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Deaf Culture: "Deaf Couples Want Deaf Children"
"Why do Deaf parents hope their baby is born deaf?" (Deaf Parents / Deaf Baby)
A student writes:
Dear Dr. V.,
I have a question that stemmed from our culture test. One of the items in the study guide stated that culturally Deaf couples tend to hope for a Deaf baby. Why is that? It was an interesting fact to learn, and I would love to know the reasoning behind it.
- [Student's name removed to protect his/her privacy]
Many Deaf couples who want to become parents wish for their child to be Deaf.
In addition to cultural reasons this desire is based on a conscious or subconscious realization that a Deaf child will tend to grow up being part of the world of the Deaf parent whereas a Hearing child will tend to grow up being mainly involved in the Hearing world. If as a Deaf parent, my child is born Deaf that means he/she has a higher probability of:
1. Attending a school for the Deaf - which will be staffed with people who sign and to whom I will have full communicative access.
2. Having Deaf friends and playmates whom will sign and to whom I will have full communicative access.
3. Dating someone who is Deaf and to whom I will have full communicative access.
4. Falling in love with and marrying someone who is Deaf (or at least a signer) to whom I will have full communicative access.
5. Having Deaf babies to whom I will have full communicative access (and who will love to come visit grandpa because grandpa is Deaf like them and can sign with them).
6. Establishing a visually accessible Deaf household complete with visual communication technology such as a "video phone," and a "door light" instead of a "door bell."
7. Coming to visit me when I'm old and being able to sign with me when they do come visit.
If a child is born "hearing" that means the opposite of all of the items above. The child will attend a public (Hearing) school staffed by people who don't sign. He/she will have Hearing playmates and friends who don't sign. He/she will date and marry a person who doesn't sign and with whom I can't communicate. His/her children will likely not be good signers due to growing up "hearing." All of which will reduce the Deaf parents' ability to access and be involved in their child's world.
That is why Deaf couples hope for a Deaf baby. Imagine if there was a chance that you gave birth to a baby who would automatically grow up to speak Chinese and not English? The older your child gets the less English they know and use and the more they switch to Chinese until they don't speak English very well at all and only hang out with Chinese speakers and go to a Chinese speaking school where the teachers speak Chinese? They marry a Chinese speaking mate and create grandbabies that end up speaking Chinese (who don't want to visit you since you don't speak Chinese). They will tend to want to spend holidays at the "other" parents' house since those parents speak the language of the grandchildren. Your child would become less and less a part of your world each day.
That is how it typically is for Deaf parents of Hearing babies.
- Dr. V
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