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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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Deaf Daughter, Hearing Father

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In addition to that, Lee didn’t know her boundaries and often tried to tell us how to parent (not only with our daughter but our son as well!). Ironically, and perhaps not surprisingly, this was an area she had no expertise in, since she was childless. Needless to say, Lee really rubbed us the wrong way. Her style was invasive and abrasive. Ultimately, we felt she did more harm than good for us.

When Miranda started going to the Happy Hands preschool at the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf (BRCD) in the summer, home visits with Lee were moved to after-school sessions at BRCD one afternoon a week. The relationship between Lee and Brenda did not improve there.

Brenda said of Lee, “She would do things like this: I’d have some plastic colored eggs, and I would sign to Miranda: brown egg. Then Lee would jump in and say, ‘No, no. You can’t sign that. It’s a tan egg. You’ll confuse the child.’ Now, with my hearing son, I probably would have said, ‘brown,’ but she just had to jump in and show she was in charge.”

Things finally came to a head and Brenda told Lee off and put an end to the superfluous and counterproductive lessons. Unfortunately, although we have had mostly good experiences with professionals regarding Miranda, we have had our share of negative ones. Typically, it is the insensitive remark like an audiologist asking Brenda, when Miranda was throwing a “terrible-two” fit, “Who’s in charge? The parent or the child?” Again, the audiologist was childless at the time and had no idea what a two-year-old is like on a full-time basis.

Sign Language Classes at Home

Shortly after Miranda’s diagnosis, we contacted Silent Voice, a nonprofit service organization for the deaf and their families in the Toronto area. They provided early intervention services like in-home sign language classes free of charge for families of newly diagnosed deaf children. A few weeks later, on a Saturday, a young, attractive Deaf woman showed up at our home. Her name was Jessica. She was the first deaf person, other than our daughter, that I’d ever met. She communicated in four languages fluently: ASL, English (reading, voicing), Mexican Sign Language, and Spanish (reading, voicing). She began by teaching the whole family signs around the house.

The following week, she came with a friend, another young Deaf woman whose name escapes me now. This friend kept the children busy while Jessica taught signs to Brenda and I. This went on for a couple of months, and we really appreciated the introduction to sign language and the Deaf community on our own turf. Soon I enrolled into a sign language class at the BRCD, going every Thursday evening for a couple of hours.

A Visit with a Deaf Family

Another helpful service that Silent Voice provided families like ours with was the opportunity to meet a deaf family, to give us more of an idea what successful deaf adults are like and how they live in the hearing world. Contrary to Pete Keller’s observation, Brenda and I were discovering that there is a Deaf culture, and that the deaf people in it are quite happy being who and how they were. To the members of the Deaf community, deafness is not a disability. That idea was very intriguing to us.

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