Friday, February 26, 2010

Can you be a little bit Deaf?

Admittedly, my daughter is only 11 years old, living in a hearing family, using bilateral cochlear implants and has verbal speech as her primary language. However, she is fluent in SEE sign, and is quickly improving in ASL. She tends to hang out with the D/HH kids at lunchtime.

Is she deaf, or Deaf? We got into a conversation the other day about how she feels about her deafness. If she could wave a magic wand and "fix" her hearing so that she no longer needed implants, would she do that? Or would she wave that wand and remove her implants so she could neither talk nor hear at all? We talked about both options, and how if she had never lost her hearing, she would not have sign language. We would have never learned it nor taught it to her. If she had no implants, she would not have any hearing at all, so she would not have music and she would not be able to communicate easily with most of our extended family, especially the cousins she is so close to.

Turns out she is perfectly happy where she is. She would not wave that wand in either direction. She likes the hearing she gets with her implants, and she likes the ability to take them off and go silent. She loves to sign, and loves to use that ability with other deaf kids. Many people would say she is sitting on the fence between the deaf and the Deaf worlds. She sees herself as being able to fully participate in both. Does that make her a little bit Deaf? I don't know. I am just happy that so far, she feels good about herself and sees herself in a positive light.

14 comments:

Dianrez said...

You've described a great Deaf child. One who is comfortable in her skin and who knows several ways to communicate, including ASL. And has freedom to choose any mode as the mood strikes. No worries there!

eighthsacrament said...

One of my professors told us that research is showing that kids who were raised in a similar manner (or who have chosen it as adults) tend to feel like they have the best of both worlds with their hearing and d/Deaf friends. One of my friends is an example: she identifies as Deaf and is also a card-carrying AG Bell member. Perhaps the definition of what it means to be Deaf will evolve to include such people.

Starrynight said...

My child is bilingual in ASL and spoken English with a CI. He is comfortable and fully participate in both Deaf and hearing communities. He has the best of both worlds. If he didn't have a CI, he would probably be more comfortable to participate in the Deaf community only using ASL. It s nice that he has both hearing and D/deaf friends. I'd still consider him Deaf but he can hear with a CI. I don't think he'd be on the fence between hearing and deaf worlds like many hard of hearing people are.

haddy2dogs said...

She sounds like she is in a great place. I love that you talk with her about this! She is Deaf and has the tools to be in both worlds. My thought is we need to give our kids the tools to be comfortable in their skin and do anything they want in life. You have my respect.

kim said...

I think your daughter represents the future whether she considers herself deaf or Deaf. It seems like all labels are becoming less important to the younger generations. Consider those silly check boxes where we're supposed to check off our race. Some people can't, because they are their own unique blend. What's more important is that your daughter feels a connection with everyone around her-- her deaf school friends and her hearing cousins. It's wonderful that you've helped her to learn how to celebrate her own uniqueness rather than forcing her to choose one box or the other.

(e said...

That's really wonderful that you talk with your daughter about these issues. And you listen to her. I find that adults often don't listen to children and let them make their own choices. Sounds like she has a great family!

(e

Starrynight said...

KL, I'm glad that you are open-minded and encourage your daughter to learn sign language and make friends with other deaf kids. Almost none of parents in my child's oral preschool class are interested in learning sign language and don't seem interested in getting their kids together with other deaf kids. They probably expect to mainstream them completely as "one of hearing children". Most of those children are hard of hearing and a few of them have CIs.

Li-Li's Mom said...

What a lovely post! So great to get such a wonderful and balanced perspective from your daughter. Her comfort level is a real credit to your inclusive approach.

I sure do hope to have the same conversation with Li-Li someday, either in sign or spoken language or a mix of the two!

Marina said...

I am an advocate for the Deaf in Armenia, a country where the latest "trend" or "fashion" is to have deaf children implanted. The tragedy is that the parents and the deaf community is not well informed about cochlear implants.
I do have a site, called www.unheardvoicesofarmenia.blogspot.com.
Please advise.

Rafael L F Davis said...

I love love love this blog.
I always feel like my son is a minority within a minority within a minority - so few children are deaf/HH, so few HH children have CIs, and so few HH children with CIs are learning sign language. He is only four years old so we aren't having these kinds of conversations yet but when I read this blog I feel confident that we have chosen the right path (at least for us). He can be proud of his deafness and also has access to the hearing world. Thank you and I hope you can keep this blog going.

Anonymous said...

Wait and see when she once become a college student or start her career in the hearing world. She will find many difficult in dealing with many hearing adult who want to talk fast ! Good luck ! I have known many people like her..

Anonymous said...

Can we chat about mainstreaming in the public school system as a deaf/CI child? My granddaughter has been falling behind in her school work and we are struggling with whether or not mainstreaming continues to be a good idea. However, schools for the deaf primarily focus on ASL and the CI children are a minority.

Anonymous said...

I am an adult who began losing hearing in grade school (late 1960's). In that midwest farm town there was no question of special schooling, it was unheard of. Over the years I was taunted and abused not only by classmates, but also teachers and professors - and family members (father and brother). My hearing aid and glasses were stolen from my locker in gym (can't swim with either), and found destroyed. My experience confirms other's observations that in American society the disabled are viewed as a separate, and inferior, species. So, as an adult with a loss of 95 dB I do my best to mask this disability, the consequence being I live in neither the hearing nor the Deaf world. It's encouraging to know that it doesn't have to be that way.
Can you be a little bit Deaf? I can't. Showing any weakness simply results in exclusion, the Corporate world mirrors the sandbox it grew up in, and never grew out of. For all the talk of diversity and inclusion, the disabled are still standing out in the cold.

MomofCaleb&Sarah said...

Hello! We are a ASL-Cochlear Implant Family. All 4 of us are Deaf & we all have Cochlear Implants. We use Total Communication because we have extended hearing relatives & friends & we meet d/Deaf friends. My children are teens now & they can choose whatever theyre comfortable to do. My best friend is hearing & she loves sign language. We sign songs together. I like to see both communities continue work together & be friends one another. The best of both worlds is a blessing.