Category Archives: Children of Deaf Parents

Discovering Deafness through Children’s Literature

books-literature-deaf-children-01Literature is one of the most powerful ways we come to understand society and our place in it. Through books, children learn about relationships, conflicts, empathy, morality, and how to classify their own emotions. Stepping into the lives of fictional characters, kids can experience a wide array of influential events in a very meaningful way— travel, adventure danger, love, loss, death— expanding their perspective, while remaining in a safe environment.

books-literature-deaf-children-02When choosing books for young children, then, it is important to consider the reality that is presented. Does your child’s library reflect the multiculturalism of the world we live in?

Books that feature deaf/ hard of hearing characters or protagonists should be added to every child’s collection! Whether you are the parent of a deaf child or the parent of a hearing child, introducing developing young minds to deafness can help cultivate an appreciation for human diversity.

10 Reasons to Make Sure There Are Deaf Characters In Your Child’s Library:

  1. books-literature-deaf-children-04Help children understand that deafness is a medical condition that has different levels, and that different people who are deaf can navigate the world in a wide variety of ways.
  2. Help children understand Deaf Culture and what it means to have Deaf identity.
  3. Help children understand that Sign Language is a visual language and why it is important.
  4. Familiarize children with the characteristics of people who are deaf/ HoH. For example, they may have hearing aids, cochlear implants, or an “accent.”
  5. Learn how to effectively overcome simple communication barriers in everyday situations.
  6. Learn how to welcome deaf children as friends.
  7. See the value of having diverse friend groups and the benefits of diversity in all situations.
  8. Important for deaf children to see themselves represented.
  9. See deaf/HoH individuals as role models.
  10. View deaf/HoH individuals as interesting and complex people worth getting to know.

RESOURCES

I asked parents on Twitter and Facebook for recommendations for books that feature deaf characters, protagonists, or themes of deafness and/or Deaf Culture. Below you will find a collection of book recommendations and resources. The list incorporates a variety of books for children of all different levels, with both fiction and non-fiction titles.

BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • books-literature-deaf-children-06A Birthday for Ben – by Kate Gaynor
  • A Place for Grace – by Jean Davies Okimoto
  • A Screaming Kind of Day – by Rachna Gilmore
  • Dad And Me in the Morning – by Patricia Lakin
  • Deaf Culture: A to Z – by Walter Paul Kelley
  • Dina The Deaf Dinosaur – by Carole Addabbo
  • Five Flavors of Dumb – by Anthony John
  • Hurt Go Happy: A Novel – by G. Robby
  • Jakes the Name : Sixth Grades the Game – by Deb Piper
  • Mandy – by Barbara D. Booth
  • Movers & Shakers: Deaf People Who Changed the World Storybook – by Cathryn Carroll & Susan M. Mather
  • One TV Blasting and A Pig Outdoors – by Deborah Abbott
  • River of hands : deaf heritage stories – by Symara Nichola Bonner
  • Robin sees a song – by Jim & Cheryl Pahz
  • Shay & Ivy: Beyond the Kingdom – by Sheena McFeely
  • Signs for Me – by Ben Bahan
  • books-literature-deaf-children-05Smart princess and other deaf tales – by Keelin Carey, Kristina Guevremont, and Nicole Marsh
  • Strong Deaf – by Lynn McElfresh
  • The Deaf Musicians – by Pete Seeger, Paul DuBois Jacobs
  • The Grump: The Original Short Story – by Mark Ludy
  • The Heart’s Language – by Lois-Ann Yamanaka
  • Deaf Child Crossing; Nobody’s Perfect; Leading Ladies – all by Marlee Matlin

LINKS TO OTHER RESOURCES AND INFORMATION:

* http://pajka.blogspot.ca/
* https://www.verywell.com/top-childrens-books-on-deafness-1048509
* http://libguides.gallaudet.edu/content.php?pid=57898&sid=423917
* http://www.ala.org/ascla/asclaourassoc/asclasections/lssps/lspdhhf/charauthors
* https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/may/23/what-its-like-to-be-a-deaf-novelist
* http://www.harriscomm.com/books-multimedia/deaf-author.html
* https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2015/may/19/julia-donaldson-deafness-what-the-jackdaw-saw-gruffalo
* https://del.icio.us/hlpuears/books

Do you have recommendations for children’s books that feature deaf characters, protagonists, or deafness as a theme? Please share your favorites in the comments! 

5 Great Reasons to Establish a Bilingual Household

reasons-bilingual-household-deaf-hoh-01Did you know: statistics show that in the United States, 9 out of every 10 kids who are deaf are born to hearing parents. Many of these parents have very little prior knowledge about deafness, and probably even less exposure to sign language and Deaf Culture.

These parents might fear that they won’t be able to communicate with their child, or that their child will be limited without the ability to hear. Like all parents, the hearing parents of deaf children want to do the right thing and give their kid the best opportunities available… But what does this really mean?

Raising deaf children with access to sign language has been shown to yield benefits in many areas of life, even for children working to acquire spoken language skills or those who have Cochlear Implants. Although it may require more effort from everyone in the family, creating a bilingual household where spoken and signed language coexist presents an ideal solution for overcoming communication barriers.

1. Helps Development of Personality

reasons-bilingual-household-deaf-hoh-develop-personalityFrom the time we are infants, we use language to create our narrative of the world and to establish our place within it. Studies have shown that not only do deaf/ HoH babies benefit from early exposure to signed language— signing allows ALL babies to express their needs and desires long before they are able to verbalize them, since humans develop tactile and motor skills at a much earlier age.

While children develop their sense of self, it is important that they are able to label both internal and external stimuli. Visual language allows children who are deaf to identify thoughts and feelings using their natural senses, which can be less frustrating for these children during their early developmental years.

According to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, article 30 section 4, people who are deaf are entitled, as a basic human right, to have access to their linguistic identity. Research has shown that even children who are learning oral communication methods benefit from family support for ASL, since it encourages a strong sense of identity and can aid in effective personal expression.

2. Build Stronger Family Relationships

reasons-bilingual-household-deaf-hoh-02When parents and siblings also know ASL, a child who is deaf has the added benefit of being able to communicate comfortably with the people around them. Learning a new language might seem intimidating at first, but luckily ASL is one of the most fun and interesting languages to acquire because it is so expressive.

Spending time together learning sign language as a family can be a positively enriching bonding activity for adults and children, both deaf and hearing alike. For relatives of a child who is deaf, learning ASL can help build a bridge of communication and trust. Knowing sign language enables siblings a variety of options for communication, thereby deepening these important relationships.

Research has shown that knowing multiple languages increases overall brain activity (it can even help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia). Language helps open up new perspectives and expands ones’ point of view. When hearing parents take the opportunity to foster a bilingual family, every member benefits!

3. Educational Benefits

reasons-bilingual-household-deaf-hoh-educational-benefitsResearchers from the 1960s through to the 1990s (most notably Mark T. Greenberg and Carol A. Kusché ) observed and documented that deaf children from deaf parents academically outperformed their deaf peers with hearing parents. Benefitting from early exposure to a language which they could feel comfortable using, the deaf children from deaf households demonstrated higher levels of literacy and reading comprehension.

According to NAD, “recent evidence from multiple studies shows that profoundly deaf children possess high levels of language organization if they had early exposure to a visual language… Specifically, they found two factors correlated with reading achievement: ASL fluency and exposure to print… While spoken language phonological coding may not predict reading ability very well in deaf children, signed language phonological coding is a stronger factor in development of reading ability. These findings suggest that an emphasis on visual language development activities as a path to successful reading acquisition may serve as a better model of literacy development for deaf children.”

4. Social Benefits

When a child is able to develop their social skills from an early age without restriction, they can experiment with the boundaries of nuanced human interactions. Deaf children who use ASL with their families are less likely to report feeling isolated, and are therefore more likely to be outgoing in other social situations. This snowball effect of self-confidence can lead to later success in personal and professional networking.

5. Forming a Cultural Identity

reasons-bilingual-household-deaf-hoh-04Aside from boosting personal awareness and self esteem, having the ability to connect with the larger Deaf community gives children who are deaf the option to communicate with other people who share the common experience of deafness. Offering deaf/HoH children the advantage of bilingualism provides them with the ability to access deaf society if they so choose.

According to research by Tingting Gao, “a common language fosters understanding and respect among deaf people and the existence of this culture provides a strong identity that deaf people can adopt in the face of a communication barrier between themselves and the rest of society.” Often, deaf people who grow up learning oral communication discover ASL at some point in their life. Many of these individuals report this discovery as an important experience!

“By learning Sign Language and interacting with the Deaf community, a deaf person can reverse all of his previous misconceptions regarding deaf people’s subaltern state relative to hearing people,” continues Gao. “More importantly, it chases away whatever doubts or uncertainties the deaf individual has had about himself, including the view that deafness is abnormal.”

Resources

There are many excellent ways to begin learning ASL! Please check out THIS BLOG for some great free and low cost options to get you started.

Other resources include

The ASL App
Signing Savvy

But, off course, the most effective way to learn ASL is to really immerse yourself. By working with a Deaf individual or a native ASL user, you can delve into the rich tapestry of Deaf Culture, gaining a deeper understanding of what it means to be deaf in America.

LCIS is pleased to offer personal ASL training for individuals or groups. Learn sign language on your own time, at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home or a public location in NYC. Learn to sign while exploring Deaf culture and current issues in the community. Get an in depth perspective on deafness and deaf communication from our qualified instructors.

Bridging the Communication Gap in Your Own Family

deaf-hoh-communication-family-holidays-01This holiday season, try to imagine what it would be like if no one sitting around the dinner table took any interest in getting to know you. What if no one in your family asked about your life, or seemed to care how you were doing? Picture how the holidays would be different if you were excluded from the stories, the jokes, and the games that your family shares.

deaf-hoh-communication-family-holidays-02

The feeling of isolation at family events is sadly common for deaf people. Deaf individuals who come from hearing families often grow accustomed to spending holidays quietly in the background. They get used to watching captioned TV, texting with friends, or simply daydreaming in a corner during holiday gatherings. If hearing family members choose not to learn sign language, deaf children grow up without ever really getting to know their own relatives or learning their family history. When there is no communication, it is difficult to form relationships. After years go by, it becomes harder and harder to bridge the gap.

deaf-hoh-communication-family-holidays-03

As a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), I spent many family events doing the best I could to provide my Deaf mother and siblings with access to conversations. CODAs often fall into the role of interpreter for deaf family members, and we usually don’t mind doing it. But one person can not realistically provide full access to communication when there are multiple deaf and hearing parties. Additionally, a person who is involved in the social dynamics of the family can not facilitate communication in an impartial way. For example a CODA might alter one family member’s actual message to avoid hurting another relative’s feelings.

deaf-hoh-communication-family-holidays-04

For my deaf family members, holiday events were always pretty boring. Any conversations they did have with hearing family members were limited and generally basic. So last year, for my mother’s birthday, I hired an team of ASL interpreters to provide services for her surprise party. My hearing family absolutely loved getting to know our deaf family in a whole new way. My deaf siblings and nieces were thrilled to have real conversations with all these people they had only known on a superficial level; the ability to communicate allowed their relationships to grow and strengthen.

deaf-hoh-communication-family-holidays-05

But for my mother, a whole lifetime of feeling excluded could not be erased in one day. While she appreciated the way the interpreters connected the family, it was hard to make up for all the family gatherings spent as an outsider. At the end of the party, everyone kept asking “why haven’t we hired interpreters before?” It hadn’t occurred to them what a big difference the ability to truly communicate would make.

deaf-hoh-communication-family-holidays-06

As a hearing person, maybe you’ve never considered what it is like to be deaf in a hearing world. You might take it for granted that you can walk around a party and casually chat with people, whether they are friends or total strangers. You can easily discuss current events, gossip, or TV shows. The ability to communicate aurally/ verbally is a cultural privilege shared by many. It can be easy for people to forget how much of our social bonding relies on communication.

deaf-hoh-communication-family-holidays-07When you provide professional interpreters, you actively welcome your deaf relatives into a hearing space.You invite them into your family– all the laughs and debates and reminiscing that bond us with our kin. Providing communication access for deaf relatives sends a clear message that their participation is valued. It was such a joy to watch my deaf siblings and little nieces get to know my hearing aunts, breaking through generations of communication barriers, making real connections. It’s hard to believe they all went so long without sharing these moments!

At your next family gathering– whether it’s a holiday dinner or a wedding– consider providing a professional sign language interpreter so that your deaf and hearing family members can get the most out of the time they spend together.

LCIS is pleased to offer event interpreting services in NYC and the surrounding areas. If you are seeking a high quality interpreter for your next family gathering, or other event, please contact me to request interpreting services. I strive to make the process of hiring an interpreter as simple and seamless as possible!

Deaf Superheroes and the Power of Diversity

deaf-hoh-super-heroesThere are many types of superpower– ranging from super strength to mind control. With such a wealth of fictional capabilities available, why should Superheroes be limited by their ability to hear? Deaf people can do everything hearing people can do, they just might do it in a different way… This includes fighting super-villains!

Hawkeye-&-Blue-Ear-Deaf-SuperheroesRecently, Marvel Comic writer Matt Fraction decided to incorporate deafness into his panels by using illustrated sign language. In the comic book, Hawkeye, who is featured in the popular Avengers movies, becomes deaf and must use ASL to communicate. This was a revival of an older plot from the series, where Hawkeye loses most of his hearing and uses a hearing aid. For deaf children and comic book fans, this pop culture representation is affirming. By illustrating a popular character like Hawkeye as differently abled, yet still powerful, Marvel Comics is sending the message that superheroes come from all walks of life!

Echo-ronin-Deaf-super-heroThere are a handful of other Deaf superheroes, as well. Echo (also known as Ronin) is a deaf woman who is able to perfectly replicate other people’s actions. Because she is deaf, she pays acute attention to visual details, allowing her to learn new abilities simply by watching another person perform the task. This is a great representation of deafness, and the way her supposed “disability” works to her advantage!

Another superhero, Blue Ear, was created by Marvel Comics in response to one little boy’s complaint that superheroes don’t use hearing aids. To demonstrate to the young boy that superheroes can be differently abled, Marvel created a Deaf awareness poster featuring the new superhero Blue Ear, who proudly wears a blue hearing aid.

Signs and VoicesSigns-and-Voices-deaf-comic-book is a British comic book created by Deaf individuals. The 4 superheroes in the comic are all Deaf, and use British Sign Language to communicate. According to the Signs and Voices website, “through the promotion of these positive role models, this project will help our readers relate to and learn about social integration, and raise the aspirations of Deaf young people.” The comic is available in two versions of English, so even those with limited reading abilities are able to enjoy the stories.

john_maucere_superdeafyHaving Deaf role models, whether they are real or fictional, has a powerful influence on Deaf youth. This concept is addressed in John Maucere’s film “No Ordinary Hero: The Superdeafy Movie.” The plot of the movie centers around a TV superhero named Superdeafy. In the film, Superdeafy discovers how influential his TV character is for Deaf young people, and the actor who plays Superdeafy is inspired to become a real life hero. “No Ordinary Hero” is the first feature film with a Deaf director and Deaf producers, and it stars a number of renowned Deaf actors, including Marlee Matlin. The film focuses on the importance of Deaf role models for kids, and how powerful it can be for young people to see heroes who exhibit different strengths and skills.

Superheroes have long captivated the American imagination; appearing in all forms of popular media. Superheroes have unusual abilities, they acquire their powers from a wide variety of incidents, and a common theme is overcoming adversity to save the day. So really, if you think about it… we live in a culture fascinated with differently abled people! With new superhero movies coming out all the time, it would be an innovative twist for writers to embrace unique perspectives. Perhaps in the near future we will see Hollywood and the comic book world showcase diversity by including some more Deaf characters in their popular franchises!

Deafness is Not One Size Fits All

nick_news_with_linda_ellerbeeThe pediatrician just informed you that your child is profoundly deaf.

What is deafness like?

How does deafness impact a person’s life? What will you do now? Your answers to these questions will depend on personal experience. If you have connections to Deaf culture, you may feel very differently than someone who has never had interacted with a deaf person. Though we live in the Information Age, mainstream society still understands very little about what it means to be deaf.

This week, Nick News with Linda Ellerbee premiered an episode titled “Now Hear This!” (watch the full episode HERE ) The show does a great job exploring the spectrum of deafness, and demystifying the deaf experience by telling the stories of 5 deaf young people. The children’s’ experiences are vastly diverse, and touch on a number of issues from deaf education methods to family dynamics. The overall message is that, like any of us, deaf children have individual needs. Despite what some may claim, there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for being deaf!

Scochlear-implant-graphicome families choose to assimilate their child to a hearing lifestyle by implanting a device called a cochlear implant into the skull, which stimulates the auditory nerve and allow the brain to “hear.” Sammy is a CI recipient from a hearing family who jokingly refers to herself as “part robot.” She was not born deaf, but her hearing deteriorated throughout childhood and, at 12 years old, she made the choice to have CI surgery. According to Sammy, her parents presented the pros and cons, and she strongly feels a CI was the right choice for her. She attends school with all other hearing students and plays on a basketball team, insisting she doesn’t need to know ASL because she can hear. Cici also comes from a hearing family, she lost her hearing as a baby. Her parents elected to send her to a school for deaf children that focuses on teaching English and oral communication, so she never learned any ASL. At 5 years old she received her CI. “It was hard to learn to speak,” she says, but she feels very grateful that she did because it allows her to communicate with her family and non-deaf friends. Cici is a ballet and tap dancer who feels that deafness is a disability that her CI and hearing aid help her overcome.

Restored Hearing - Cochlear ImplantAlthough the first instinct of a hearing parent might be to “fix” their “disabled” child through technology, they should first explore the many perspectives about deafness. Yes, cochlear implants and hearing aids work great for some people, but every person is different and everyone learns differently. In the show, CiCi says she loves her CI, but acknowledges how difficult it was to learn spoken English. Imagine having dyslexia– or any common learning disability– and being forced to learn a challenging foreign language. Though Cochlear Implants or oral English education do work for many, it’s unfair to assume that all deaf children have the same capabilities.

asl-interpreter-services-nycOther families choose American Sign Language for their deaf child. Isabella was born deaf and grew up in an all-ASL family, with two deaf parents and one hearing sister. She discusses education at her Deaf school, playing soccer on a hearing team, and having fierce Deaf pride! Isabella does not view deafness as a disability in any way, and she loves the language of her family. Arbab is a young man from a hearing family, who became deaf as an infant. In Pakistan, he would not have had educational opportunities, so his family immigrated to the US to ensure a better life. Arbab’s family does not use ASL and he does feel isolated from them, but he absolutely loves attending asl-interpreter-services-nyDeaf school where he signs freely with his peers. He uses technology, such as texting or video chat, to contact his friends when he is feeling lonely. Kaylee is the only deaf person in her entire town but, when she was in preschool, school administrators decided to add ASL to the curriculum for her whole class. The hearing kids all learned sign language, and use it throughout the school day to make sure Kaylee feels included. “My hearing friends sign to me, they are very fluent,” she says, “when my hearing friends don’t sign to me, then I feel alone.” She and her hearing friends love ASL and have made it their goal to spread Deaf awareness by volunteering to teach ASL to children.

private-ASL-lessons-nyAs a parent, it is your responsibility to become educated about your child; to engage and develop a relationship with them. Learn about deafness, and Deaf culture. Discover all the options available before making any major life decisions. Deaf children, like hearing children, have limitations, and areas where they excel. Instead of dictating how young deaf people should live their lives, parents can work together with their child to find the most comfortable way of adapting. This solution may not always be what the parent initially expected, and that’s ok! Holding on to strict expectations for any child– deaf or hearing– is unfair. Every person and their circumstances are unique!

“Now Hear This!” explores a spectrum of deafness, language use, and the various strategies deaf people use to communicate. We get a glimpse of how deaf people fit into different families, and how much parental choices can impact the course of a child’s life. Most importantly, the program presents 5 well-adjusted young people doing the best they can to learn new things, make new friends, and be understood “in a hearing world that doesn’t listen.”