Back when my oldest son turned a year old, I took him to the pediatrician for a well check. The first thing the pediatrician said to me when he walked into the room was, “Being deaf parents, please do not be alarmed if your son has a language delay. It is common for hearing children with deaf parents to have delays and there are programs to help with that.” Feeling insulted, I instructed the doctor to ask my son a question. The response to that was, “He is only a year old, he won’t be speaking much yet.” Again, I repeated my request that he ask my son a question.
Pediatrician: What is your name?
Son: (forced cough as if to clear throat) My name is Stephen Mark Farley (forced cough).
The pediatrician was shocked. “That was very clear!” I told him to request a rendition of the ABC’s, so he did. After Stephen successfully completed the ABC’s (yes, at the age of one), the pediatrician continued the well check, stopping every now and then to get Stephen’s input and being blown away at every response from my son. By the end of the visit, my husband and I were told, “This is a first. I have not had a hearing child with deaf parents doing so well verbally at this age.”
My husband and I used total communication with our son (both sign and voice). Sesame Street was a regular occurrence in our house so some Spanish was thrown in from time to time that we paid attention to. There were captions on the TV. Between the speech, the signs, and the text, it was amazing what my son could pick up on his own. This just adds to the assumption that language exposure is the key to acquisition. Many deaf parents with hearing children wonder if their child will be delayed in the language department. Back in the 1980s and 1990s the belief was that children of deaf adults needed extra help. Today, especially with technology, we have come a long way and those beliefs are not so much the majority.
I found an article online that addresses this issue. According to this article, 5-10 hours a week of exposure to spoken language (i.e., via visits to the park to play with other children, church, time spent with hearing family members such as grandparents, time spent with neighbor friends, babysitters, etc) is sufficient enough for the child to begin acquiring oral language skills. Deaf parents sometimes feel that since their child is hearing they should not sign to that child, but that is not the case. Communication is the basis for all relationships, especially those between a parent and their child. Children are like sponges and adapt to their environment with ease in most cases, therefore deaf parents should raise their child in a way that “fits” their own needs language-wise in order to ensure a bond in that relationship.
The full Oxford study article can be found here.
This is an excellent article that dispels many of the myths of deaf parents with hearing children.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Have you encountered anything in your own personal experience that defines deaf parents with hearing children for you?