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"A Day in the Life of a CODA"
* The term CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults. It refers to individuals (generally, children who can hear normally) whose parents are Deaf.
* In general, on this website, the lowercase term "deaf" is used to refer to "physical" deafness. The uppercase term Deaf is generally used to refer to individuals who are culturally Deaf and use sign language. This convention is not based on a style-guide but rather the use of lowercase and uppercase deaf/Deaf is simply an attempt to acknowledge and respect the fact that being Deaf (for many people) is not about "lacking" something but rather is about being part of a Community that shares a culture and a language.
* The phrase "hearing child" is a way of saying, "a child who can hear normally."
- William Vicars
A Day in the Life of a CODA
By Victoria Salway
March 26, 2017
Cary is a nine year old hearing child. Both of Cary’s parents are profoundly Deaf due to sensorineural hearing loss -- which is a type of deafness in which the nerves do not connect from the inner ear to the brain. Her parents have cochlear implants and can wear hearing aids but have found that these work only for picking up environmental sounds and do not work well enough to understand speech. So, the parents choose not to wear anything to help with hearing” (Moffett). “Both parents think that they were born Deaf but are unsure because they were not diagnosed Deaf until Mom at nine months and Dad three months” (Moffett). Cary’s parents are the “only ones on both sides of the family who are Deaf” (Moffett).
Cary and her family use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. According to the article, Hearing Children of Deaf Parents: A Counselling Challenge, “There are approximately eight types of sign systems used by Deaf adults. The most commonly used system, however, is American Sign Language (ASL)” (Buchino 1990 ). “As adults, 95% of Deaf persons choose a Deaf spouse. Among this group, 90% of their children have normal hearing” (Buchino 1990). Cary and her two siblings have regular hearing. She and her four year old sister can sign well, and her baby sister recently signed her first word.
According to the article, Hearing children of Deaf parents: A counseling challenge, “The issue of role reversal is one in which hearing children of Deaf parents perceive themselves as being in charge or acting as the parent, and conversely, the parent, as being dependent on them” (Buchino 1990).
Role reversal does not apply to Cary’s family. It is very evident through their responses to the interview questions that mom is in charge of the family and does not want to rely on her children to hear for her. For example, Cary does not have an alarm clock to wake her up in the morning. Her parents have an alarm that vibrates their bed to wake them up. When the baby cries during the night, a baby cry alarm that connects to her alarm vibrates her bed and a light flashes. This allows mom and dad to be self-sufficient.
When asked about what if emergencies arise, Cary states that they have fire alarm strobes in the house. They also have video phones on the laptops to make phone calls if an interpreter is needed or be a messenger for them. Cary’s parents love their iPhones because they has special features for the Deaf and hard of hearing including the ability to “Facetime” friends and family. (Moffett).
The parents leave their phones on vibrate to signal them when a call is incoming. However, Cary says that her parents still turn the ringer on to the loudest it will go, so that the children can hear the phone if it is misplaced. I asked Cary if there were times that she interpreted for her parents. She strongly replied, “No, my parents do not like it! If we are at a restaurant, they point to the menu or write down their order on paper.” However, she admitted that sometimes when her mom is not looking, her dad will sign to her.
When asked if Cary had ever changed something she signed for her parents because it might hurt their feelings or upset them, she replied, “No, because I do not interpret for them.” However, if she signs something incorrectly, she quickly changes it before her parents get mad or correct her signing.
At school Cary is a bright student and is placed in a self-contained class for the gifted and Talented. She explains that her parents are able to assist her with homework in every subject but spelling and vocabulary. She adds that the pronunciation or the signing is difficult and can get confusing. Her teacher comments that she is very talkative but thinks it has to deal with her family mostly associating with the Deaf culture and school being an outlet for her.
Cary is able to participate in after-school activities, including Good News Club, Drama, and Dance. She also attends church on Wednesday nights without her parents. Weekends are spent with family or her parents’ friends of the Deaf community. Cary has never had a playdate or a sleepover. Her family enjoys spending time outdoors, playing video games, playing board games or watching television with closed- captioned. Sometimes, they attend movies and wear special glasses that allows them to read the captions at the bottom.
Cary loves her family and accepts her parents for who they are. When asked if she wished her parents could ever hear, she simply replied, “Not really, because I get to learn a new language. My parents can read lips and kind of talk which is cool because they have never heard a word before, but they can still talk! The only time I wish they could talk is if we ever have an emergency.”
Buchino, M. (1990). Hearing children of Deaf parents: a counselling challenge. Volume 24, 207- 213.
Newsome, C. (2017 March 9) Personal interview
Newsome-Moffett, H. (2017 March 9 – 11) Text interview
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