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Deaf Parent’s Cochlear Implant Story

June 13th, 2011 by | Tags: | 1 Comment »

A Deaf parent whose primary language is ASL shares her story of deciding to get her son bilateral cochlear implants and teaching him listening and spoken language.

This is a perfect time to write about my son’s cochlear implants due to the recent topic on cochlearimplantonline.com. Things have changed a lot through the years regarding cochlear implants.  I was very wary of cochlear implants mainly due to the fact that I have heard stories of failures and unsuccessful users (as well as seeing a few cases personally).  Limited knowledge of cochlear safety and benefits also contributed to my apprehension.  I also was in the camp of “Cochlear implants will destroy the Deaf culture.”  I now view CIs as a type of technology device like hearing aids, and it is not for everyone.  If someone told me of a future where my child would be a user of cochlear implants and be able to speak, I would have had told that person that s/he was crazy.  The idea of such a thing was impossible to comprehend. I never even imagined having a Deaf child.

Years later, that vision came true. My husband and I were both born Deaf and our household uses ASL to communicate.   Our son, now 4, received his first CI at age of 23 months old in March, 2009. Then he received his second CI in November, 2010. I am amazed at his progress.

I learned how much the CIs have changed and that some Deaf families are choosing CIs and spoken English along with ASL for their children.

Rachel’s website set the path to our son’s CIs.  I was surfing the internet for certain information that I cannot recall now. I cannot recall now, but I found this website after reading, “Deaf Mother of Deaf Children with CIs” on a search engine.  I was puzzled so I clicked on the link to read her story.  I was surprised and wondered how it was possible for a child of a Deaf ASL using family to be using CIs and is able to listen and speak clearly.  I began to wonder if it would work for my son, so I emailed Rachel if she could put me in contact with the mother to ask her more about her reasons and experiences.  After a few contacts with the mother, I wanted to know more (by then the idea of my son having a CI was growing bigger) so I did a lot of research.  I learned how much the CIs have changed and that some Deaf families are choosing CIs and spoken English along with ASL for their children.  I mentioned the idea of CIs to my husband for our son in order for him to be able to develop the ability of hearing and speaking.  At times, I wished that I could communicate with most hearing people more than just a few words and not have to rely on writing all the time.  My husband was not open to the idea until after he saw the research and stories from Deaf ASL using parents.  Our son was using hearing aids at the time (started at age of one). At the same time when our son was to start speech therapy, I learned of AVT and how it could be used by a Deaf household.  I requested AVT service from our local Early Intervention Program for Deaf/HH.  Then I researched for a CI clinic that would be comfortable for deaf/hh parents who chose both spoken English and ASL.  The former director/founder of the clinic we chose has a deaf daughter whose deaf daughter that received her CI at the age of 14 months old and now is in public school without an interpreter and uses ASL at home and in the Deaf community. We felt comfortable with this clinic after learning of her story.  The professionals there do know sign language so I never have had the need for an interpreter for my son’s appointments.

The reaction of the Deaf community when people found out about our decision varied.  Some were very offended (we don’t bother with those people anyway), some respected it although they didn’t agree with it, and others were supportive.  One co-worker said that if his children were also deaf, he would have had made the same decision and that the Deaf world is changing whether people like it or not.  In my opinion, Deaf ASL using parents who made this kind of choice have more pressure than hearing parents due to the Deaf culture and other factors. They have to be very strong.

We never regretted our decision.  Sometimes I think what happened is amazing considering my previous view of cochlear implants. It is also amazing to see how far our son has come after only two years of CI use.  He is doing well; he goes to a regular private preschool.  He receives weekly AVT, group speech therapy, and oral language facilitator (for extra spoken language exposure) services.  I also work with him on his spoken language at home whenever I am able with my limited speech skill.  It is helpful that I have a MA in Deaf Education (my BA degree is in Geology).  My son was exposed to language (ASL as a foundation communication language) and books since birth.  I am also able to work with the education system for his services.  I learned a great deal due to my son being “opposite” of most deaf children of Deaf parents as in doing an IEP for an oral educational setting instead of a signing educational setting.  He also loves listening to music.

I am thankful for my open attitude when I first saw that post on Rachel’s website. I am also thankful that there are oralism supporters who are also open to other deaf people regardless their communication choices. If that was not the case, my son’s CI story would not have had happened.

1 Comment

oral ci and asl user

June 13, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Its a great post – especially letting a deaf child expose to both signed and spoken languages to be able to interact with more people.