By Jesse Lewis
This for parents of deaf (and hard of hearing) children.
We value you. We think you are amazingly important. You are the parents of the population that we are primarily here to serve: deaf and hard of hearing individuals.
Right now, your children might still be children, or they may have already grown into adults. Regardless, at any age, the message we have for you is the same: your deaf children want to communicate with you.
Your children want you to know what they are thinking. To share feelings. To discuss. To have a conversation about life, about things that are interesting, about problems faced. Your deaf children would be blessed to receive guidance from you, the parents. You have wisdom to share. You have experiences that you can tell your children all about, so that they learn from you. Like anyone else, they will make mistakes in life. With your stories and with open and effective communication, perhaps they will make less.
Perhaps your words will inspire them. You can share your dreams and encourage them to dream as well. You can focus on what is possible, rather than what seems impossible. You can work together to get rid of things that bar the way toward what they want in their lives. How would you do this without communication?
If a little deaf boy is not able to be understood clearly by their parents, he will miss out. If a teen-aged deaf daughter, feeling insecure and frustrated by the world, cannot have a two-way conversation with her parents, she will not be able to draw wisdom and comfort from you. If a grown man, deaf his entire life, is unable to understand anything his parents say, he may drift away from family over time.
Consider what is possible: you, engaged in meaningful conversation with your deaf children. You laugh together at jokes. You inspire each other with your words. You feel a sense of pride when your children share their successes with you. And yes, even in those moments when you are angered by disobedience, you can practice compassionate discipline with the full knowledge that your children understood every word. From these experiences, the happy times and the not-so-happy, your children can learn.
We know you love your children. We see this all the time. Your children want more than love by itself, however. They want love, with communication, so that they feel completely included.
There are numerous methods of communication and plenty of debate about what the best method is. Your children are often the best guide to what works. If your children are fluent in American Sign Language, for example, it absolutely makes sense that ASL is what will work best. If your deaf children are still young, learning language, we encourage you to meet with deaf community members. We encourage you to seek services from organizations like Deaf and Hard of Hearing Service Center. There’s a world full of people ready to support you in your goal. We value you so much, because we value our community so much that we want every one of them able to communicate well with their families.
No matter how hard it may feel, no matter how slow progress may seem, it is worthwhile. Even if you feel that perhaps the communication issue can be simply solved through medical intervention, such as surgery, please understand that there are no guarantees. Your best chance for success is to learn, perhaps together, an effective way to communicate, regardless of your children’s hearing levels. That way, whether your children remain deaf individuals without a hearing device or choose to use hearing devices, you have communication that will work.
You will not have gambled on possibilities. You will have put hard work toward the likeliness of having fantastic communication with your deaf children.
Empowered by your actions, your children will grow up with the best chance for success, and be thankful to you for it.