In A Perfect World
The Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799 in Egypt. Renowned anthropologist Jean-Francois Champollion studied it for some 20 years before he was able to decipher its content and, in 1822, provide the world with the process by which hieroglyphics could be interpreted. Even with his inestimable knowledge and professional qualifications—aided by two versions of Rosetta’s text in known scripts (Greek and demotic)—it took two decades of dedicated effort before Champollion understood Rosetta’s full meaning.
Comparatively, I have also had almost two decades to decipher my deaf son, Dane, whose hearing loss shrouded certain fundamental considerations with mystery. How best to communicate with him, raise him, educate him, and socialize him for life in this world presented new challenges every time we thought we’d figured something out. There have been very few simple answers for any of this. I envied my friends for the easy go they were having with their hearing kids. Sure, they faced some tough questions, but we were dealing with increasingly complex riddles:
Field Notes to Parents
For Erika, Lisa, Traci, Hina and about 500 other parents who have asked me directly and personally (gulp) about the choices that my husband and I have made for Dane: here is what I am willing to say about what I’ve learned…
Forays into our personal choices are not going to be that helpful to you. For starters, I don’t want anyone to assume we hold ourselves up as a model to be emulated, (we don’t). In spite of my musings about what it’s like “In a Perfect World,” I have never lived there; furthermore, I’ve never lived in your world. So brace yourself: the only thing I’m pretty sure of is that every single child who is deaf or hard of hearing is like a Rosetta Stone. I’ve been deciphering the “Dane” Stone, which I’ve misread as often as I got him right. You will be deciphering the Jose Stone, the Ford Stone, the Morgan Stone, the Manezeh Stone and about 500 other cryptic mysteries that resist a uniform solution. My answers are not your answers. The sooner you grow comfortable with the realization that with communication choices there is no formula…no guarantee, the sooner you’ll engage at the right level: personal investment in finding what works for your child. The opposite of this is to remain in a passive role. Like a ship without a rudder, you’ll be blown this way and that by every person with an opinion and every professional with a different point of view. You may never find your course, and ultimately, you may never reach your destination. You will learn to defy anyone who would tell you different.
The Wonders I have Seen
Along this journey, I have personally witnessed many wonders, spectacles (and some horrors) that have convinced me there is no one communication approach that works for all children who are deaf or hard of hearing. I’ve seen wonderfully successful children in every mode or method category, as well as children for whom those respective modes and methods haven’t worked. Every time I saw something that seemed to scream “aha, this is the way!” there would be something else yelling right back “if only that had worked in our case!” I have saved mental postcards from my visits with:
The message written on the back of each one of these mental postcards is, “This may be true for your child, too, or it may not be true for your child.” Only your child can show you which kind of kid s/he will turn out to be. You will learn to resist those who make predictions for an outcome they cannot control.
Risking a Rant
If you’re tallying up whether I listed equally supportive vs non-supportive oral/sign scenarios, then you’re missing the point entirely. I’m simply trying to demonstrate that for every “truism” there is an equal and opposite “falsism” plus an a lot of weighty, highly variable subtext to these issues. There are too many living examples all around us that debunk all the hard line generalizations, “sacred” dogma, and subjectively interpreted evidence about what’s best for children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Personally, I’ve learned to be skeptical of some of the research cited in support of each ideological school of thought. You will discover that it’s often produced and presented by the respective “camps” that selectively ignore broader contexts, heterogeneous control groups, and, well, any study that contradicts them. Further, if it’s not looking at communication in changing environments and over a long enough span of time, (i.e., longitudinally…most of them aren’t), it’s going to miss the child’s feedback. This “end-user” perspective is probably the most important indicator of the effectiveness of all our efforts. You’ll find that this cannot be ignored.
The Rosetta Stone would probably still remain a mystery if it weren’t for the Greek and demotic lexicon, and fortunately, I think we have some similar advantages. While there may not be one communication approach that works for all DHH kids, there are certainly basic needs common to every human being that must be addressed. The process of meeting them provides a lot of illumination about which mode or method of communication is right for your child, and how that question and its answer can change as s/he grows.
Keep a close watch on these fronts and strive to understand and address each in the context of your child’s abilities, inclinations and personality:
Obviously, this list could keep growing and it should. It might even take 20 years to complete it and understand its full meaning. ~
© Leeanne Seaver 2008