My Daughter Doesn't Know She Has Deaf Parents

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My daughter Coral doesn’t know she has deaf parents.

Coral is only 2 years old. She knows she has parents just like everybody else, but she has no idea how we differ from many parents. Having deaf parents is normal for her. She is hearing, but we converse in American Sign Language, always have closed captioning on the TV, use flashing lights or stomp our feet on the floor to get attention, write on papers to communicate with non-signers, etc.

We started signing to her right away when she was born. It was strange for us to sign to her as she would not look at us. She seldom paid attention to us. Imagine my surprise when at hardly 6 months old, she signed her first word, “no.” She waved her index finger at people, our dogs or objects and said “no!” From there, her sign language and spoken language flourished. She learned both at the same time.

She notices if closed captioning is not on the television and could not care less if the TV volume is off.

Coral loved to do facial expressions from early on. When she signs or says words, they often come with facial expressions. She also makes a lot of noises when she signs.

deaf parents
Elizabeth’s daughter, Coral.

She will point to any noises and tell me what they are.

*points to the sky* “Airplane!”

*points to the busy street* “Cars, vroom!”

If she looks in the direction of the noise, I will ask her what was that noise and she will answer me.

She loves music. Every time her favorite show’s theme song comes on, she grabs me, drags me over to the TV and we start dancing to the song.

She knows to tap on my leg or shoulder to get my attention. She started doing that when she was a baby. Before she could walk, she crawled up to me and tapped on my leg. She knows to maintain eye contact while communicating with other people. However, she is a typical 2-year-old nowadays, so she sometimes ignores people on purpose.

Coral believes all people know how to sign. Boy, how I wish that could be true. At first, other kids would try to communicate with Coral, but they soon realized she wouldn’t answer back. They managed to interact through gestures while playing instead. It is remarkable how accepting young children are.

When she gets older, she will realize her parents cannot hear and talk with their voices. I hope when that day comes, she will be proud of her deaf parents and of her bilingual and bicultural life.

A version of this post first appeared on Mommy Gone Tropical.

The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us one thing your loved ones might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. What would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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What I Wish People Understood About Grieving a Child's Diagnosis

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I really grieved when my son, Junior, was first diagnosed as being profoundly deaf. I cried, I moped, I thought about how the life I envisioned when I set out to have children was suddenly so much different than the life I now had. I thought about his future, the challenges he was going to face, the bullies he would have to ward off and the stares he would have to endure.

What was worse than a few months of grieving, however, were the well-meaning people who made me feel guilty for grieving… made me feel like deafness just wasn’t “bad” enough to be upset about. One morning a few weeks after Junior was born and had already failed three hearing tests but hadn’t yet been diagnosed, I was struggling with my postpartum emotions. I went to my doctor and explained the added stresses I was facing on top of the normal hormones of a recent birth, hoping to hear some encouraging words, but do you know what she said to me?

“So what if he’s deaf. It’s not a big deal. Just learn a little sign language.”

It’s been three and a half years since she spoke those words to me, but they are still as fresh as the moment she opened her mouth. I didn’t have the wherewithal to protest at the moment, but those words burned. I didn’t need someone with typical, healthy children telling me that I wasn’t allowed to grieve because it was “no big deal.”

As I told friends about Junior’s recent diagnosis, I heard many of the same sentiments:

“It’s not like it’s cancer or anything bad.”

“At least he’s not blind too.”

“He’s just deaf. He’s fine!”

“It could be worse.”

Yes, I knew things could have been worse. There were plenty of people in more difficult situations than us. But, that didn’t mean I wasn’t allowed to grieve. It didn’t mean that his deafness was “no big deal.” Especially when those comments came from people who had never been in the special needs world, had never experienced the pain of knowing their child was going to have added struggles in life.

I had to grieve before I could move on. I had to accept the reality before I could become his loudest cheerleader, biggest supporter and strongest advocate. I had to go through all those emotions, because it was a big deal. It was my child, and I was scared of an unknown future.

At just a few weeks old, we were making decisions for Junior that would affect him for the rest of his life. When I was supposed to be settling into the hectic, sleepless world of having a newborn and toddler, I was spending 20-plus hours a week at or traveling to doctors or therapy appointments. We were planning his life weeks, months and years down the road. It was a big deal.

The comments that were said to make me feel better only served to make me feel worse. Not only because I felt guilty for grieving, but also because I realized that compassion and empathy is rarely found in those who have not traveled the special needs path.

Looking back, the grieving process was a short but crucial part of our journey. Without it, I wouldn’t have forged lifelong bonds by reaching out to others who had walked this path, and I wouldn’t have realized that the valleys make the peaks that much more triumphant.

I realized that no matter what they’re going through, our beautiful children are a big deal.

Follow this journey on Save Money Live Joyfully.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability and/or disease, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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One Mom's Awesome Way of Showing Kids How Cool Their Hearing Aids Are

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Sarah Ivermee’s son, Freddie, was diagnosed with profound deafness and hearing loss when he was 3 months old. In 2014, he received cochlear implants, surgically-implanted hearing devices.

“Having a cochlear implant fitted for your child is no easy choice, and it isn’t right for everyone,” Ivermee, 29, told The Mighty. “But it has made Freddie’s world a much bigger place.” image

When a friend expressed to Ivermee that her daughter, who wears hearing aids, didn’t like them because they made her feel different from her friends, Ivermee offered some nail stickers from home to decorate the aids to see if it would make a difference.

It did.

“She loves them and loves the fact that she can have fancy designs and her friends don’t,” Ivermee said.

In 2014, Ivermee, who’s based in the U.K., started Lugs, a company that sells low cost, custom-made hearing device decorations.

“I thought there would be a lot of families struggling with children who don’t want to wear their [hearing devices], and I felt I had to help,” she told The Mighty.

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“Lugs” is another word for ear lobes/ears, according to Ivermee. She hopes her designs will encourage children to wear their hearing devices with confidence. Current styles include Angry Birds, Batman, butterflies, bows, Hello Kitty and more. Ivermee also plans to add a special occasions line.

The company is already attracting international attention — Ivermee was pleasantly surprised when her first five orders came from the United States.

“I get emails from professionals to thank me for what I’m doing; it just amazes me,” she told The Mighty. “People all over the world are wearing the little kits that I make in my living room; it’s unbelievable!”

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“Knowing children are not just happy to wear their hearing aids and cochlears but that they are proud to show them off makes it all worth while,” Ivermee told The Mighty. “We just hope we can help as many children and adults as we can and have fun and creative devices that they are proud of.”

For more information, you can visit Lugs’ website here.

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Why This Deaf Woman Is Suing the Hospital Where She Plans to Give Birth

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A pregnant Florida woman who is deaf is suing her local hospital for refusing to provide her with an on-site sign-language interpreter in the delivery room.

Margaret Weiss, whose second child is due in late July, says that the translation service being offered by Bethesda Hospital East — that of a translator stationed at a remote location, being beamed in via video-conferencing technology — is not sufficient.

woman and her daughter

“It does add a level of anxiety for me because communication is so important,” Weiss, 30, of Boynton Beach, tells Yahoo Parenting through a telephone translator. “When I’m giving birth I can’t see everything that’s going on with a monitor. What if I have to change position? Or close my eyes? What if there are technical problems? That’s not effective communication.”

When Weiss gave birth to her first child, daughter Odelia, in 2014, she wanted to do so at Bethesda, which is about a mile and a half from her home. But when she learned there would be no interpreter, she went to West Boca Medical Center, 20 minutes away, because it did provide an interpreter. The situation became complicated, though, when Odelia had to spend more than two weeks in the NICU, and Weiss, who doesn’t drive, had to find rides there constantly.

“I don’t want that to happen again,” she says. “I’m definitely worried about it.”

According to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), hospitals must provide effective means of communication for patients, family members, and hospital visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing. But what constitutes “effective,” note experts including Weiss’s attorney Clara Smit, is largely left open to interpretation.

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“The Department of Justice needs to come up with regulations that are much more specific,” Smit, a New Jersey–based attorney who has specialized in civil rights for the deaf for 25 years, tells Yahoo Parenting. In this case, she says, “Bethesda has really drawn a line in the sand.” The hospital’s stance has remained that its use of Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) is sufficient for Weiss, despite the shortcomings and possible glitches she and Smit have raised.

“There are problems with pixels, firewalls, freezing screens — so many limitations,” Smit notes, adding that it would particularly pose an issue with someone needing to communicate while in the throes of childbirth, when a live interpreter would be able to resort to all sorts of techniques, such as tactile interpreting (signing directly into a person’s hand so they could feel what’s being said) during intense moments when a woman’s eyes would likely be closed.

While the landscape has changed tremendously since Smit began practicing in this arena, and while “a lot of hospitals will provide live interpreters,” too many are now relying on VRI, she says — despite the fact that the technology required to make it an effective service has been slow in catching up.

deaf woman using sign language

Story: Two Moms, Deaf Child Star in Emotional New Ad

A spokesperson at Bethesda told Yahoo Parenting that the hospital had “no comment” and was not at liberty to speak about legal situations. Hospital attorney John Heffling did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Yahoo Parenting, but told the Palm Beach Post, “There is no overwhelming evidence that the (video equipment) is not going to provide effective communication.” He added, “Nowhere does it say [in ADA regulations] it is not effective or shall not be used. They are leaving it to the decision of the people who know best, and the people who know best are the people who are providing the medical care.”

The National Association for the Deaf, meanwhile, a national civil-rights organization, has a dedicated position statement regarding the use of VRI in hospitals. And it’s not exactly a glowing review.

“On-site interpreter services are more likely to result in effective communication than VRI services,” it says in part. “On-site interpreters have more physical flexibility, have greater access to visual and auditory cues and information present in the environment, do not encounter technology or equipment malfunctions, and can respond immediately to communication events as they arise. In short, on-site interpreter services are not subject to many of the limitations experienced by VRI services. NAD strongly believes that VRI services should be provided only if on-site interpreter services are unavailable.”

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Debra Pitkin, an attorney with NAD, tells Yahoo Parenting, “Unfortunately, the current trend shows that several hospitals believe that ‘effective’ means ‘just getting by’ or ‘some information.’ This does not comply with the laws, in our view.”

Weiss’s case is far from the first of its kind — pregnant patients in places from Miami to London have mounted similar legal fights — and many with other medical situations have sued hospitals for not providing sign-language interpreters as well. “We receive complaints all the time from all over the country about hospitals refusing to provide on-site interpreters — or any interpreter — for medical visits, including labor and delivery,” Pitkin notes. “Complaints about hospitals insisting on VRI use have spiked in the recent years. In fact, we have a lawsuit pending involving a woman who was given ineffective VRI service during her labor.”

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Weiss’s case, in fact, was at first added to an already ongoing one regarding a handful of deaf patients who objected to the use of VRI services at Bethesda. But because of her impending July 24 due date, Smit filed an emergency motion asking for a sped-up ruling; luckily, if a decision doesn’t come in time, the hospital has agreed it will provide a live interpreter.

Until then, Weiss will remain dogged about her needs. “The use of VRI doesn’t match the situation,” she says. “It’s not appropriate.”

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Watch the Beautiful Way an Entire Neighborhood Surprised This Deaf Man

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As part of a Turkish ad campaign for Samsung’s new call center for people with hearing impairments, the company set up a stunt to show a deaf man he isn’t alone, BuzzFeed reported.

Samsung spent a month prepping, training people in sign language and setting up hidden cameras in a neighborhood in Istanbul, Turkey. Then, Muaharrem, a deaf man, left his house one day to find that all of a sudden everyone he ran into knew sign language.

With each stranger who signed something to him, Muaharrem grew more and more confused — and  then delighted — by the open communication.

Samsung eventually revealed the stunt and introduced Muaharrem to the new call center technology.

All for Muaharrem to have one day without barriers,” reads the text in the video below.

Check out the moving advertisement:

h/t BuzzFeed

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A Thank You Letter to My Son's Disabilities

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Dear Deafness and 22q,

Yes, I’m talking to you, and I just want to say thank you. 

What’s that, you say? You think you heard me wrong? No, you heard correctly. I have thanks to give to you.

Deafness, you and I don’t always see eye-to-eye. When I ask my child if he’d heard a noise and he didn’t, I don’t particularly like you; I want him to hear everything. Intelligible speech took quite a while because of you, and I wasn’t the most patient of waiters. When I must repeat myself for what seems like the millionth time for my child to hear and understand me or he must repeat himself many times before being understood, you’re not my friend. Deafness, at times you lead to frustration on both parent and child. Oh, but my friend, you see, you’ve brought much good to us too, and you should also know about that.

10448219_10203193279805159_541244940599714020_n It’s because of you I truly treasure the speech my child has; it’s a gift not to be taken for granted. Because of you our paths have crossed with many wonderful people, many of whom have become lifelong friends who we would have never met had it not been for you. I’m talking about the audiologist who gave my child the gift of having wonder and amazement in his eyes as he heard a fan for the first time. I’m talking about the deaf infant teacher who helped our family begin this journey, about the teachers at the school for the deaf who have nurtured and encouraged the thirst and yearning for learning and knowledge that my child. I’m talking about the speech therapist who gave my child the gift of meaningful communication. I thank you for allowing these people to cross our paths. You see, Deafness, you’re a part of my child to be embraced, but you don’t define him, and with every negative you bring you also bring a positive. So again, for that I say thank you.

22q, don’t feel left out. I also have thanks to give to you. You’re a tricky one. You’re the one that has the power to make my eyes well up with tears, my knees tremble and my stomach churn with fear. With you there are so many unknowns. A higher risk of Parkinson’s disease, mental illnesses and so much more. I don’t like the unknown, and therefore I don’t always like you. It hasn’t always been rainbows and butterflies with you, but that’s OK. You see, just like Deafness you come with your own set of positives.

It’s because of you that I’m that Mom. What Mom is that, you ask? The mom who carries a tab-divided, color-coded binder to all appointments, the mom who’s in touch with those who work with her child on a regular basis, the one who unapologetically considers herself the needy mom. Sure, if it wasn’t for you I would have been a good mom, but I wouldn’t have been that mom — the mom I am today. 22q, it’s because of you that my child knows what it’s like to watch others breeze by him doing things with ease that are difficult for him. It’s also because of you that my child knows what hard work and determination are; you have given him no choice in the matter. When week after week my child tries to do something and then finally one day he does, I’m able to see a smile grows across his face and a twinkle in his eyes. It’s in these moments that my child is learning, because of you, that with hard work he can achieve success. You see, 22q, just like Deafness you’re a part of my child that’s to be embraced, but you don’t define him, and with every negative you, too, have brought positives. And for that I say thank you.

Sincerely,

The Mom who doesn’t always like you but has learned to embrace the positives you give us.

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