Friday, March 28, 2008

Doing What's Best..

I would assume that when you have a child, you'd want to do the best you can for that child. You want to make sure that they are not wanting for anything, that they eat well and stay healthy, that they get a good education and grow to be happy and well-adjusted. That's how I feel about my own children. I want them to have the best without spoiling them and without sending myself to the poorhouse.

There is a woman at the consignment shop with 3 girls. The oldest is 9, the middle one is 3 or 4 and a 6 month old baby. The oldest and youngest are deaf. They haven't done any testing to find out why they are deaf, but as far as she knows, there is no history of deafness in her or her husbands' families. The Oldest child has a cochlear implant. The youngest has been tested and found to have hearing loss but not profoundly deaf.

Keep in mind, her oldest is 9 years old. She has had 9 years to accept that her child cannot hear normally even with a cochlear implant and to this day, still cries when talking about her kids. I know this because my Boss introduced her to me, thinking that if she talked with someone else who is deaf might feel better about her own kids. I got the feeling after talking with her that I did no good and I was only telling her things she didn't want to hear.

Her kid is doing poorly in school and I asked if she got an interpreter for her to help in classes. She said they stopped signing because one of their counselors said it would hamper her language development. (insert swear words here towards so-called counselor!) Plus, she didn't want to pull any more attention to the fact that her kid is deaf by having an interpreter follow them around school. This poor kid cannot follow what is going on in her classes and gets left out of conversations among her peers because she does not know what they are talking about. By not knowing what is going on, she withdraws into her own little cocoon and loses her confidence in making friends and starting up conversation. I know this because I have been there.

When I mentioned this to the mother, that kids picked on me for my deafness and I had no friends, she started to cry again and sobbed that her daughter also had no friends. I asked if she looked around for mainstream programs or maybe checked out the deaf schools and she said she wanted her daughter to be "as normal as possible" and wanted to keep her at home (many deaf schools are residential meaning living in dorms from Sunday nights through Friday and going home on weekends). I told her that she lived close enough to a school that I knew had a day program, but she made the excuse that her baby was crying and never came back to me to talk some more.

I understand that from a hearing person's point of view, having a deaf child seems like such a horrible physical birth defect. From a deaf person's point of view, it's not all that bad if you don't make it out to be. So I cannot hear music or the birds twittering or hear that person whispering 5 rows down in the classroom. There are so many other things I can do to make up for it. I can still see, I can still laugh, I can still feel, I can still think. She is thinking of herself and not of her daughter. I mean, to stop signing because someone else says so is so stupid! She is now depriving her daughter of understanding what she is saying and what is going on around her. Who cares if the interpreter brings attention to her while in school-- what is more important, understanding the teacher or failing the class? Did it ever occur to her that if her kid could understand the lesson that she would feel more confident to join group discussions? Did it ever occur to her that her daughter's needs come first, even if that means letting her go to a residential deaf school?

I partly blame the doctor that she had 9 years ago when her first child was born and they discovered she was deaf. The doctor told them that she would never talk, never learn properly and would basically be a dumb child unless they performed a cochlear implant. Well, with words like that coming out of a doctor's mouth, that would scare me too! What saddens me is that they didn't go for a second opinion or do a little research and maybe visit a deaf school to see other deaf children and see that they are just as normal as hearing children. What saddens me is a professional counselor telling them to stop signing because it will hamper her language development, but then turn around and tell people to teach hearing babies to sign to enhance their language skills.

One of the questions the mother asked me, when she first met me, was how much hearing did I have. I felt like she was judging me and if I said I could hear then my opinions didn't count because I wasn't deaf like her kid was. Then she asked me if any of my kids were deaf, and again I felt like because I said no, then she could say that I don't know what she is going through as a parent. I told her that I was profoundly deaf, and with my hearing aid, I could hear some but not clearly. I told her that there is a chance my girls could lose their hearing some day, and if they did, that would be ok. It's just their hearing, they are not losing their selves. I might be a little sad for them because I know that they will have some struggles to adjust to being deaf and not being able to hear people and have to look for alternative ways to use the phone or hire interpreters, I've been there. But with all the technology of today, life gets easier for deaf people. It's not a death sentence.

I feel sorry for her and her family. I'm sorry that after 9 years, she cannot accept that her kids are deaf and then move on to do what is best for them to succeed in their lives. I hope that in spite of her mother, the 9 year old will one day break free and thrive on her own, whether she finds her identity with hearing people or deaf people. I wish her family all the best of luck, they're going to need it with an attitude like that.


mishkazena said...

I know some parents of deaf oral kids with that kind of attitude. Like you said, they were thinking of themselves, rather than the needs of their deaf kids. Unfortunately these kids did pay a price and to this day, aren't emotionally healthy.

This mom needs a swift kick in her arse, pardon my french. Her self pity and denial aren't helping her kid who needs help now.

Karen Putz said...

My heart goes out to that mom-- perhaps she would benefit from connecting with other families. If you ever connect with her again, give her some resources on parent organizations.

Deaf Pixie said...

My heart to go to her parents who are not familiar about deafness and agree with you that I blame doctor don't understand and doesn't get education about deafness whatever.

I am really cannot understand why Medical issues failed to educated to Doctor who go to medical school.

Unbeliviable that doctor did not get enough education about deaf school or something that they can find a resource for the parents who is not know where they could helpful by deaf school. Really Pretty sad for me to hard to understand.

Unknown said...

It is a matter of a wrong place, wrong people and wrong time that this parent obtained this path. When you said that you did no good and was telling her things that she didn't want to hear but let me tell you that you did good by telling her the truth. She may not take it well but at least she heard it.

It is the system at fault for not being supportive about the concept of her daughter benefiting from bilingual approach. All I can say is to just keep on trying to reach her and educate her. Perhaps recommend books like Mainstreaming Alone by Gina Oliva?

This mother obviously has not gotten over with it and was scarred for life thanks to the doctor about the impression of what a Deaf person is incapable of rather than focusing on what is capable. Damn the doctor! Damn the counselor! The whole system in promoting the quality of Deaf babies/children is not working!

Your story is a living proof to see that it is still happening today. We just need to do a better job to provide parents thorough support in the beginning; not to leave them in those hands of the imbeciles where their paths become twisted!

barefoot gardener said...

Oh, Jenny! I can't believe how blind that woman is.

When I went to school, there was a gal who was profoundly deaf (I think due to illness when she was just a few months old, but I don't really remember) in my class. I don't remember anyone making fun of her. In fact a lot of us thought of her signing as a "secret language" that we all wanted to learn. She was involved in everything. She did have an interpreter in class, but noone even noticed after the first day.

I wish you could have gotten through to this woman. She is missing out on enjoying who her children are just because they can't hear, and that is so sad. The worst is that she is making it harder for them to become who they could be because she is too busy feeling sorry for herself.

Well, that's the only two cents I've got...for what they're worth. :)

Barbara said...

How sad this story is. I wonder why this family find it so hard to accept that their child is as she is and help her the best they can. So sad that she couldn't accept help and support from you.

Maybe she'll think on what you said to her later.

Wendy said...

What a story! I don't know how I would have reacted if any of my children had been born deaf, but I can guarantee that I would have learned to sign, and I would have learned to communicate with my child. In fact, my youngest had spinal meningitis as a baby and hearing loss was one of the concerns. I'm not sure that I would have allowed the implant. I'm a little leery of surgery and of having "things" implanted in one's body. I'm skeptical of doctors' advice anyway. As a medical transcriptionist, I hear what they're really thinking, and it can be rather disturbing.

I hope that little girl will find her niche. I'm sure she will, but until she does, it's just going to be a very lonely road for her. I hope that mother will seek you out (sooner rather than later), when she finally realizes that she's being ridiculous. In the meantime, know that what you did for that woman, whether or not she realizes it, was good. Seeing a deaf adult who is a productive member of society might be just what this woman needs to realize that her daughter is simply a person who can't hear, and not some medical anomaly.

Sparx said...

Wow, that's so sad... those poor kids. The thing is that she's going to beat herself up for this one day. Shame you couldn't get through to her really... having a lovely catch up on your blog now, have been thinking about you a lot recently too.

Lantana said...

Thank you for this post. It gives us something we can sink our teeth into! :/

From past experience, I can tell you that the MOTHER is the problem from start to finish. The little girl senses her mother's attutude and feels like a freak. This family should be reported to the nearest deaf advocacy someone needs to intervene.

How about if YOU "adopt" this woman for awhile and force an education on her? (If no professionals around to assist the family). I thought the town where you lived had a residential deaf school, do I remember right?

I once had a student enter our school when she was around 9 or 10 years old and her mother informed us that the child "could not swallow" and instructed us to feed her baby food. There was no doctor's report, no follow up to give us any reason to listen to this mother and Within 2 weeks we had this girl eating regular foods!

I have seen mothers (and grandmothers!) do some grave injustices to their offspring.