Monday, March 24, 2008

Raising Deaf Children Doesn't Mean it has to be Stressful

When reading Jodi's blog about her struggle raising her eight-year-old Deaf son, I had to ask her my questions to her question below. The purpose of my blog is not to make any judgment or criticism but to gain a better understanding how a system can be improved for hearing parents of Deaf children to receive better support.

So please no need to roll up your sleeves, Jodi (*chuckling*). I surely admire your strong character and being a fighter but here I just want to build a healthy dialogue. I understand that it is more challenging for you like many hearing parents attempting to receive support from the Deaf community that may be remote from where you live. Using the internet may be the option but I strongly feel that Deaf communities need to be more supportive and come forward to be resourceful to hearing parents of Deaf children. This is the area I hope to see improved.

Jodi's question: WHY DID HE (her son) STRUGGLE SO MUCH FOR EIGHT YEARS????

Her answer:

"Because hearing aids did not give him what he needed to bridge the language hump in order to finally express himself! MY SON'S NUCLEUS 24 FREEDOM PROCESSOR COCHLEAR IMPLANT SAVED ALL OF OUR LIVES."

My question is, why did Jodi struggle so much when raising her son for eight years? Did she really have a hard time finding Deaf people in Italy to give her support to learn sign language? Was it really that bad?

So here is my response to Jodi:

I am trying to understand more of your experiences when raising your Deaf son. I don't want to be judgmental or anything like that but to interpret what I have understood so far from reading your blog.

From the way you had described, it sounded like you went through a great deal of hardship because of past struggle in communication with your son. When you said that you struggled to learn a language that was not your own, can you elaborate more about that? Which language were you talking about?

Why was it that your son was not able to express himself adequately? Was it because you and he didn't have access to sign language? Was the Deaf community in Italy that apathetic that they didn't give you support in learning LIS? Forgive me if you had already answered these questions in your blog so please help me understand why he wasn't able to express himself at that time.

Anyway, I became stunned that it took a two year process for you to have your son potty trained. I just wanted to understand why it took so long. I have two Deaf children (now aged 9 and 10) and nothing resembles from the way you have described such as having no rest nor stress-release when raising your Deaf child for the first eight years. I mean of course all of us parents experience stress but not like an ongoing, extreme type from the way you had described. I don't mean to compare yours to mine knowing that every child is different but I am trying to understand why it was extremely stressful for you. Actually, I really wished you and your son didn't have to go through anything like this.

Now another thing that made me wondered was that when you mentioned about trusting your son with children's parents, were any of them Deaf? Also, when you mentioned how you trusted your son during the first eight years when he was unable to express himself adequately with doctors, speech therapists, surgeons, and teachers, can you tell me if you would trust them if you had a Deaf baby all over again or would you have done it differently?

When you kept on saying that you made sure your son had access to a language that was not your own, I understand that must be hard. Now it has been eight years, whatever that language is that your son is using, do you feel that you are able to make it your own? I know that you want the best for him when you said you wanted him to find himself and be happy. Every parent wants that indeed.

Do you really believe that Deaf children have to wear a CI to be able to express themselves effectively or to be able to communicate with their parents? In my case, my Deaf children do perfectly fine without it. They still continue to master in communication and able to spell advanced vocabulary terms, write an essay, memorize all multiplication facts and do fractions, etc. just like typical hearing peers do. I just believe that any Deaf child with or without CIs can achieve and accomplish in communication and academic areas as long as they are given language access since birth and of course, parent involvement plays a big role in it.

I could see how much involved you are in your son's life and I think that is wonderful but I was saddened to learn that you had described how stressful for you during the first eight years of your son's life. Nobody deserves that. Actually, it doesn't have to be that way when raising a Deaf child even without a CI. When you said that your son receiving a CI saved all of your lives, it sounded like it helped you and your family a great deal. I have to admit I was taken back with this statement because in my case, I would never say that my Deaf children receiving a CI would save my and my family's life. I know that it is probably because I knew ASL and that it was easy for me but I strongly believe if a Deaf community builds a strong bridge with hearing families of Deaf child(ren), it will save their lives as well. Only if I were your neighbor, I know we will have so much fun learning from each other but heck, we are technically neighbors in this blogosphere. Thank you for your time reading this post.

To read Jodi's response, click here.


Karen Mayes said...

Good questions.

I checked Jodi's answers... good answers as well.


David said...

Hi Barb,

I know this is for Jodi. I like your approach to parents who have faced so many challanges. I think Jodi is an interesting mother of her Deaf son. I have noticed that she lives in Italy and she has faces several new culture challenges. I am glad that you asked her many good rational questions and feedbacks that I think are very healthy for constructive discussion. Well done, Barb!


Jean Boutcher said...

I can understand the stress Jodi
has undergone. A unique situation
in that she moved to Italy whose
spoken language and signed language she barely knew.

Anonymous said...

A comment about potty training. I can imagine it would be hard if the child is going to a school or daycare where they don't use sign language or don't recognize his communication that he has to go to the bathroom. For example, if I taught my deaf child to sign "bathroom" and sent him off to a mainstream preschool, he might go up to the teacher aide and sign "bathroom" and the teacher aide has no idea what he is asking for, so he goes in his pants. Or, going with the oral method, maybe he couldn't talk clearly enough for anyone to understand him.
Just one idea of why it might take longer than usual.

Anonymous said...

Another comment, as I work with parents of deaf children... many of the parents don't WANT to learn sign language. Simple as that. One wants her child in an oral program, so she just won't learn to sign because her daughter will go to an oral program anyway (nevermind that she's in a signing program currently). One says "I'm too old to learn sign language, can't we send his older brother to learn, then his brother can be an interpreter for the family?" One says our ASL class is to basic for her, she wants something more advanced. I recommended college courses, then she came up with various other excuses. As sad as it is, many parents just don't WANT to learn sign language.