So here’s some food for thought. It might make some people feel uncomfortable, but I’m going to share my thoughts on a few things in this and the coming parts. And like I said, it’s just food for thought: be open to it, think about it, really mull over it, and if you still don’t agree, that’s fine – set it down and move on. It’s OK if people disagree with me. 🙂 But hopefully in sharing this, I can be part of making a few Deaf kids’ lives more fulfilling.
So, I see a lot of parents saying their children choose to use their tech. Parents are happy about it. And that’s fine. But… so did I. I chose to use my hearing aids and CIs well into my 20s. I clung to them. Why? I wanted to make the hearies I loved happy. I wanted to be included at school (never was, anyway – I was the “weird kid with the hearing aid”). I didn’t want to miss out on life.
Being around only hearies made it clear I was missing out on things – in THEIR world. And since I wasn’t allowed a world I belonged in, much less have it front and center in my life, the world in which I missed out on things was the only one I knew. I wanted to be able to do those things that society held up as the ideal at every turn, such as using phones and talking and communicating in English. I didn’t want to be “other” or the odd one out. Who does at that age? So I wanted my hearing aids. I thought they were the price I had to pay to gain the pieces that I knew were missing from my life, even at that age. (And sometimes, I was just simply curious what new things sounded like).
Even if I had someone telling me that ASL was ok too, I still might have chosen to use tech because being raised in a home and family in which all are hearing and everything is centered around hearing rather than seeing, gives a child an innate, almost irrepressible desire to fit in and belong. To not be left out. Children AND adults will do anything they think they have to do to make that happen. Including thinking they want Hearing aids or cochlear implants when deep down, what they really want is simply access to life and inclusion, which, sadly, said tech will never FULLY give them. But they are led to believe it will, along with their parents and families.
Many don’t figure this out until later in life, and then like me, they are left scrambling to catch up with the one thing that does give them those things: ASL and the Deaf community, which many aren’t even aware exists or how they can find what they are seeking there. This is why so many Deaf people eventually abandon their tech, and many even their English voices, once they find their way there.
I’m not saying that tech and ASL Deafness can’t coexist or that it has to be one or the other. I know there are plenty of people who are happy with both. I AM saying that what looks like a desire to use tech might really be a desire to belong, especially for children, and the tech may merely be a proxy for that. Even with a true 50/50 bi-bi approach, that’s still half a world with chunks missing that you don’t belong to as much as people think. And that half usually has one’s family in it.
If I could go back in time, I would fight for my little self to experience life in a Deaf-centric way, rather than being forced to bend around many hearing family members. I would tell little me that it could be so much better and explain why it feels empty, like there are holes inside from things missing in my young life. I would show little me the way to fill those holes. It would have saved me a lot of the damage and scars I have now as an adult.
What if your child was growing up in an all-Deaf signing family, or a 100% signing visual-based Deaf-centric hearing one? Would they still choose tech or feel they need it? Or would they already feel they belong instead of being the odd one out? This has many answers. But sometimes people (parents) can make assumptions and operate on the basis of the wrong one.
Still more to come tomorrow.