Monday, February 7, 2011

The Deaf Factor



{ Chinese Deaf Dancers }
Many of you have seen the girls.
They are either deaf or both deaf and blind.
There is so much to do, think about, and study when preparing to adopt.  We’ve compiled our dossier, an effort that has taken over 6 months, completed our required parent training, read books on attachment in adoption, read and researched being a family of various colors.  (Still not sure what I want to call that. Biracial goes against my belief that we are one race of people. We ARE bicultural, but that refers to hearing and Deaf cultures!)
But I digress....
Over the past month, it hit me that I should begin preparing for raising and homeschooling two boys that are deaf.  We don’t know the degree of their hearing at this point.  We are fairly confident that Xu is completely deaf.  He had a brainstem evoked potential done, which resulted in an “abnormal” reading.  We are further convinced because of the timing of his abandonment.  His birth family relinquished him at about one year, seemingly because they figured out beyond a shadow of a doubt that he couldn’t hear.  In our recent letter to his caretakers, we asked about their opinion regarding him being deaf.  They verified that he doesn’t seem to hear and he has no speech except for an occasional attempt at “ma ma”.  He’s 2 1/2.
Tian is a different story.  An “audiogram” shows that he’s deaf in both ears (bilateral), but we’ve heard MANY stories from friends who have adopted from China, thinking they are adopting a deaf child, only to discover the child can hear, but has other issues (often trauma) that made them appear deaf.
Tain, who is 1 1/2, has microtia and atresia of the right ear, meaning his outer ear never developed.  More often than not, a child with microtia and atresia hears out of the left ear.  After Chinese New Year, we will send a letter to his nanny, getting more information from her.  She’s been his “mom” for 7 months now, so she should give us great insight.
Suppose they are, indeed, both deaf.  We still have many unknowns and decisions.  What’s the best way to go about communicating when we first meet?  How long will it take them to acquire ASL?  Since they are both language delayed, what should we expect in terms of picking up language?  What is their level of hearing?  Will hearing aids amplify their hearing in a beneficial way?  Where will we send them to speech classes?  How will I, their teacher, teach them to read?  Should we look into a visual form of phonics?  Visual Phonics, Cued Speech?  At what age should we start this?  
When they are ready to go into Sunday school classes at church, will there be teachers who can sign? If not, should we leave them in there anyway?  
I recently met a sweet mom overwhelmed with the fact that her daughter, also adopted from China, is deaf.  They, unlike us, did NOT seek out a deaf child.  They agreed to accept other “special needs” and around the time they got travel approval, discovered she was deaf.  I’ve appreciated our candid, raw conversations.  We are certainly on polar opposite sides of the issue, but she has opened my eyes to the deep fears hearing parents face.  She’s also relit the spark in me to talk to parents and do anything I can to convince them to accept their deaf child for what they are...deaf!  
Above, I posted just a *few* questions I have, but because of my family’s background and life in the Deaf community, I already have most crucial questions answered.
-Ken is Deaf. He’s lived it. We’re not scared of it. In addition to their own dad, we have tons of friends all over the US who can be positive role models for Tian and Travis. The Deaf community is our community in our daily lives.
-We have language to start giving them the minute we meet them. (In fact, we will be making a DVD of signs to send them before we go so they can have the chance to  have at least a couple of words.)
-We know we will use ASL in our home. We don’t have to worry over our language options.
-We will simultaneously be teaching them English through books, books, books, index cards, labels, fingerspelling, etc.
-We will raise them to embrace and be proud of the fact they are deaf.  In essence, Ken will model to them how to be a Deaf man in America...and that it is not a curse or death sentence.
-We will use all of the skills, talents, resources and senses God gave them to teach them about the world, themselves, and the God who created them.  We know from experience that hearing is not required for this.
Those are things we know and they are major!  I can’t imagine beginning this journey without those foundational blocks.  (Kudos to my parents-in-law!!)
We are open to hearing aids and speech therapy, of course.  No, we will not pursue cochlear implants. As they get older, if they are interested in it and we see that it could be beneficial in some way, we will look into it.
There is a surgery to “repair” the microtia and possibly atresia that is done very selectively and only after age 5 or 6. This involves removing part of a rib and using it to reconstruct the outer ear, while “opening” the ear canal.  From what we’ve read, the risk is too high.  The “new” ear, constructed by a plastic surgeon, is sometimes rejected by the body, leaving the ear in worse shape.  
Of course, we will be faced with new technology as time goes on, and we will keep an open mind.  But “fixing” the deafness won’t be a consuming issue of our or the boys’ lives.
The “Deaf” thing has been on my mind and seems to be all over TV this week, too!  With the CSI: Las Vegas episode, then “What Would You DO?”, it’s been fun seeing Deaf people in the mainstream media.  I have strong opinions about the WWYD show, but I’ll save it for another time and place.

2 comments:

  1. i'm so glad you're on blogspot! i can't even get your other blog to come up. don't know if i'm really just that much of an idiot or what is going on? oh well. i've loved our UNPLUGGED EMAIL CONVERSATIONS just as much. there's a reason we hooked up...i can feel it! ;) LOVE YOU BUNCHES AND BUNCHES AND BUNCHES! :) thanks for coming over to google!!! :) welcome to the spot! :)

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  2. ah, your little xu might be alot like my quincie then, only more fortunate in this. you guys actually sign in your home! ;) well, i hope it is easier for him than my q, but i have told you how tremendously difficult it has been for us because q missed out on every single language window / opportunity those first three years. what is naturally absorbed by most children exposed to a language they can grasp from birth / day 1, these kids have to work (hard) for every single syllable and word. because after 3 yrs of nothingness its not natural anymore, its not easily absorbed. at least that has been our experience. q also has major heart conditions, that is also a potential (language absorbtion) factor. i will follow xu's story with great interest and extremely closely to see if there are more similarities or differences in our two china babies!

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