Sometimes I get emails or messages from worried parents with a newly-deaf or hard of hearing child. They want to know how I’ve done with Cued Speech, cochlear implants, sign language, etc. So, I do my best to give a balanced perspective, since I understand how lacking that can be in deaf education.
More than that, their questions often carry an undercurrent of fear and uncertainty, and I don’t blame them at all. It is overwhelming. So, I try to reach down to that core, if only to tell them that it’ll be OK and things will work out. That’s a pretty high promise, but at the same time, it’s not about guarantees– I don’t think anything with kids or other human beings is ever a guarantee. It’s mostly about, hopefully, helping these parents get to a more stable place emotionally. Sometimes, I think people just need to hear “it’ll be OK,” even if it doesn’t seem true at the time.
Eventually, this letter came out. It probably won’t apply to every parent of a d/hh child out there, but it’s more or less what I want to tell many of the parents who come to me.
It is OK to be afraid. You got thrown into a world that you know nothing about.
It is OK to grieve. Even if your child never misses her hearing, you likely had to radically recalibrate your expectations, and that in itself is a loss. It’s OK to acknowledge that loss.
It is OK to feel guilty. Chances are you did not do anything to incur cosmic or genetic karma on your kid. These things happen, and we can’t always predict nor prevent them.
There is hope. I have met successful deaf and hard of hearing people from all backgrounds. Doctors, businessmen, lawyers, professors, engineers, tradesmen, scientists, service workers. They used American Sign Language, Signed English, Cued Speech, spoken language. Cochlear implants, hearing aids, nothing at all, or any combination of the above.
Some methods work better for a specific purpose than others. Some kids respond to one approach and not to another. You will need to experiment and find out what works best for your family. No matter what you pick, be consistent, and commit to it. If it doesn’t seem to be working after you’ve given it a chance for at least a few months, drop it and try something else. Don’t let anyone else make you feel guilty for doing so. Trust your gut. Trust your heart.
Your child is unique. Embrace that. Work with it. And chances are you won’t veer too far off course.