Monday, December 12, 2011

Silly Putty Pegs.

My decision to have Owen grow up a Signing Deaf person was based mainly on getting information into his brain without any barriers. The fact that he'll have a place to belong in the Deaf Community, if he so chooses;  bonus.

If his choice is to reside mainly in the Hearing world?  Totally cool.  He'll have all the tools he needs at his disposal to succeed in either world.

And after a summer living outside of the Deaf bubble, I wasn't surprised that he'd begun to lean to one side;

Bea:  "Owen. When you're all growed up? Are you going to marry a Deaf girl?"

Owen: "No. A Hearing girl."

Me: "Why Hearing? Why not Deaf like you?"

Owen: "I not Deaf. I Hearing."

Me: "Ok Sweetie."

And I let it go at that.  Because I know where it came from.

His teacher this year is Deaf.  All the way Deaf.  With zero residual hearing and zero speech.  He speaks so sees himself as different from her.

Totally cool.

I love that he has a Deaf teacher. He has enough Hearing role models. The more Deaf ones? The better.

I met with her a few weeks ago for parent/teacher conference. And again, wasn't surprised when she told me that Owen prefers to express himself in English. But receptively, relies on ASL.

In the true spirit of Total Communication, Owen will be encouraged to express himself in whatever mode he's most comfortable. But his ASL skills will also be tweaked.

I fucking love his school.

As much as I love my ASL teacher. Who allowed me to switch from the Friday morning class; which I've been attending by myself, to the Thursday evening class; to which I can bring both Owen and Bea.

We had a blast last Thursday. Bea signing 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer'?  Shit your pants cute.

And Owen coming downstairs Saturday morning, appearing in the kitchen, proudly signing;

*Voice Off*

Grabbing his 'Kung Fu Panda' book and marching into the playroom to do this?


You just shit your pants.

So this past Saturday I took my Speaking Hearing Signing Deaf kid to a holiday party, thrown by the local 'support group' for parents of kids with hearing loss.

I feel a distinct Us and Them vibe at these get togethers.  More than half the kids in the group are mainstreamed; they don't use ASL.

So the Deaf kids play with the Deaf kids and the Hearing Impaired kids play with the Hearing Impaired kids.  And the Deaf kid mommies chat with the Deaf kid mommies while the Hearing Impaired kid mommies chat with the Hearing Impaired kid mommies.

The only Deaf mommy and daddy gravitate toward the Deaf kid mommies.  They are patient with us novice signers and I'm dying to ask them how they feel about the choice most of these parents have made to deny their children their world.

Eavesdropping on a conversation amongst Hearing Impaired kid mommies, I hear about their kids' struggles; being the only kid in class with hearing aids, difficulties making friends, problems hearing the teacher...

Square pegs. Round holes.

Sitting on the floor, a little one toddles by wearing hearing aids.  I say something to him and his blank stare reminds me so much of Owen at that age. I sign to him. Still with the blank stare.

His mommy sits down next to me.  Friendly conversation ensues. 

He'll be three in a few months, and no, she hasn't chosen a school for him yet.

That thing she's wearing clipped to her shirt?  A streamer that sends her voice straight to his hearing aids.

He still doesn't respond to her voice.  She's frustrated.  He's not speaking much yet.  He's frustrated.

She asks me how I do it. 

"What do you do in situations like this?  It is so loud in here, he can't understand me even with this."  Giving the gadget an annoyed flick.

I try really hard to not sound like a smug jerk, 'cause inside?  I'm all smugness and jerkness;

"I sign."

I hope she heard me.


  1. Great answer to her question! I hope she heard you, too.

    It seems like a good idea to provide your children with all the tools they will need to be successful adults. This, of course, applies to all children. If ASL/signing is a tool that could help them, why not teach it to them?

    Of course my perspective is from the outside looking in...

  2. "More than half the kids in the group are mainstreamed; they don't use ASL."

    Mom of hearing kids raising her hand here ---- WHY the fuck not? Is there something I am missing here?

    Hell, I taught my lil ones baby sign language just to avoid the frustration kids feel before they can talk.

    I'm trying to imagine a scenario in which I would chose to not give my kids every single tool in life available to them. I just don't get it. Like at all.

    I'm sure I sound all judgy and harsh, but it would take someone explaining to me their reasons for me to even begin wrapping my head around it, and I'd still likely never agree with them.

    Don't. Get. It.

  3. I hope she heard you too.

    I grew up down the road from a deaf and hearing impaired family. They were split right down the middle. I was fascinated with them. And couldn't wait to learn to sign. Now, I only know the emergency room basics...

    *I am also all smugness and jerkness inside.

  4. So was Owen reading? Very cute~

    And, I have a question that I hope you will come over and answer. My son just came home with a note that said, "Tymponogram failure may be to nasal congestion. Passed hearing portion easily"

    But both on the left and right side he failed the tympanogram. (Which we had problems with this one when he was a baby. He failed the first four or five times the nurses administered the test. All a few days, then weeks apart from one another. He eventually passed with a good range of hearing.)

    Anyway, words of advice, encouragement?

  5. Oh, she heard you loud and clear. It's mostly someone's own reluctance/ denial that keeps them from moving forward on it. She'll get it some day. And she'll probably get it in a way that she'll think she thought of on her own. :-)

  6. I hope she heard you too. There was a lot I didn't do right after our initial Autism diagnosis because I wasn't ready for it. It sounds like her kiddo is young yet. Hopefully she'll come to grips and do what's best for them. And I hope it's sooner than later.

  7. Yes. Tools are good things. I don't get how it isn't. And Bea gets to learn another language, too. Again, a good thing.

    You're doing it right.

  8. From a hearing person who grew up as part of the deaf community (and who works in it, now), I commend you for opening yourself and your children to all aspects of the world! To the Mom who asked that question...perhaps the best reply is another question, "Why continue to do something that doesn't work?"

  9. You can't prove I shit my pants.
    (can you?)

  10. I want to give you a high five and echo the other comments, you are doing it right.

  11. Man this was such a powerful post. I love that video of Owen and I love your answer to that mom. And yes, Bea signing Rudolph is indeed shit your pants cute.

  12. Bea Rudolph video please.


  13. Owen is so incredible and so are you.

    I know I posted about this quite a while back, but my SIL is deaf and does not know/use ASL. My husband and I talk often about how his parents did her a disservice by not learning ASL (her and the whole family). She is so bitter and angry about fitting in no where.

    You are doing all the right things.

  14. I hope she heard you too.

    and thank-you for the shit your pants cute, need a little more of that in my life.

  15. I big-puffy-heart the ending of this.

    And, I broke my rule & pulled up this post on my mobile phone so that I could watch the video from work (I only do this very rarely, the last time was when sellabitmum pranced about in her bra). Watching him sign to the Kung Fu Panda book was beyond awesome.

  16. I just fail to understand, when these days allkids seem to be disadvantaged right from the start due to a huge variety of social issues being faced at all levels, why you would not give your kid every opportunity/advantage you can. It's not just the deaf who can't's so many of the kids who just are not socially and emotionally equipped. But I fail to understand why something that seems such a no brainer would be ignored.
    I approve of your smugness and jerkness. :)

  17. Hey - did you notice? No cats were mentioned in the above comment! =^.^.=


  18. I agree with you - as a parent, you should provide your child with all the tools at your disposal.

    There's a family with a child who was born deaf in our church. He has a (wait, let me check the spelling of this one!) Cochlear implant. But, he's being raised learning ASL, and attending a school a 40 minute drive from his home, but with a Deaf program. His family speaks to him using ASL as well as words.

    I know basics - like please, thank you and the alphabet, but am trying to learn a little more to be able to communicate with the boy - who is a sweetheart, and brings me pictures he drew every time I see him! :)

  19. I got goosebumps with your last words.
    I wish all parents, not just parents of deaf and hearing impaired children, would listen to you.
    Really listen.
    It isn't about what the parent wants.
    How frustrated the parent is.
    How embarrassing, frustrating, annoying, or time consuming learning sign is.
    It's about what is best for your child.
    What your child needs.
    You get it.

  20. Yeah. What movie said.

    That video of Owen squeezed my heart. I did not shit my pants.


  21. She heard you, but she'll have to bang her head against her own wall a few more times until it can get through. I think we're all that way with some stuff.

    I'm dying to know how you sign Shifu...

  22. dude. sounds (pardon that verb) like you and owen went with the best possible route -- all bases/necessary forms of communication are covered. that is awesome!

  23. My 5 yr old niece goes to a Lutheran private school and last week during their Christmas program they sang and signed Silent Night. It was the most amazing thing.

    She tried teaching it to me the next day but I've since forgotten all of it. We used google to find out how to sign aunt and niece.

  24. While I didn't shit my pants, I came pretty close. Fucking awesome kid. Love me some Owen.

  25. I love this post, the video, your answer, but most of all the title. Damn straght they're silly putty pegs!! Kudos to you for giving your kids a choice and an open world. I hope she heard too. I also didn't do things right at the beginning because I was in denial, not ready to listen, I don't know. But yeah, I hope she joins your camp!

  26. "A streamer that sends her voice straight to his hearing aids."

    I'm sorry, but doesn't that seem like HELL!? For anyone...deaf, partially deaf, not deaf at all. Who wants your mother's voice going straight to your ears?? OOOOoooof. An italian mother's dream, I bet. (I'm italian, so it's okay I just said that).

  27. I'm sure she heard you. Let's hope she comprehended you!

    Stopping by from Pseudo's Spot. I have to comment that I smiled at your phrase "Square Peg. Round hole." because that's the name of my blog! So glad I stopped by!

  28. Love this post. And how I love watching signing. A really beautiful language.

  29. One of our grandsons has microtia atresia so our daughter fits in with the hearing/nonhearing parents like's a battle at that he has started school, he doesn't sign and the teacher wears a microphone with a speaker on her desk that is aimed toward his desk so that he can hear her over the rest of the class. The choice is his about the signing. I would love for him to continue signing even tho' we only did words with him and not true sentences. When it is very noisy and he can't hear us (if we can get his attention) he can see us sign, come here, stop, or wait. When my daughter was in Girl Scouts, I taught our troop to sign the GS Promise, the Brownie Smile Song, their ABC's and their names as there was a girl in our service unit that was deaf and the girls were intrigued by her.

  30. I cannot believe this is still going on.

    The two camps.

    When I was in graduate school,at the time of the ice age, we'd have a few moms of HOH kids that would come in and make SURE we knew that NO ONE on this planet was to SIGN to or with or around their child.

    NO signing.

    Got that? NO signing with our child. He WILL speak. He will NOT sign.

    So, what we'd have would be a child who would sit and watch and feel isolated while the rest of us signed to the children whose parents said, "do whatever it takes for communication to take place, whet his appetite, get him to want to interact. JUST DO IT."

    Those parents, the original NIKE slogan parents? MY GD heroes.

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