Monday, February 7, 2011

Deaf for awhile

After I got Ben up from his "nap"* yesterday, I asked him (in sign language) whether he wanted his hearing aid and CI.  He said, "No, not yet.  I will be deaf for awhile."

So we hung out in his room and played, I signed and he spoke, and he had a merry time being deaf for awhile.  Then he asked for his equipment.  I put it on and he went back to being hearing.

I thought this was really nice.  He has a choice of two ways of being in the world.  It's clear that most of the time, he prefers to be hearing.  But I feel good about the fact that he's not opposed to being deaf, or frightened by it, and in fact sometimes it suits his mood.  Mind you, he won't always get to choose -- he doesn't get to take off his equipment in the middle of 4th grade Social Studies just because he isn't interested in hearing how a bill becomes law.  (Some of us might like to have that option, but I'm not going to let him exercise it.)

Maybe I've just succumbed to criticism from the Deaf community that in deciding to give my child access to sound and to raise him orally, I'm operating on the premise that deafness is shameful and intrinsically bad, and I'm instilling that sense of shame in him.  (I'm not doing either, by the way.)  Could be -- I'm very sensitive to criticism.  Even if that's the case, maybe it's a good thing, if it makes me more thoughtful about my own attitude toward Ben's deafness and how it shapes his developing awareness of it.  Whatever.  Seems like he's on a pretty healthy track right now.

*Yeah, he's just about given up naps -- mostly.  We still insist on a period of Quiet Time, as they do at daycare, where we take off his equipment and he lies quietly in bed, and every now and then he'll surprise us by falling asleep.  But we can never count on it.  Sigh.


PinkLAM said...

I think it's great that Ben is both comfortable with and without his hearing. It seems like he truly "gets" it at a very early age. Sometimes I like to go deaf for a little while too, but I very much prefer being able to hear (although my lack of signing skills probably has to do with that!).

Steve said...

I had to read the sentence that starts "Maybe I've just succumbed to criticism..." twice because at first I thought you were saying that you had actually suggested that deafness was in some way shameful, and I know that is not the case. Deafness just Is for Ben, just as hearing simply Is for many of us. Neither shameful nor prideful, neither intrinsically bad nor intrinsically good. Knowing you and Neil, I know it would be no other way. That Ben is comfortable hearing or not is a credit to your parenting.

And the fact that naps are fading away... all I can say, is wait until he's a teenager!

Julia said...

Hi, Uncle Steve! You're totally right that it's neither instrinsically good nor intrinsically bad -- but that's not quite as easy or natural a conclusion to come to as you might think. When you're a brand new parent of a non-sleeping newborn, still messed up on hormones from pregnancy, and enduring all the usual stress associated with this stage of life, and then someone tells you that your precious child has a serious disability, it's a little hard to keep things in perspective and be rational about it. So while it's very flattering that you assert that Neil and I would naturally come to the correct assessment of things, I can assure you that it didn't come quickly or easily. And I think that's pretty typical -- hearing parents of deaf children need time and space to adjust to this unexpected fact of life. It takes awhile to disassociate the tedious consequences of deafness with its neutral intrinsic nature -- and even longer to start to appreciate some of the extrinsic benefits of deafness.

leah said...

You have really provided Ben with the tools and flexibility to be comfortable in all situations. The mental image of Ben taking off his CI during class gave me a chuckle - Nolan already does this in preschool (with his aids) and we're glad he has his SLP in class with him to help him learn that he can't turn off his ears during circle time!

Nolan will sometimes cycle through his FM/no FM settings on his hearing aids, which effectively turns them off. I like the fact that he can choose to turn the volume down in really noisy situations. Of course, the little guy gets really confused when Dennis hits the mute button on the TV remote: he thinks his batteries have gone dead! We have to convince him that it is the TV and not his "ears!"