Deaf people have to survive in a hearing world. This is a fact. If there are such things as Deaf stores, and Deaf hospitals, I don’t know of them. There are, of course, Deaf people working in public service positions–my bank has a Deaf teller–but it’s uncommon.
As the parent of a Deaf child who is growing up and will one day, hopefully, be independent, the fact that my son will out alone in a society that views him as different, is a concern for me. Alex is at a disadvantage, having not grown up exposed to his first language as most children are. Immersion into American Sign Language didn’t happen, and so by the time he reached the Deaf school that he now attends, he was years behind many of his peers. But at the same time he has an advantage. He’s already learned how to communicate, somewhat, with the hearing. He has an innate understanding that he needs to demonstrate what he wants without being able to verbalize. He has adapted.
On the flip side, I remember a story that my ASL teacher told us when I was in my third year of classes. He was the only Deaf member of his family. He told us of family gatherings and dinners when he was a child and through his teenage years when he would sit and eat, and no one would talk to him. They were all busy yammering away; he said he felt completely isolated. Consequently, he moved away–right out of the province–and had stayed away since. I can’t say he hated his family, but he seemed extremely bitter.
I fear this happening to Alex. I try my best to translate for him during dinners, but it’s difficult. First, keeping up with the conversation in ASL when my vocabulary isn’t up to par, and second, signing with a knife and fork in my hands. Despite this, he seems well-adjusted. I do what I can to make sure he’s included, at least in discussions that concern him. It’s more difficult when I’m talking with someone about something that doesn’t – with hearing kids, boring adult talk is naturally tuned out. Again, he’s at a disadvantage – if he was part of a Deaf family, he’d know to ignore it without having to be told it doesn’t concern him. On my end, I’m constantly saying to him, “It’s nothing.” I can only hope that he can tell by my body language and facial expression that I’m being sincere, and not just dismissing him as unimportant.
My A to Z theme concerns the joys and challenges of being the hearing mother of my Deaf son, Alex. To learn more about his beginnings in life, click here to go to my first A to Z entry.