Life in progress


Communication – #AtoZ Challenge

My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex.

When I discovered Alex was Deaf, I knew I would have to learn Sign Language. However, there was no point starting a formal education too early. I knew from experience that if you don’t use a language, you lose it pretty quickly. So in lieu of classes, I devised a few logical signs of my own. I think the first I ever taught him, before he came home from the hospital at the age of eight months, was to let him know when I was leaving and coming right back. I simply held my index finger up as I walked out the door. When I was leaving for the evening, I waved goodbye so he would know the difference. It didn’t take long before he needed to know why people were exiting his room; he began to cry whenever a nurse left, even for a moment. “Just a second” was the first of many I would have to teach the nursing staff over the years. I found the signs for “mom” and “dad,” and a few others so I could add to both my vocabulary and that of the people caring for him in the hospital when I couldn’t be there myself.

Even now, fifteen years later, it’s necessary to teach the nursing staff how to sign whenever he stays in the hospital. And not just one nurse, because signing is usually the last thing they have time to relate to each other when they change shifts. They normally have 15 minutes to go through the medical history and changes of all the patients on the floor. If Alex is admitted for a few days, there’s a fair bit of staff rotation. When a hospital is close to a border, such as the Ontario/Quebec border in Canada, the staff are expected to be bilingual, yet there is no provision for teaching hospital staff Sign Language. At the very least, it should be mandatory to have a reference book on every floor. I had to buy one of my own and lend it, always hoping it would come back home after Alex’s stay.

For a child without diverse medical needs, this would only be a problem occasionally. For us, it’s an ongoing concern. I honestly don’t understand why it’s not mandatory to teach Sign in schools. If you follow my A to Z, you may agree with me by the time the end of April gets here that they should.