Monday, April 19, 2010

No Myth

As the mother of a deaf child, I am constantly amazed (and dismayed) at the pervasiveness of myths surrounding her disability. Spoken or unspoken, we face these regularly:

"She's deaf? Really? I couldn't tell. She doesn't look it." (Variation: "But she's so pretty.") Sorry folks, there is no "deaf look"; the only way you can tell just by looking at Calyssa is if you notice her hearing aids.
Really, they're hard to miss, bright purple as they are, and attached to her clothing by a tether.

"No, she can't be deaf. I can tell she hears me." That's because, like most of the deaf people we know, she can hear some things. She can tell that you're talking to her; she just can't really tell what you're saying.

"Oh, I guess we can't talk to her. We don't sign." Neither do I, much. Calyssa is extremely oral, actually, and her speech becomes clearer every day.

"She's a great lip reader. Did they teach her that at school?" Maybe, but I doubt it; she does, after all, have the same curriculum as your first grader, at the same school.

"It must be great to have it quiet all the time, even when it's really noisy." Hearing aids amplify what sounds she can hear, so loud noises really hurt. She'll usually beg me to take her aids out in noisy rooms so they don't "shout" at her.

"Deaf kids can't sing. Why is she in the choir?" Let me tell you, my deaf kid certainly CAN sing; quite well, actually, and her choir director, who sings in the "grown-up choir" with me, tells me that Calyssa always knows the tune, and usually better than the hearing kids. Calyssa and I work really hard on the lyrics before each of their performances in church (but that'll be another blog post...) The school speech therapist told me that her singing actually helps her speech tremendously. Besides, Calyssa loves to perform.

So, to sum up: mine is a normal, highly outgoing, effervescent child who just happens not to hear very well. She doesn't need you to shout at her, and really appreciates it if you wouldn't because it hurts her ears. Just make sure you get her attention first. I guarantee she'll have yours. And that's no myth.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Never thought I'd say THIS...

One aspect of parenting that I couldn't possibly have anticipated beforehand is the frequency with which I hear myself uttering the most unlikely combination of words to Calyssa. And not because I'm trying to be silly to titillate her; these are purely original thoughts that in the moment actually made sense. Here's the story that spawned my favorite example.

One evening, almost a year ago, Calyssa and I were running errands and happened to be in the vicinity of the Target Greatland in San Ramon. (In case you don't live here in the Bay Area, you should understand that San Ramon is a quite upscale community of McMansions about 10 miles from our home. Very soccer-Moms-in-Juicy-driving-Land Rovers. I really don't belong there, seeing how I'm firmly ensconced on the other, lower, end of middle-class spectrum.)

Anyway, I rarely have the opportunity to shop at that particular Target-on-steroids, and we were legitimately in the area, so we stopped there. Among the several items on my list was panties for Calyssa. So we're both standing at the checkout and the checker scanned the package of
Hannah Montana Hanes. He started to bag them, but she objected, so I told her she could hold them if she wanted to.

Mere moments later, I was rummaging through the coupons in my purse when I realized that the frat boy checker was staring at a point just past me with his eyes bugging out of his head. I turned around just in time to see Calyssa pull her jeans up. The next moment she shoved her balled-up, old panties in my suddenly nerveless hand. (Gee, thanks, just what I've always wanted!)

The silence along the row of checkstands was deafening. No doubt the Juicy moms were wondering what rock we'd just crawled out from. There was nothing to be said, so I just paid as quickly as possible and hustled Calyssa out to the car.

"It's not okay to change your underwear in the store." The ridiculous, but honest-to-God sentence spoken in the car as we drove home...and a rule hereby established for the Southern family.

Down, girl!

It's rare that Calyssa encounters another deaf/HOH child outside of school. So, imagine my surprise when, upon boarding the whale watching charter in Depoe Bay, OR this past Saturday, she noticed that TWO of the (maybe) 10 other kids on the boat were wearing hearing aids!

Calyssa did not have her hearing aids in. They were safely locked in the console of the rental car. Being foot-in-mouth me, I spoke my thought
aloud almost before I'd formed it, and was heard by the mom of one of the girls, "Wow, you're brave!"

She immediately spun around and started in on me, "No, we don't keep them locked up! They're deaf, not freaks!"...or something like that.

I immediately raised a conciliatory hand and gestured towards Calyssa, "Hey, she's deaf, too. I just meant that it's brave to bring them aboard! I was too afraid that they'd end up getting wet so they're in the car."

Startled, she looked at Calyssa. "Really? She doesn't look deaf." (???? Neither did the girls with her, come to think of it...) "Does she sign?"

"Yes, though she usually prefers speech," I answered. "She's gaining fluency in both."

Soon her daughter and niece were happily signing away with Calyssa, but their mom avoided me the rest of the trip. It got me I THAT
defensive? And THAT insensitive? (Joanna, I'm ignoring your answer... =])