By Wayne Johnson, Coordinator of Client Services in Central Coast Outreach
Parents, you can help your child prepare for the future by learning to communicate with your child at an early age in American Sign Language. This can include discussing career paths and higher education. Through ASL, you can communicate your education and career expectations to your child, but without ASL, how can you have in-depth conversations with your child? Gesturing and home signs are not sufficient for abstract conversations such as future planning and goals. One way to overcome this communication challenge is to participate in DHHSC’s Reaching Out and Communicating with our Kids (ROCK) program because it is a great resource available at no charge to families with Deaf and Hard of Hearing children. Don’t depend on your child’s school to teach about careers, work ethics, and the hiring process. Have this conversation with your child yourself. Do not tell your child, “Since you’re Deaf (or Hard of Hearing), you can’t do that.” Instead, encourage your child by showing examples of successful Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals. The Internet is full of examples, as is our “Wall of Deaf Dreams” in our Central Coast Outreach office in Salinas. Our wall contains autographed photos of successful Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals with inspirational messages to both Deaf and Hard of Hearing children and adults.
We often see parents communicate to their Deaf or Hard of Hearing child, “You’re Deaf, you can’t do that” when the subject is work-related. Even if your child does not hear or understand your comment, your child picks up on your dismissive attitude because it is often accompanied by the wave of a hand or facial expression lacking encouragement. This attitude often leads to the belief that “I can’t do anything so I’ll just live on SSI and my parents will take care of me.” To quote I. King Jordan, the first Deaf President of Gallaudet University, “Deaf people can do anything hearing people can do, except hear.” Think about this quote every time you think a Deaf or Hard of Hearing individual cannot do a job or pursue a career goal. Be aware of how you influence your child in powerful ways, both verbally and nonverbally. Choose your words carefully and model to your child the belief that you know your child can and will succeed. Parents, you are the launching pad for your child, and your expectations will influence how high your child will aim and how far your child will go.