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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Daughter, Hearing Father

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I remember optimistically showing my in-laws the scenario. This case history raised expectations about this little girl of ours becoming “normal.” I was cautiously optimistic. It took some time to get the hearing aids and earmolds for Miranda. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for Brenda to take our daughter around to all the appointments with the specialists.

Brenda recalled that the hearing aid consultant, an older chap named Pete Keller, offered without being asked, “There’s no Deaf community. It’s just a bunch of deaf people standing around signing.” In retrospect, we are horrified that a person with such a bias is one of the first “experts” that parents with newly diagnosed parents would see. This negativity about the Deaf community was very much the prevailing attitude with medical and quasi-medical professionals we had contact with in Toronto in 1993.

When we received the hearing aids, it was not easy to put them in Miranda’s ears and keep her pudgy, baby fingers from pulling them out. The high-pitched whistle of a misfit or recently removed hearing aid is also not a fond memory. Once while visiting my Auntie Sue in Boston, we had to turn her house upside down looking for Miranda’s hearing aids. My aunt is a seamstress who works out of her home, consequently there are stacks of clothing all around. Our two-and-a-half-year-old girl had taken her hearing aids out and stuck them under a pile of clothes, where they didn’t whistle until someone moved the pile.

After several months of using hearing aids, it was very clear that Miranda Panda wasn’t going to be like the child who suddenly became a “normal” kid after getting her hearing aids. This was somewhat disappointing. We were, of course, told that improvement would not occur overnight. Months went by, but we saw very little improvement in Miranda’s ability to attend to sound. After a year, we decided the hearing aids were unnecessary. Miranda did learn to say, “Mama.” But that was a few years later, long after she’d given up wearing hearing aids.

We did not wait until our daughter could “hear” or “speak” or had hearing aids to start communicating with her. Within days of the diagnosis, assuming that it was only natural for deaf people to sign, we started to learn American Sign Language (ASL). Our initiative was rewarded almost instantaneously. Miranda responded to our gestures and elementary signs by mimicking us. Soon, instead of whining, she was signing! And the more she did of the latter, the less she did of the former.

Hearing Assessment Program

Three months after the initial diagnosis, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto had Miranda go through the Hearing Assessment Program (HAP). During a period of three consecutive days, the young child sees a team of specialists from each of the following departments: Otolaryngology, Audiology, Pediatrics, Auditory Training, Psychology, Speech, Ophthalmology, Social Work, CT Scan, Education, and Public Health.

After all the specialists have seen him or her, they come together at the end of the week to discuss the child’s prognosis with the parents. Miranda certainly did not enjoy three days being tested, poked, and prodded by people in white coats. On the third day, she began getting upset anytime she saw a person in a white lab coat approaching.

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