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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Daughter, Hearing Father

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The HAP didn’t tell us much more that we had already known: Miranda had been profoundly deaf since birth; this was caused by an unknown reason, most likely, a recessive gene. Simply, her hearing did not develop “normally.” It would be difficult, though not impossible, for her to learn to “listen” and “speak.”

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the meetings was the lack of a single deaf representative in the group of specialists, though there was a teacher who provided information concerning “the auditory-verbal approach to educating hearing impaired children.” Fortunately, we did receive The Parent Sharing Kit, written and published by the Canadian Hearing Society, from the hospital’s social worker. The kit contained a folder full of information about the resources available for parents for deaf children.

Itinerant Teachers

Shortly after the diagnosis, we began to receive home visits from a teacher of the deaf provided by the Toronto Board of Education. The first teacher to visit us was named Joyce. She was a kind, supportive, hearing person who would come over once a week for an hour with a bag full of educational toys. She sat and played with Miranda. “Learning through play” was the approach. Miranda seemed to enjoy these visits.

I believe at this point we were confronted with the communication choice for Miranda’s education: oral or Total Communication. We didn’t know a lot yet, but we leaned towards Total Communication because it made the most sense: use all methods of communication available, including signing, voicing, lipreading, listening with aids, and so on. So during sessions with Miranda, Joyce would sign and voice mostly nouns. One of other goals of the visits was to teach Brenda and I how to interact with and teach Miranda.

As I was working during the majority of Joyce’s visits, Brenda was the parent who received the training. One auditory therapy exercise had Miranda sitting with her back to the teacher who had a glass bottle. Then the teacher would drop toys or small items into the bottle, creating a sound to which the student is supposed to react. The idea behind the exercise is to get the child to attend to the sound even if she can barely discern its occurrence.

“It’s not a bad exercise,” said Brenda. “But for us, it was a waste of time because Miranda was profoundly deaf. Of course we didn’t know that at the time. An audiogram with children that young is hard to get accurate. So it may be a good thing to do with other deaf children, but for us, it wasn’t much use. And Joyce wanted us to do it for a half-hour every day. For Miranda, it wasn’t interesting enough, and it is difficult enough keeping any two-year-old’s attention for even 5 minutes, let alone 30.”

After only a few months, because we indicated a preference for a Total Communication approach and Joyce didn’t have great signing skills, we started receiving visits from another teacher. Lee was a hearing woman who was married to a deaf man. Though we were at first excited to have a more fluent signer working with Miranda, ultimately Lee was a big disappointment. She was one of those professionals you run into who likes being “the expert” and telling the uneducated or uninformed what they’re doing wrong. This was a big problem for us because Lee tended to undermine our confidence, particularly with our nascent signing skills.

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