This applies to all parents and children, but I am going to share our story. As you know, my husband and I are hearing parents to a Deaf child and we have learned so much from our sweet boy. I look at my son today and I see so much growth in him and in his language and this makes my heart happy! I know that we still have a lot of learning to do as a family and individually but I also see how far we have come. I remember trying to figure out what I needed to do as a parent to help our son. I didn’t really understand what his level of hearing loss meant until the end of last school year. Understanding brings clarity and makes me happy that we chose total communication for our family.
- “I hope my son is not behind in his learning”
- “Why isn’t he signing more?”
- “When will my son understand what I am saying?”
- “When will I understand what he is saying?”
Our son has had several tests done on him since he was born and some of those tests were to see where his learning development was compared to his age level. The results showed us that he scored Average or Above Average on everything accept Communication. Our son is a smart boy and has a way of getting you to understand what he wants, even if it means grabbing your hand and leading you to what he wants. As parents we know our child and can figure out what he wants for the most part, but he needed more – he needed better communication.
I remember watching Mr. Hollands Opus during my sons nap one day. I sat there watching the mother in the movie – she was frustrated and her son was frustrated because he wanted something and could not communicate it to his mother and she could not figure it out. I remember the mother crying and saying “I Just Want To Talk To My Son!” Of course I burst into tears because I felt the same way. I wanted more communication with my almost two year old. My husband and I sat there crying, our hearts hurting and more determined than ever to learn sign language, so we could talk with our boy.
This was a slow process for us, we did everything we could, but we were still learning slow, which meant, our son was learning slow. We were always trying to get Michael to sign, but he only did it when he wanted. He saw that everyone around him moved their lips and mommy and daddy moved their lips and hands to talk. Michael is a smart boy and I think he was processing everything. All of Michael’s friends were hearing and very few used some signs to communicate with him. I am GRATEFUL to those moms that cared enough about our family to take the time to teach their kids some sign language! We are so blessed to have you in our lives.
It is a lot of hard work and dedication to learn another language and teach it to your child as you go, but our son is worth it. Although it is a continual learning process for all of us, It makes our hearts happy to see the results. I wanted to do a back flip every time my son used a sign correctly, because that meant he understood what he was saying! How rewarding is it when you see your child get something that you have been working so hard teaching him! I loved those moments when the light bulb went off and it clicked, our boy understood a new sign. I still see those moments with him. Now he gets to see them with us when he uses a sign and we don’t understand right away but come back later with the understanding. Only his reaction isn’t filled with excitement, the look on his face is saying “Finally, that’s what I have been trying to tell you!”
We are learning ASL through books, videos, computer, friends, sign class, Deaf Events and our son’s school. Now it seems that our son is learning faster than we are because he is around people signing five days a week all day. We have learned that there are many ways of communication and our family uses them all. We use Pigeon Sign which is a combination of ASL and Signed English and a little bit of Sign Language Slang. Yes I said it, Sign Language Slang! I now understand why our Deaf friend David says that English is confusing. Sometimes sign language can be confusing as well with similar signs or the same sign for different words. Even though I don’t understand everything that is signed by my son or my Deaf friends, I have learned to fill in the blanks when needed and ask questions if I don’t understand a sign or what is being said.
I hope this helps you see why communication is so important.
Communication brings people together, brings families together, brings communities together.
If you are a hearing parent of a Deaf or Hard of Hearing Child, please learn sign language and teach it to your children. If you are a parent please take the time to communicate with your children – it will make your family closer.
I can’t imagine not being able to tell my son that “I Love Him”, just because I couldn’t communicate it to him.
We have come a long way and yet we still have a long road ahead of us, but we are up for the journey!