Parents of Deaf Children
To all parents of deaf children: I don't know if there's any other phenomenon that results in parents being bombarded with so much conflicting information. If your child is deaf, you might as well lock yourself in the basement. You'll need to fight off people with a stick. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry will come at you with his own perspective on how to raise deaf children.
Most likely, right off the bat you'll have people encouraging you to look into hearing aids, speech therapy, and cochlear
implants. You'll make many a visit to your friendly neighborhood audiologist. You might feel you need a degree from M.I.T. to decipher all of the audiograms and related information promoting the use of assistive listening devices.
If that's not overwhelming enough, sooner or later you'll encounter someone advocating on behalf of the cultural approach.
This devastating hearing loss, people will tell you, is actually a blessing where your child gets to participate in a fascinating
culture with its own language, American Sign Language (ASL).
"Oh, nice," you might think to yourself. "Now I have to go out and learn an entirely new language just to communicate
with my own child."
There's more. You'll also encounter those who agree with the concept of sign language, but not ASL. They might offer their perspective that it's Signed Exact English (SEE), or any variation thereof, that might be more appropriate. Start off with SEE, and maybe move on to PSE (Pidgin Signed English). That should do it. Or, if you prefer to be more audio-visual, Cued Speech might do the trick. It's enough to make you scream, isn't it? If all of this is confusing enough for parents of deaf children, how do you think a young deaf child would feel when confronted with all of this? Exactly. It's mind-boggling.
And I haven't even gone into educational placement options, which is a whole new ballgame in itself. Although the primary focus of this page is on hearing parents of deaf children, educational placement is an aspect that also has deaf parents of deaf children up in arms over some very difficult choices.
There's a definite, ongoing buzz in the deaf community over which deaf schools are the best. Armed with this information, deaf parents (as well as hearing parents) may feel compelled to uproot their families and move closer to an educational program that best meets the needs of their deaf children. This can be a very tough choice because it may involve moving out of state--or even across the country.
The Solution Within
Some advocates may be so caught up in their own ideals that they may forget who they're dealing with. Namely, parents of deaf children who must make difficult choices that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Many of these parents have to make these choices while they are still going through a grieving process over their child's hearing loss.
It is for this reason I was motivated to write an article titled
You Deaf People
where I acknowledged that advocates everywhere need to be more sensitive to the needs of parents of deaf children. If you read it, you'll see how I learned a valuable lesson about deaf advocacy.
The bottom line: if your child is deaf, there's a simple way for you to find all of the answers you need. First, carefully
review all of the options available to you. And then, step away. Step away from the people trying to sell their philosophy
Sooner or later you will be able to make well-informed decisions. Sure, there are countless experts out there, but
it's you--and only you--who is the expert at knowing your own child. You WILL be able to make excellent decisions.
Yes, decisions. More than one. You can do several things that are of immense benefit to your child. The key is to find what fits your child, as opposed to forcing your child to fit into one thing while excluding another. We are not here to pound a square peg into a round hole.
Giving Deaf Children Permission To Be Who They Are
There is one more critical aspect to making the right choice. This is allowing your children the freedom to be who they are.
It doesn't matter if your child is fluent in ASL or an oralist; it doesn't matter if your child attends a deaf school or a
mainstream school; it doesn't matter if your child is hard of hearing or totally deaf. The important thing is this: whatever
works best for your child, your child needs to know that this is perfectly okay with you.
In an article titled Deafness: An Existential Interpretation by Stanley Krippner and Harry Easton, there was a quote so powerful that I felt compelled to include it in my book,
Here it is in its entirety:
"If parents are not able to accept the fact that their child is deaf and continue to deny the implications of the deafness,
the resulting effects on the child are to encourage his own denial and lack of authenticity. Such a child is thus unable to
accept himself and his capacity to emerge or become a unique person is blocked. He lives an existential lie and becomes
unable to relate to himself and to other deaf individuals and to the world in a genuine manner."
And this, I promise, is the most effective communication method for a deaf child: a parent's assurance that however they choose to grow up deaf or hard of hearing, it is okay.
Recommended Resources for Parents of Deaf Children
Parents deserve to have ALL of the information available to them regarding resources for deaf children. It's not about "pick this or pick that." It's about "here are all of the opportunities available to you." With that in mind, I have added links below featuring the most comprehensive, nonjudgmental resources that are out there. Without further ado, here they are:
American Society for Deaf Children
National Association of the Deaf
Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center
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