National Deaf Awareness Week? How did I not hear about that?

8 May

Slightly appalled to realise today that it’s National Deaf Awareness Week.  As a new member of the deaf community I’m not surprised it’s not a date which I’ve registered before. It’s taken me years to remember World Book Day and I’ve been working in publishing since before World Book Day was launched. What surprises me is that I’m so immersed in all things deaf that I can’t believe no one else has mentioned it to me.

In the last four weeks I’ve seen our Teacher of the Deaf, our Speech Therapist, visited hospital to pick up temporary hearing aids (our 9 month old baby had chewed his other ones), visited hospital to get new hearing moulds, visited hospital to get more temporary hearing aids (he chewed the replacement ones!) and spent the last two Saturdays at sign language classes organised by the National Deaf Childrens Society but no one has mentioned it at all.

There is always the possibility that we were informed about it at the Sign Language Classes and I simply didn’t understand. But I don’t think so. The chat after only two weeks is limited: ‘My name is..what’s your name?’, ‘I’m fine, how are you’ and to my utter horror sharing with the entire class how old we are. In spite of that mild horror I’m really enjoying the Sign Language Classes. Unlike the weekend for newly diagnosed deaf parents which we was populated by parents of deaf babies who were as shocked and upset as we were, the Sign Language Classes are attended by parents of 5-16 year olds who have had time to come to terms with their diagnosis. It’s such a relief to see that their children are just normal children. Shy little girls, sullen teenagers, exhibitionists, the same sort of kids you’d get in a cross section of children who weren’t deaf.  They’re probably more bemused by me. I go along with my six year old who hasn’t got a hearing problem at all and our amazing childminder who gives up her Saturday mornings and time with her own family to learn sign language to communicate with mine.

It’s strangely liberating being in a class for two hours where no one speaks at all. The charming teacher told us by writing on the board that Sign Language is his first language and and since then has communicated only by tapping out the alphabet on his fingers and using gestures. In any group situation I’m normally the class clown but deprived of the ability to speak I’m sitting back and soaking up the experience. I’m also loving the opportunity to bond with my six year old child every Saturday morning.

When our baby was diagnosed I worried about the effect it would have on the family, particularly that as the middle child our six year old would suffer. I would never have thought that our baby being deaf would bring us closer together. But it has.

I would still give anything for the deaf diagnosis to be a terrible mistake. I still cry whenever I think what it might mean for my baby. But on a day to day level life is not that bad. He doesn’t know any different and with the support of the various charities and our amazing friends and family we can see a bright future. Who would ever have thought that Sign Language Classes would be one of the highlights of my social calendar?!


9 Responses to “National Deaf Awareness Week? How did I not hear about that?”

  1. Cate Fils May 22, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Love, love, love your writing! More please!


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