Deaf

I didn't choose for Owen to be born sick, to endure several surgeries, to be developmentally delayed, to have a tube provide his nutrition for years.

I did however, choose for him to be Deaf.

I could have sent him down a different path, I could have chosen to raise a Hearing Impaired child.

The difference is not about the amount of hearing a person has or doesn't have, it has little to do with any medical diagnosis.

Owen being Deaf makes him part of the Deaf Community, a group of people who are proud of their difference and see their Deafness as just that, a difference, not a disability. As a part of this community, he will learn about Deaf Culture, its history and language.

ASL is a living breathing beautiful language. It is not charades, it is not finger spelling every word. It is fingers, hands, arms and faces conveying what words sometimes cannot. It has its own syntax, grammar, slang and regional idioms.

Like any kid with any language, Owen gets creative. He has masterfully paired the sign for "I don't care" (which sort of looks like he is flicking a booger at me), with the words, "I'm ignoring you!". He does it all the time. I can't decide if I should be annoyed or impressed.

Little 'd' deaf is merely a medical term and does not necessarily mean that person is a member of the Deaf Community.

The term Hearing Impaired is tricky. I know many Hearing people think that they are being polite and PC when using this term. For the Deaf, this term is offensive. I'm no expert on Deaf Culture, I'm just a mommy of a Deaf kid, but here's how I see it;

Hearing Impaired speaks to an ideal, that ideal being the ability to hear, and that ability is impaired, that person is impaired.


Remember that Deaf people see themselves as different and not disabled. People are tall or short, light or dark, Deaf or Hearing.

When presented with the choices on how to raise Owen, it was an easy decision to make. I know that my situation is unique, that normal was never an option for Owen, not since he was conceived. Before his hearing loss was diagnosed, I had wondered how his differences would affect his self esteem.

After he was diagnosed, and I learned the littlest bit about Deaf Culture, I knew that it was the right place for Owen. I could put him in a world where he will be puffed up with all sorts of pride about who he is, a Deaf person.

I couldn't bear the thought of sending him off to a world where his self image would be tied to the label Hearing Impaired, where he would know of this ideal that would be unattainable to him.

Now, he is not cloistered away, only exposed to Deaf teachers and students.

His school is the perfect balance of Deaf and Hearing. Home base is the Deaf bubble, with teachers of the Deaf (many of them Deaf themselves), Deaf classmates and teacher's aids. School is taught in ASL. But the bubble is in a public school. Lunch and recess are with Deaf and Hearing. Hearing aids, cochlear implants, FM systems and ASL interpreters are commonplace for the Hearing kids.

As he gets older, Owen will have some say in what classes he wants to attend, he can stay in the bubble all the time, or venture out. The bubble will always be there for him.

I've heard criticisms of the Deaf Community, from Deaf and Hearing people; that sometimes the Deaf pride gets taken to the extreme and they can think themselves better than Hearing people.

You know what? That's just fine with me. Better that he consider himself superior than inferior.

His surgeon has apologized to us countless times for Owen's Deafness, he feels he failed us somehow, that he should have been able to prevent it. I try to tell him that it's nonsense to see that as a failure.

I made the choice to consider it a gift.

14 comments:

  1. Wow! I totally respect your decision. I your son is lucky to have you for a mother. I wish all mothers of deaf children had the same perspective as you.

    A long time ago I used to be an interpreter at church for Sunday School. One deaf child's mother never bothered to learn to sign. She communicated with her son strictly by made-up signs. Of course, he knew the real ones also since he went to a school for deaf children.

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  2. I think Owen being surrounded with other hearing impared people is an amazing opportunity for him. And later, as you said, it's his choice.

    ASL is beautiful. I was at a pep assembly at my daughter's HS and I was caught up watching the ASL-lady (interpreter?) sign it all to the deaf students.

    In the Autism community there are parents that "choose" to not disclose their child's diagnosis to school and society. I guess I take that as being somewhat ashamed of the diagnosis. I don't understand that philosophy at all. The kids are part of a community that understands them and they need that. We as parents need that.

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  3. I admire your strength and your conviction that you made the right decision.

    I remember being faced with the same choices with my own infant son. I was only 24 and I felt overwhelmed. We chose to go the other direction (my son is considered hard of hearing, not hearing impaired).

    My son will probably lose the remainder of his hearing. Had I known about the progressive nature, I probably would have made a different choice. I am hopeful that the Deaf community will be accepting of him should he choose to go that direction later.

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  4. I'm so happy to read this post tonight.

    It sounds like you and Owen are similar to my son Oliver and myself.

    We don't always find a whole heck of a lot of support for raising our son with ASL instead of other forms of Sign Language. We don't get a lot of support for allowing him to just be who he is either.


    It was great to read about your family and I find it entirely refreshing that you say it like it is, Bad Words and all!

    I will be stopping back by to read more again.

    I'm thankful to have stumbled your way.

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  5. my brother is deaf and my parents raised him as a proud member of the Deaf community. He went to Deaf School his whole life. the culture and language are indeed beautiful!

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  6. Wow is right. What a beautiful way to say. That Owen is a lucky guy. I adopted my two girls from Moldova as a single Mom. It is not the same as your situation, but...
    I have learned that when you as the mom sets the tone and stage, it really bodes well for the children. And then if someone says something stupid or unthoughtful about it in front of you kids, just bitchslap them. :-)
    Kelly Ozley
    kellyozley.wordpress.com

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  7. My cousin works at a school that sounds very similar to Owen's. She is not Deaf. But, she words as an assistant in the Deaf department. She has spent the last few years learning ASL. I've watched her speak and am amazed at how beautiful the language is, how expressive it is. And the Deaf Community is amazing to see.
    I'm glad Owen has that. :)

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  8. A girlfriend of mine has a daughter who needed a hearing aid. A year ealier, her insurance had covered her son's glasses. But now, they were not willing to cover any of it for this sensory assist product. When she called to asked them why, they rudely told her, "you don't have to hear to live."

    Just another find example of our healthcare system playing God.

    Fucktards.

    - Kirsten (http://Results-Not-Typical-Girl.com)

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  9. I agree with what you're saying in regards to the Deaf Community. However, I'm Hearing Impaired - I can hear many things but certain frequencies (which male voices fall into, and other annoying sounds -ha!) I cannot hear.

    I read lips and I have hearing aids. But I don't consider myself deaf, nor disabled. Does that make sense?

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  10. Beautiful. I'm teary! My hope and prayer is that kids with all kinds of differences (my son has Nonverbal Learning Disorder) can have that kind of affirming community. Where people are saying, "Rock on!" instead of, "You suck!"

    Until then, I'm all for bubbles.

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  11. you are such an amazing woman, and such a loving and intelligent mother. i'm so glad to have found your blog. thank you for being you.

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