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American Annals of the Deaf

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Bilingual Deaf and Hearing Families: Narrative Interviews
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Could you discuss what has helped you understand what being deaf means and where you got information that helped you make the decisions you made?

Tammy: I think that book I mentioned earlier, Communication Choices, helped me a lot, plus I did research on the Internet. From that reading I realized that it is better if she has both ASL and English for her to develop language.

I also got myself going: I started to read a lot about when your child is deaf on the Internet. Thatís where I got a lot of my information. The Internet. It is interesting, because it had the best information. When she was two months old, the doctor said maybe she would need a CI. Another doctor said: ďNo, not now.Ē The Internet said something else. Four or five months later, the doctor said that yes, maybe she needed one. Then he said wait to see if she wants one. The more I read, the more I knew that she needed one and to make the decision early on would help with language.

I feel if other parents have any questions about the CI, they can ask me. I am comfortable with that. I have had meetings with parents who want to know about the CI. I always say that CIs donít change your child. All it does is give them tools; itís not for changing your kids. Sometimes itís a hard decision for parents, but they have a choice. They need to understand not to put pressure on their kids, like always questioning. All kids are different; you have to understand that kids are not the same.

One of my friends, her son is deaf. About two years ago, he got a CI. I think he is 11 years old nowóso he was nine when he got the CI. When people are speaking or he is outside, he can hear a car, thatís good.

I saw the movie, The Sound and the Fury. It was crazy. The little girl said, ďIím not deaf.Ē Well, if the CI is off , thereís nothing, you canít hear anything. Parents need to help their kids understand. Yes, yes, they can hear, but at the same time theyíre deaf. This is maybe funny, but I tell parents itís like a black child being raised by a white family. He or she is still black, that doesnít change. They need to know about a different way of life. Destinee can have Deaf culture and hearing culture. Thatís fine. And of course she has black culture.

I think perhaps my own experiences helped me understand Destinee and the multicultural life she will live. My mom is white and my dad was black. My dad died when I was ten years old. I was young. But my community was all black. At the same time, I grew up knowing my momís culture. She is from Germany, and my dad, as I said, was black. Dad thought it was important to know both white and black cultures. It was exciting to know different things.

My brother and I grew up differently. He grew up in Germany in a primarily white community, and people there didnít understand why black kids were in their community. I was born six years later here in a mostly black community. My brother and I were raised differently. Really different, so maybe the multicultural experience I had growing up does help me understand Deaf culture and to accept a deaf child in our family.

What worries do you have for Destineeís future and do you have concerns now that you could tell us about?

Tammy: Iím not worried about her future. Sheís smart enough to succeed, but having to educate people along the way, to help them understand that sheís deaf, I do worry about that. There is nothing wrong with her. Thereís a lot of bias toward people, as to what it means to have a disability. She has a purpose in life just like everyone else.

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