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Children of Deaf Adults (CODA)
Deaf Parents/Hearing Children:
As a Head Start teacher, it seems each year I have had the pleasure of working with deaf parents and their children. Most often these parents come to me with great concerns over the development of their children’s speech, as most of the time the children are hearing. I have many times had to go to bat for these concerned parents, and have always used my knowledge of sound child development to aid their children in the acquisition of language, but have always felt that I was somehow missing something. I don’t fully understand the challenges that are faced by both the parent and the child, although I could always see the great concern in the eyes of every deaf parent I have ever worked with. I choose to research the topic of deaf parents raising hearing children in an attempt to better serve these families and gain new incite to resources out there to help, not only me as a provider, but parents who I serve that so desperately want the best for their children.
Research suggests that 90 percent of deaf parents have hearing children. (Sell) As a child development professional, I fully understand the challenges in verbal language development that poses for this large number of children. Research has shown that children acquire much of their language understanding through social interactions. (Kies) When these interactions are taking place in sign, it is only logical for children to place more meaning in sign than they do the verbal language that is taking place around them not with them. Teaching them to speak was easy, they already had a wonderful base in language, putting a sound to the things around them typically came very easy. What I was missing was the understanding of the bigger picture faced by these parents; they are parenting children who are experiencing things they know little or sometimes nothing about. Their children are part of two very distinct and different cultures and must learn to work within them both. They constantly must deal with a society that will speak to them through their children, forcing their children to many times grow up faster than necessary. (Sell) I was somewhat appalled at the simplistic view I have had of their needs.
Resources for deaf parents are out there, but the understanding of the general population that resources are needed is not as prevalent. We have plenty of resources for parents who do not speak English, we teach them the language. You can’t teach someone to hear, but that shouldn’t mean that we ignore that resources may be needed by these individuals. Organizations do exist. CODA (Children of Deaf Adults) is an organization that was founded in 1983, and although it founded primarily to serve the children of deaf parents, it provides wonderful information and links to assist parents and providers as well. “The Listen Up Web” (http://www.listen-up.org/htm2/deaf-hearing.htm) is a wonderful resource for families and offers resources as well as recommended books on the subject. Local groups also exists throughout the world to provide support to the deaf community, but are rarely utilized by child development professionals. My drawer of resources will finally have something in it for deaf families, something that addresses their concerns, not just the generic parenting information I formally would have given.
SELL, JILL “Deaf Parents, Hearing Children Face Communication Challenges” c.2001 Newhouse News Service
Kies, Daniel “Modern English Grammar, Language Development in Children”
CODA International, http://deafness.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?zi=1/XJ&sdn=deafness&zu=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.coda-international.org%2F
The Listen Up Web, http://www.listen-up.org/htm2/deaf-hearing.htm
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