My Deaf child is not a tragedy.
As Ez has gotten older and more communicative, my decision not to tell strangers that my child is Deaf doesn’t really work. When he was little, I always let the little old church lady, the waitress or that nice neighbor down the street go all goo goo and gah gah all over him without saying a word about his Deafness.
Once you let that cat out of the bag, there are too many questions. Too many well intended yet offensive comments. Too many annoying looks of pity. However, now that he is older and we sign constantly it is much harder to avoid the stares. Since, he has a vast ASL vocabulary, “hiding” his Deafness is virtually impossible. Of course, most people think that we are just “using baby sign with him.” So when they ask, I graciously have to explain that he can’t hear and that ASL is his primary language.
Which is always followed by shocked and sad expressions of sympathy. Awkward comments about someone’s cousin who wears a hearing aid. Or worse, the dreaded, I learned fingerspelling once in girl scout camp and always wished I could sign. Which is all fine and dandy, except the fact what the person is really just trying to cover up is their own unnecessary discomfort.
Because being Deaf is absolutely not a tragedy.
Deafness is not a devastating diagnosis. It is not a debilitating disease. My child is not sick. He is not going to die from being Deaf.
When you view Deafness as a tragedy, you are discounting all of the parents that have truly sick children. Children who’s lives will be limited by the breadth of their disabilities or worse yet, who’s lives will be shortened by their diagnosis. Parents who would give anything to have their child just “be deaf.”
My Deaf child has just as much potential as your child that can hear. He can become a teacher, lawyer, computer technician or an actor. He can be the first Deaf professional soccer player. He can enjoy hobbies and have a beautiful family. He will grow up as normal as normal can be.
The only real challenge he will face is the ignorance, discrimination and oppression from those who see him as broken.
Because he’s not.
He is absolutely perfectly imperfect.
Just like the rest of us.
Amanda Grayson says
Beautifully said! He is too cute!!
I Just Love This. Ez Is Just Too Cute! I Love getting To Watch Him Grow Up Through Pictures And Videos You Post. All Of Your Babies Are So Blessed To Have You As Their Mom. Especially Ez And The Deaf Community As A Whole For The Way You Advocate For Him And Educate The World Around Them. Hugs!
This had me I tears! My daughter was born Monday and has failed all hearing tests and doesn’t respond to noise and we have a loud 2yr old. Although we don’t know if she is deaf yet or what the issue is, I haven’t really wanted to mention it to anyone either. I’ve come to realize if she does have a hearing problem it will make some things more difficult but it isn’t the end of the world.
Please reach out, send an email, whatever you need. Friend me on FB if you need too. I would be happy to walk with you on this journey. And even though our Ez is 4th generation deaf, we didn’t tell anyone till after his one month testing.
Please don’t hesitate to find me on a personal level.
My daughter is 11 and is profoundly Deaf. I absolutely love this about her. It has opened a whole new world to us and brought into our lives some pretty amazing people we would have never had the privledge to know. I won’t tell you it won’t be without it’s challenges adjusting to life with a Deaf child but it can be a beautiful journey. There is a free website to start learning ASL called lifeprint.com that I like to refer people to. Best wishes to you as you embark on this journey with your precious baby!
Thanks Tina! We are actually an ASL fluent home already. Ezra is 3rd generation Deaf and comes from a rich heritage of ASL users. I love to hear stories like yours. I am so glad you have embraced her new culture and community. It is a great gift to be able to be bicultural/bilingual.
If your child is deaf, I recommend you immediately educate yourself with what you should do with a deaf child. I’m deaf myself and my parents made sure I was educated, took both sign language classes and speech therapy. No matter how many times the school tried to put me in special ed, my mom would never allow it. Also know your child’s rights, especially from the ADA. Also research all the accommodations you can get for your child. I’ve seen so many deaf people that unfortunately did not have the same experience as me. Fight for your child!!!!
Thanks Ivy! We are actually an ASL fluent home already and well versed in the rights of the ADA. I love your passion and I hope that you are an advocate for all Deaf children.
Unfortunately, parents are told by the professionals that a newborn “failed” the assessment. The parent is given a devastating negative with no neutrality. Very unfair. They should rethink how they present the test to struggling parents.
Yes! Thank you for saying these and for celebrating and loving your child just as he is. Pretty simple, eh? Unfortunately, things were MADE complicated by the “loss” mentality (rather than “deaf gain”) from the start. Thank you.
Thank you Ella Mae, to even have you read my post is an honor.
Bravo Mom! The more mom’s out there who see this, the better it is for the child who is deaf who can grow up to know and be all that he wants to be!
Deaf is the beautiful gift from God. Great article!
Vea Lynn Jarvis says
i have 3 deaf children who are amazing adults. They are all happy and successful, have their own wonderful families and lives. They married deaf spouses and isn’t that wonderful. They married people who understand them. They are not broken for sure and I am grateful they are mine. The only limitations they have are imposed by those hearing and deaf who don’t want to take the time to understand!
Tracey Forsey says
Good for you!! My Deaf child just graduated from RIT with a 4.0 GPA and has a very rewarding and successful job. He has never let his lack of hearing stop him from doing anything. He has travelled all over the world and is loving his life. He tells me people are sign language impaired:). With your positive attitude Ez will accomplish many great things!!!
Congratulations to you and thank you for sharing your experience. Sometimes the educational part seems so overwhelming.
first of all, he’s soooo cute!!!!
This was beautifully well written! Thank you! This needs to be out for the hearing community to hear! Omg.
andrea shultz says
Beautifully said Melanie!! Love it: Perfectly Imperfect! And I want front row seats when he plays in the NHL!! Sweetest little boy EVER!
I have a video for you tmrw 🙂
lovely. When people ask, frame it as he is Deaf, rather than he can’t hear. The positive statement strengthens your solid belief that he isn’t broken.
You are a model mom, go forth and enjoy!!
Good point! 🙂
Mark A Ludlow says
I am Deaf person, too! Same as a Deaf boy is cute! He can do with ASL communicating. We are Deaf Can Do. So, we need be teaching your friends and people about our Deaf Community issues.
I am Deaf Agent of Seacret business for showing people about the skin caring products are BEST for them whom like it.
and text 520-449-0878
Thanks for interesting it!
It doesn’t matter he is deaf it a blessing from God by the way enjoy beautiful child n be proud I’m hard of hearing n I’m proud who am i.
I’ve seen many of these articles over the years, always with the same message. I have a Deaf daughter in law, and for many years now we have been learning ASL and the Deaf community. I realize your perspective and comments come from negative experiences. But in my experience, the majority of us don’t judge you as harshly as you say we do. Yes, we stare sometimes, but not out of pity. We are mesmerized at how beautiful the language is to watch. Yes, we say we learned fingerspelling and we wish we could sign better, not because we are covering up our pity, but because it’s actually true. The Deaf community is complicated and complex, and we are rejected by many. We say things we don’t realize are offensive because we simply do not understand. The Deaf community is ultra sensitive and offended easily, which is sad for those of us who are just trying. As Hearing people, we are actually judged very harshly by the Deaf community. So I would ask for a little patience please. We honestly admire you. We don’t pity you, at least the majority of us don’t. And when we make offensive comments, please give us the benefit of the doubt, and forgive us because we really just want to learn. And when you see us “staring” or hear our “we wish we could sign” comments, please take it for what is… simple admiration and genuine desire. You ask for us to view Deafness not as a disease or a disability. I would ask that you please view us as not so offensive and off putting. We are not offended when the Deaf community is offended by us. We understand that whatever we did was offensive, and so we understand your feelings. Please understand ours. Not all of us judge as you say we do. We really really do admire you. Knowing me, I’ve probably phrased something in these comments that is offensive to the Deaf community, and I apologize now for that. But please please be patient with us. Many of us really have a genuine desire to learn and understand.
Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. I do understand that not everyone comes at our family with the same heart but there is a great amount of pity and sadness that is expressed when people find out my husband and child are Deaf. I appreciate your perspective and believe me, I am thankful for the large hearing community that surrounds my son that do sign. He is HUGELY fortunate that so many of our hearing friends and family have take the extra steps to learn sign.
I just want to say that I understand where you’re coming from, even though I’m a deaf person. You have good intentions and are well-meaning, and I want to assure you that we in the Deaf community are well aware that people like you exist. I just wanted to gently remind you that as Deaf people, we face these types of situations every day, every time we go out in public, and when we’re constantly having to go through different types of confrontations with hearing people, whether kind, well-intended, ignorant, or outright cruel (we get all kinds), it is exhausting. All we want is to be treated like everyone else, and not to have to take time out of a busy schedule to make small talk with a stranger several times a day or to deal with a person who is completely unwilling to work with us. Also, when people say things like, they admire us, or something similar in nature, it can get old quickly because…we consider ourselves to be normal and often unremarkable except for our deafness, and to have strangers saying how much they admire us when they don’t know who we are or what we’ve accomplished in life is redundant. Personally, I’ve learned how to read people very well and oftentimes when I’m being told something like that by someone well-meaning, it’s usually in a manner than infantilizes me and other Deaf adults. When people make the same type of comments that you made here, we know that they have good intentions, but haven’t quite gotten to the point where they’ve actually made the effort to try and understand why Deaf people behave this way. Also, when people say something like this, they’re making the same generalization that they’re accusing Deaf people of making. Like you said, not all hearing people are as bad as deaf people SEEM to think…not all deaf people think hearing people are bad. That being said, Melanie was making an important point in her blog, the real culprit here is ignorance, a lack of understanding of majority (hearing) privileges, and a lack of manners. She isn’t saying that hearing people are all awful. There are more to it than you think, and I urge you to open your mind and reexamine how you approach deaf people and what you may be doing that offends them. By just making that effort, you’ll be taking a giant step towards understanding.
K, you are right in that I did make the same generalization to the Deaf community as she made to the Hearing community. I commented to this post on Facebook yesterday and actually did acknowledge that I had done that. I do realize what you face everyday, as I’m with my daughter in law a lot, with her two year old, out in public. I also wish that feeling normal in a Hearing world did not require so much effort for Deaf people. I could never claim to know what it’s like, but I do witness it all the time. I did make the mistake of generalizing, and I do realize that there are Deaf people who aren’t so bitter about the challenges of being accepted as normal. I just rarely see any posts to that effect. All I seem to read are posts that vent, and have a negative spin on how Hearing people treat Deaf people. So thank you for your insight. Having Deaf people around all the time, I am constantly checking in with myself to figure out if I’m doing something offensive. But just as Deaf people have challenges in trying to be accepted as normal to the Hearing world, we have equal challenges in trying to be accepted to the Deaf world. The Deaf community if very difficult to understand and navigate. Emotions run very high, and just like every other facet of society, you have people who are more emotional about things than others. As much as I’ve learned about the Deaf community, and as much as I try to make sure I’m not doing something wrong, I am always failing. I can’t seem to get it right. Other than those who know me well, I am continually being misunderstood. So I feel the same as you, just going in the other direction. Your insight is valuable to me, and I appreciate your response. I agree with some of the other comments here, educating is the best way to tear down walls of misunderstanding. I really appreciate the spirit that you wrote your comments in, I didn’t feel attacked at all. You are really teaching me, so thank you. This is the how we Hearing people can start understanding you. Thank you for being gentle and educating.
Julie recently posted…REAL Conversations at Our House #2
You should participate in a spotlight on This Little Miggy! It’s a blog, the mother who runs it presents parents and children with various needs and challenges every Friday. With a positive attitude towards differences. It’s very educational for us who reads it. Everything from terminal illnesses to allergies, with a focus on how we should all behave – how to be curious without being rude and so on. Send an e-mail to thislittlemiggy at gmail dot com I’m sure she’ll give you and your lovely Ez some time in the spotlight.
Thank you so much for this information. I am not familiar with this website. I am looking forward to following them.
While I understand your frustration at the reactions you get, please try to understand that usually no harm is meant, and the hearing person has no idea how to react if they don’t know any people who are deaf or have very little hearing. Your understanding will go at least as far as your gently helping others to understand that your son is indeed NOT broken. Irritation and frustration may be what you feel, but they don’t help educate those who honestly don’t know what to say or how to act.
I did go to school with a deaf girl (college), whom I had no idea was deaf until I had known her a while. She is a kindergarten teacher now, to mostly hearing children. Cheri speaks well, signs well, and is a fantastic friend to this day.
There are no limits to what your son can do. True, hearing folk may not understand that at first, but they will as soon as they get to know him. Advocate and educate, but without getting mad.
I wanted to ask that you read my response to Julie’s comment (see above). What I’ve said also applies to your comment.
I agree, many of us want to learn the ASL language, but don’t. And so our comments fall weak. But it’s like any other language. We can take all the classes, but unless we are around the language constantly, it’s nearly impossible to master.
Julie recently posted…REAL Conversations at Our House #2
My son is now 26 years old and I always found people fascinated and drawn to us as we signed in public, especially as a baby. Never did I feel pity from others. They always thought he was the cutest thing and loved to see him sign with his cubby baby fingers, as did I! Your son is adorable.
This has been my experience so far as well. In public, while I witness my daughter in law’s struggles to understand things around her sometimes, people are genuinely fascinated at how we sign, and especially that the two year old signs. But it is a beautiful language, and enjoyable to watch, so I get it. 🙂
Julie recently posted…REAL Conversations at Our House #2
I wish all parents that have Deaf kids thought as you did! I work at a school with deaf kids and it breaks my heart everyday to know when they go home no one there knows sign language. 🙁
When I tell people that this still happens in 2015, they are shocked. I can’t imagine not being able to talk to my child.
Sarh S says
Such a sweet boy and you’re an amazing mother! I love that you see past his deafness and see a very bright future for him as that is exactly what he needs and will have! I taught my daughter baby signing, she had chronic ear infections making her very hard of hearing, it’s like she had huge pillows over her ears. Thankfully once she finally got ear tubes the infections stopped and her hearing fully returned, now she struggles with her sense of hearing being too strong and many things hurt her ears. Any how, she is now 9 years old (started when she was 6ms with the signing and ear infections started at 3ms) and is continuing to teach herself ASL! She would love to sign with your sweet little boy and hold a conversation with him. All children should learn ASL from 6ms, it could be a vital tool if they have a deaf friend in school or if they work with customers and have a deaf customer, etc.
Kristen M. says
Thank you for this post. I agree, he is certainly not broken. Is there any particular response that you have gotten that you’ve found is the best?
oooh, great question! Yes, please answer this. I would also love to know, from a Deaf perspective, the responses that are not offensive.
Julie recently posted…REAL Conversations at Our House number 2
C Scott says
I love your post! I think that the people who need to be educated are the doctors. They are usually the first point of contact and inform the parents that their child is not “normal” and seem to suggest the oral method and cochlear implants. I think to put a child through oral methods without sign language is a form of abuse. They are Deaf and sign language is their language. They have Deaf culture, Deaf communities, and their own language. By all means, teach oral AND sign language. Remember cochlear implants are great, if they work, but the minute it is raining, they are showering or swimming. . they are Deaf again. The minute the battery goes dead on the processor, they are Deaf again. No matter what people decide to do for their child, please give them access to Sign Language and learn it with them. Do you know how many Deaf children believe they will die before they grow up because they have never seen a Deaf adult and Mom and Dad and brother and sister never “got around” to learning how to sign. Please give your Deaf child every opportunity with Sign Language.
I agree! But I have learned that these very issues… cochlear implants, ASL/not ASL, oral, etc…are very contriversial in the Deaf community. There are very strong feelings behind each of these methods. From a Hearing person’s perspective, I couldn’t possibly navigate this issue without offending. So I wonder if a Hearing doctor could possibly address these issues without offending. For sure, the doctors need to approach Deafness with a positive attitude though. I agree that this is often where the “broken” idea starts. Great comment!
Julie recently posted…REAL Conversations at Our House number 2
sarah poole says
All children are a blessing! I am blessed to have been taught ASL by my grandma. It is a beautiful language.
Good read 🙂 I know I never mean to be offensive. As another commenter mentioned, I’d love to hear some things that you feel are appropriate to say.
Amber Collier says
Very well written!
We thought that our newest baby was deaf. She failed her first hearing test in the hospital, but passed her second one. But she’s always so quiet and by the time she was 4 months old and wasn’t cooing I thought the worse. We scheduled an appointment to see the specialist and I was really stressed out about it. They couldn’t get us in for two weeks and I don’t think I slept at all for those weeks. I really wish I had seen this post one one of those sleepless nights, I think it really would have calmed my nerves.
She did end up passing the test and was determined to just be a really quiet baby. She’s now cooing and will finally look towards loud sounds. But the experience made me realize that I would love to teach her and my other daughter (2.5) sign language so they can communicate with deaf kids and adults.
My heart breaks to think that some people consider deafness or any other so called disability to be “less than”. These children/people are gift and treasures. Thank you for publicly proclaiming this truth!!!!
Sarah Sheffer says
Beautifully said. You are a strong and amazing mom.
This is just wonderful. Thank you for your words. My son is now twenty months old and was also born deaf. So many people seen to think this also effects his brain or believes it is something to be fixed. My son is beautiful and brilliant and also “perfectly imperfect”. I cant get people around use to understand the very points you have just made.
snaps! <3 my Deaf kid. And yes, everyone on the street thinks we're just hyper-yuppie parents doing 'baby sign' because he's just a toddler at this point. Who cares. He's perfect.
Donna Babbs says
I love your article! This is all true! Kudos!
Verla Bennie says
AMEN!! Our deaf daughter graduated from Gallaudet with major in English, got masters in English, taught school and is now finishing up a second masters, this time in Mental Health Counseling. She is not broken at all! She is a very accomplished young woman, widow, mother of 2 kids and makes us proud to be her parents.
I did have a parent tell me there’s nothing worse than having a deaf child! WRONG she has been a joy and I cant’ imagine her any other way.
Ez is one of the cutest kids ever! It is fascinating to watch his little mind pick up everything around him. You have a smart one on your hands…XOXO