I've mentioned before, my 8-year old son Darren is deaf. And it's the most challenging kind of "deaf" in my opinion because little more than a year ago, he was hearing.

He's not yet capital-D "Deaf" but is moving in that direction at his own pace. He still says he wants to stay at his current school and we will honor that request for now, probably up until he's ready for Junior High.

It's interesting to watch him process what's going on as he straddles two worlds. In fact, he once wrote an article that was posted on DeafRead. (Yep, this is the infamous kid that got kicked out of an AGBell conference in July 2007.)

Darren's public school has been fantastic. They've provided an interpreter and have even had sessions where an itinerant teacher taught classmates ABCs and basic signs.

Nonetheless, there's a powerful force called introjection where we unconsciously absorb the beliefs of our parents, teachers, and peers. Although Darren's parents are proud advocates of Deaf culture, Darren is still surrounded by many hearing teachers and peers. It's only natural he wants to emulate them as best as he can.

This causes an internal conflict. Even though everyone has been very supportive, deficit-thinking rears its head when you're the only deaf kid in your whole school.

So what did we do? We took Darren on a visit to the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf to watch the boys varsity basketball team play against New York School for the Deaf (Fanwood).

For the first time in a long time Darren got to see "Deaf" as "normal" on a much larger scale. (My home doesn't qualify as "normal," as many friends will attest.)

Darren not only enjoyed the game but also gleefully pointed out that he could understand the coaches' and players' dialogue on the sidelines. At halftime, Darren was walking on Cloud 9 as some of the players walking towards the locker room stopped to say hello and shake hands with him.

Yes, I know this is just high school basketball. But to an 8-year-old, it was like meeting LeBron James and Tim Duncan.

And then Carl, a teacher aide at PSD, approached us. Carl has known Darren since he was a baby. But he didn't know that Darren had gone deaf and was surprised when he noticed a hearing aid on Darren's ear.

"You're deaf?" Carl asked.

Darren nodded yes. And, unlike with his hearing friends, this time Darren seemed proud.

"You-me... SAME!" Carl laughed, giving Darren a high-five.

You should have seen the smile on Darren's face.

Deficit-thinking, smashed. Thank you, Carl.

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