Monday, March 1, 2010

One Hearing, One Deaf

I have met many parents who are concerned about having a deaf child with hearing siblings. I have met families with deaf children and their hearing children don't sign much even though their deaf child has limited if any oral skills. I notice the hearing siblings acting uncomfortable when they attend functions at the deaf school. This always makes me sad. My hearing daughter enjoys her close relationship with her Deaf brother. She loves to hang out with her deaf friends. Over the years she has blended in with the children at the deaf school and enjoyed all of the activities she was included in. She also has her own activities in the hearing world. She brings her brother in by interpreting naturally. I know our family is not typical but really who is? The one thing that strikes me is that we are happy to be bilingual, it is a side note in our otherwise exciting lives.

I used to volunteer teaching art, theater and cooking to the elementary kids at the deaf school. In theory she shouldn't have been allowed to join but she had come with me since she was born and it was politely ignored. Later we wanted my son's best friend an coda to join the classes after school but we were told no. I went to the superintendent to plead my case that it was important for our deaf kids to socialize with hearing kids and really valuable for the hearing siblings to have that experience. A new policy went into effect saying that siblings and codas could join if a parent accompanied them.

What really works for us is helping her to be bilingual. We have signed with her since birth so it is natural for her. Also my son's deafness takes very little extra attention. We don't have to focus on him because he is deaf. I do advocate for him with his education and volunteer at his school but I do the same thing for her. For the last couple of months she has had to be patient with his intense rehearsal and performance schedule but before that he had to sit through her ballet class and school fundraisers. None of that was because he is deaf. My son is five years older and popular and she loves the attention she gets because of that. His older friends are very sweet to her. The night she went to his play they pulled her out on stage during a scene and taught her to cha cha during intermission.

They also do argue. It is really funny how this works. They don't shout like hearing kids but very much like deaf kids. I will be in another part of the house and it goes from silence to loud is seconds. She is signing really big and voicing short sounds that are shadows of words. He shouts sharp short screams and I run to intervene. What is interesting is when I do she continues to sign her explanation of his crime with big shouting signs.

Sometimes it is a bit awkward when he has to go to her functions. I often interpret and other times he tells me to relax and don't worry about it. One time we went to a fair at her school and were sitting voice off eating at a table. We were laughing about something and all of the sudden this deaf kid comes over and just stood there staring. My son tells me he knows him from school and he just starting a half day at the deaf school. He recently lost his hearing and was learning ASL. His parents don't sign. He wanted to join us.

I have to go. My darling children are screaming in the next room. I went in to see what the ruckus is about and my son was teasing my daughter. He was pretending to be hurt. She realized she has been duped again and started a pillow fight. Nothing good will come of this. I will now go moderate as they scream and laugh their way into a frenzy. I will have a hard time getting my little girl to sleep tonight.


  1. I love this post! It probably shouldn't, but it makes me smile to imagine your kids having an argument like that.

    About her involvement at his school: We've been looking at the local Deaf school for our son and one of the things that struck me was that the school is only for kids with hearing loss.

    I think it's too bad, because it means siblings can't go to the same school unless they are both deaf. I wonder why these schools aren't set up more as ASL immersion programs with heavy limits on non-deaf enrollment.

  2. Michael smile and laugh out loud! As parents we have to relax and figure it out as we go. The best part is we can laugh at what we see after the fact.

    About sibling involvement, what a mess. My daughter is in a full Spanish program and the school district has no problem with that but no way would we get an ASL program. The deal is the deaf school is a state school. For funding they need an audiogram. So to qualify you need to be deaf. I fought this for several years with no luck. Now our state school may become controled by the district so we can change that. We are working to move towards a bi/bi program and hopefully hearing kids who qualify will be welcomed. Gosh it feels like the world is just not ready for our kids sometimes.

  3. I never considered what it would be like to have a fight with sign language. Sounds like you have a great family - even when the kids aren't getting along.