Baby Signing

EARth vs. EYEth: hEARing vs Deaf

So, I am well into my 3rd semester of classes for American Sign Language and I have to say, I haven’t only learned the language but I have also learned about the culture, which is super important since I want to be an interpreter.  I will not only need to know the hearing world culture, but also the culture of those who are deaf and hard of hearing.  I am 100% sure I picked the correct field to go into.  I love the language and all the people I have had the opportunity of meeting.  My EYES have been opened to what I was ignorant to before. Everyone has heard the term “Deaf and Dumb,” but this is where knowledge comes into play.  Those who are Deaf are more than capable human beings.  If you look at someone, you can’t tell they are deaf, you can’t see anything broken, and nothing is broken.  They are perfect just they way they are.  They can learn, they can work, they can be anything they want to be.  It is us, the hearing who are unable to fully accept them.  The medical model of Deafness is “to FIX” them.  But like I said before, there is nothing wrong with them.

I can fully understand why parents who find out for the first time that their child may be Deaf would think, they have to fix them because it is their fault the child is deaf.  But looking into that sweet face, is there really anything wrong.  I don’t think there is enough information out there for parents.  The first persons they look to are medical staff, they don’t get second opinions and even when they do, it is generally still another physician or audiologist, and they still have that fix it mentality.  They don’t look to other deaf adults who could help them, to learn where the resources are to learn the language, to help guide them.  Children need mentors, and people to look up to.  If a deaf child only sees hearing people being successful, do you truly think they will have the thought that they too can be successful.

I think it is harder for parents who have children that are deaf and have no family members who are deaf as well.  They don’t know how to handle it.  There are numerous Deaf groups in and around the San Antonio area, and Austin has the Texas School for the Deaf.  It is an amazing campus, and very inviting.  I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t been inviting and understanding that I am learning the language, they are willing to teach, and to guide, they want everyone to be a part of their world, but they don’t want to be oppressed.   They want to be accepted for who they are and what they can provide the world.

There are so many choices for a family to make with Deaf family members.  They have to decide what mode of education they are going to involve their child in, if a cochlear implant is at all financial feasible, which for many, it isn’t, speech therapy, tutors, housing if sent to a school for the deaf.  If the research is done by parents, they would see that the surgery is highly invasive.  They drill into the skull to implant a receiver into the ear canal.  Some doctors preform this procedure as young as 1 year old.  Seriously, I’m scared just taking my daughter in for a doctors appointment when she is sick, let alone allowing her to go under the knife for this kind of procedure.  The likelihood that the implants will work are some to none.  There isn’t an easy fix.  After the implant is placed, there is time and energy that must be put into it to learn how to use it, to decipher what you are hearing, noise vs voices etc.  Years can go into this learning process.  Children with implants are generally shunned because they are not a part of the hearing world, nor are they a part of the deaf world.  They are in an in between world.  Not always are they accepted.  Mental and physical health must be priorities and decisions never made hastily by parents or a medical professional.

For Deaf, their natural language is sign language no matter how you look at it.  Speech therapy is always an option but it takes work, hard work, lots of time and effort, and that is precious time the child and the parent could be using to learn sign language.  90% of families with Deaf family members never learn sign language.  How isolated and lonely would that make you feel if everyone you love and trust in can’t communicate with you, and you are forced to be the one to make alterations to yourself and understand them, to speak, to read lips, to become a part of their world, instead of them trying their best to be a part of yours.  I don’t think I would be very appreciative of my elders, of those I’m suppose to look up to if they are not even willing to become a part of my life.

I have heard so many stories, some from deaf friends I have made, and some from professors of how growing up, they were always told, we will tell you later, or we will explain that to you later because they can’t hear a conversation or understand what is going on around them.  How sitting at the dinner table, they are forced into sitting there, eating food but still required to engage with family.  How holidays are spent with family, but not really, they can’t engage in conversations because no one else knows sign language, and some wont even attempt to gesture to communicate.

It is clear that the education system used now is not working.  Children are graduating at a 3rd to 4th grade reading level.  They are forced to understand English verses a language that could help them truly learn.  They could learn better with access to a language.  Teachers fail them because they don’t know English fluently, but ASL grammar is completely different than that of English.  Evaluating and grading a deaf child using hearing “standards” is not something that is acceptable.  English isn’t their primary language.  They can’t hear it, it is something so different for them.

I was told a story in class recently.  There is a world called Eyeth, and here the hearing person is the minority.  Everyone one uses their EYEs to see and are able to communicate with each other but the Hearing use their EARs to hear and their mouth to speak.

This is EYEth vs EARth.  Could you put yourself in their shoes?

PS. Sorry I am all over the place, my ideas just come as I write.


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