Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Deaf Darling

As the parent of a Deaf child, I am frequently asked why I won’t get a cochlear implant for Ashley. Most of the time the people doing the asking are parents who have already made the decision for their child, and the child has been implanted. Many, if not most, of these children with implants are in classrooms that do not allow sign language, and have teachers who will cover their mouths while speaking so the children won’t be tempted to lip read. The one and only focus for children with cochlear implants is to get them to speak and therefore make them more ‘normal’. I just don’t happen to see anything abnormal about my Deaf child, and don’t see anything that is broken and needs fixing with a cochlear implant.

I know the issue of cochlear implants is a sensitive one, especially among the Deaf community. One of the most vehement speakers against cochlear implants is Carl Schroeder from Hawaii, and one of his recent blog posts is on the Making of Hearing Supremacy. Anyone who reads his post will have no doubts where he stands on this issue. While I am not quite yet at the same level of outrage that Mr. Schroeder is, I do agree with most of his comments. As a parent, one of the most unfortunate results of cochlear implants is the reduction of classrooms specifically for Deaf children who prefer sign language.

My school district is a perfect example. When Ashley was in preschool, she was in a classroom with a teacher and aides who signed. All the children were learning sign also. I believe it was one of the happiest times in Ashley’s young life. Then as first grade rolled around, my school district made the decision to focus on children with cochlear implants. Entire classrooms were built around these children, and teachers for the hearing impaired were told they could adapt or leave their position. No longer were there classrooms for children like Ashley, Deaf children who love their language, their native language, and children who could not understand why the changes were being made. Since the time of that switchover, Ashley has yet to have an appropriate level of support in sign language.

While I do not feel the need to consider cochlear implants for Ashley, I understand why some parents do. These are caring, loving parents who want to do the best for their child. I can’t fault the intentions of most of these parents. However, I do wish more information could be shared with them before they make the decision to implant, especially a very young child. I would like for those parents to consult with Deaf adults, people who are a part of the Deaf community. I would like the parents to have the entire picture and a balance of viewpoints before making this life-altering decision.

I love my Deaf child – everything about her. I don’t feel she is broken or needs fixing. She is teaching me everyday the beauty of her language, and I will always be so grateful and so proud that she is my daughter.


Esbee said...

I asked my HI child if he would like a cochlear implant. He said no, he wants to use Cued Speech primarily, so that's the path we're on.

How odd your experiences in the classrooms. Both in VA (Fairfax County) and NC, mine have been very, very different, with the HI teacher who serve the students teaching lipreading, transliteration, sign language, and other visual cues for HI students.

Ashley's Mom said...


I am also in Virginia (Henrico County). It was about 7-8 years ago my school district committed larger resources to cochlear implant kids and dissolved the HI classrooms. We now have itinerant HI teachers who may stop by a classroom once a week or so.

Currently my daughter is using CASE (Conceptually Accurate Signed English).

Casdok said...

Love your attitude.

Maddy said...

We were warned that my youngest son had a risk of being born deaf. I gave the matter [of implants] considerable thought whilst I was pregnant. As it turned out, he was not deaf. I wouldn't say [like you] that he's perfect the way he is now, but fortunately he suits me perfectly anyway.
Best wishes