My child is deaf…What do I do?

When I was in college, I went home to visit my parents for the summer. There, they had a couple who just found out their child was diagnosed with deafness. It was a surprise to them and they turned to the closest people they knew that had been in the same situation. Out of curiosity, I accompanied them on a trip to a nearby town to meet them.

They were faced with several options: to send him off to a school for deaf in another town, to teach him sign language, or send him to an oral school. They were daunted by the tasks all equally. As it was their first child, they were faced with an enormous responsibility: the education and mental growth of their child. I remember that we discussed my experiences growing up. I had grown up with sign language as my first language (not exactly ASL, but it was more of a mix between ASL and SEE depending on my interactions with family and friends). My parents were set on learning from the onset when they found out about my deafness as they believe it to be a best way of communication between me and them. I started out in a local deaf program before mainstreaming in second grade and above.

Looking back, I see my experience as a very positive one as my parents were very active in their role in my education. I know there are many school of thoughts on how to bring up a deaf child. Some are for Oral tradition only. Some are for full ASL only. There are also some who believe in hybrid. Not to say that I would recommend teaching sign language to child solely. I have friends who attended oral schools and they grew up to be fully functional and vital members of the community. Some of them learned sign language later in life and used it to enrich their lives. I have friends who attended schools for the deaf and they themselves have become important parts of the community.

I believe that there are many approaches to how to raise a deaf child, and they can all work depending on the willingness of parents and child to be involved in each other’s lives. For instance, instead of sending a child off to deaf school in a distant town, parents could move closer. If the parents decide to lean towards the oral route, they should also be involved in the education and be open to what their child wants. If the child wants to learn sign language, they should be allowed to. After all, we encourage our children to learn Spanish, French, Italian, German, and many other languages to enrich their lives.

I don’t know what route the couple took. I think they decided on the oral route, but were open to possibilities as, later in life; their son may want to learn sign language. I am for all approaches as long as the child really gains a value out of it and the parents are really involved in the education. After all, their childhood only happens once. Let’s make sure they remember it as a happy one.

6 responses to “My child is deaf…What do I do?”

  1. Cynthia J. Stevens says:

    I believe whatever the method is best for the child in order to communicate to be able to understand. There are several methods of communication for deaf child. I have 2 deaf sons…both started out on Total Communication. It just depend on the child’s skills. I believe the parents must be involve in their child’s eduation, not just leaving the child in the hand of teacher who teach deaf children. I have seen many parents not being involved at the time when my boys were in school. It was sad to see it. I have worked hard and give much of my time to my boys to get ahead in their reading. Reading was and is still the most important skill for all children, more important for the deaf children. I was raised in oral method, and if I had my life over again, I would use ASL. Oral method was a frustrating experience without any hand sign. Too many words looks alike…if hand sign was including, I would have understood. With my boys, I had them use both oral and signing. They used whatever they feel best for them to understand. I believe it is the child’s decision and skill whichever way they do. Understanding in communication is the most important in order to survive.

  2. Longster says:

    Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that. I agree with the importance of parents’ involvement, but that’s just one of the factors for their education. Visual communication on the other hand is where it gets sporadic especially for the parents. You have people learning SEE, PSE, Cued Speech, ASL, oral and perhaps home made sign language. What’s difficult for most parents is the lack of standard language. Most parents (including my parents) have no knowledge or don’t understand the pros or cons for each visual language. We all know English is the main language in the US, but for deaf kids they do struggle to differentiate both visual and written language. It’s almost to the point where one person must learn to speak French and write English at the same time. Personally, I think we ought to standardize some visual language and enforce the rules to all schools just like English has done. The question is how do we know which approach is the best to achieve at a maximum level of education?

  3. Kerri Clark says:

    My parents were very young when I lost my hearing – they were about 22, 23 years old. And didn’t have any resources, either. But they were lucky that there was an oral school for the deaf here in Houston. Even though I would learn how to speak at the school, my parents were very aggressive in their involvement of my education. They would write words on flash cards, and tape them to objects, such as refrigerator. And they would teach me to read as well. They did everything possible to help me learn, not only at the school, but everywhere else. I did learn sign language at a later time and it’s great to have the best of both worlds. I like how diverse the deaf / hard-of-hearing community is. Everyone is different, and I learn something new everyday from interacting with them.

    It is indeed difficult for parents – they would not know where to start, and what language to go with. Everyone is different in approaching what kind of education they want for their kids. And it’s very rewarding when the parents become more active in their involvement of their child(ren)s education, no matter what language route they choose to communicate with.

    Like I said, everyone is different and let them do what they feel is best for them to work with.

  4. Julie Reese says:

    I enjoyed reading the blog and everyone’s responses as well. Everyone is unique in the way they were brought up to be… I agree that the amount of parents’ involvement contributes heavily on the success of deaf individuals. Having siblings and technology also contributes to a person’s ability to succeed in life.

    I also believe that one communication style may work better for some people while a different communication style may benefit others. Like for example, you guys did so well with the oral approach. My parents tried that on me but the oral method alone did not work for me. ASL just didn’t do the “trick” for me as it did for other peers my age. So they tried a rare option: Cued Speech. Cued Speech suddenly made everything click for me. It was the learning style I needed in order to plug to the world. My point is, each person has their own unique style of learning. There is no “right” or “wrong” method. It all depends on the learning style of the individual’s brain. I did not learn ASL til much much later in life and I’m still doing my best to become fluent in it. I know it has improved tremendously since I took the VR job two years ago and I’ve learned so much from having ASL interpreters while on the job. I am thankful to have the best of all worlds. But to me, English and Cued Speech will always be my preferred communication method. ASL is my second language although it has become a huge part of my everyday life now. Everyone has their own preferences. No one should judge others for the preferences they have or even their upbringing.

    On the other hands, we are all a product of our parents’ choices. I can say the parents all did a mighty fine job with all of us who are blogging on DPHHH as well as those who responding to these blogs today! *winks* 🙂

    Good post, Jay!

  5. Michael says:

    This story is similar to what brought me to this sight. I am a single dad of a 8 year old boy that is hard of hearing, his name is Caleb. Caleb has nerve damage to one ear as a result of abuse by his mother. I have been informed by his school that he qualifies for the Texas School for the Deaf and Hard of hearing. I am in Houston and the school is in Austin, I have a had time with the thought of “shipping my son off to school”. I have been looking for a Houston based school and can not find one. The school, Terrence Elementary in Spring Branch ISD is trying to make accommodations for Caleb. I do not know what is the best for Caleb, I do not want to ship him off to school” but will if it is the best option for his development and growth. Any feed back would be greatly appropriated. I can be contacted at michael.isenman@gmail.com. Thanks in advanced for any advice, Michael.

  6. Perla says:

    Hi mi mom is deaf and she wants to become a US Citizen, but she does not know how to read or write. Is there a place where they can help?

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