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.