The relations of human beings within the society have always been rather controversial. To a great extent, this is because of the variety of people’s abilities and disabilities and differences in their physical and mental characteristics. People able of less things have always been discriminated by the society and considered to be inferior to those called “normal”. In this respect, the social attitudes towards people with various physical impairments have always struck by their rudeness. It is obvious nowadays that all people are equal, but it was equally common for the society of the past to discriminate people with disabilities. Deaf people constitute a special group in this aspect, and, to ensure the proper development of deaf or hard of hearing children, there is a need for their hearing or also deaf parents to socialize them and introduce them to both deaf and mainstream culture and languages.
To begin with, it is necessary to take a brief look at the stereotypes against the deaf people and at the origins of deafness as such. Thus, according to the National Association of the Deaf (2009), “deafness is diverse in its origin and history, in the adaptive responses made to it, and in the choices that deaf adults and parents of deaf children continue to make about the ever-increasing range of communication and assistive technology options” (National Association of the Deaf, 2009). Thus, even the organization dealing with the issues of deafness and deaf people cannot outline the exact reasons of deafness and social stereotyping against it. However, the National Association of the Deaf provides the information about the choices the parents of deaf children can make in fighting their issue and in defending the constitutional rights of their children:
The NAD recognizes the rights of parents to make informed choices for their deaf and hard of hearing children, respects their choice to use cochlear implants and all other assistive devices, and strongly supports the development of the whole child and of language and literacy (National Association of the Deaf, 2009).
However, the issue of deafness is not always so simple and easy to solve as it seems to be. Not only the public opinion but also their own parents are sometimes stereotyping against the deaf children so far as to be ashamed of them or deny the facts that their issues demand urgent solutions.
Deaf Children and Hearing Parents
The most troublesome issue in the question about deafness and the socialization of deaf children, especially those having hearing parents, is the public attitude and media shaped ideas about the deaf children and their place within the society: “The media often describe deafness in a negative light, portraying deaf and hard of hearing children and adults as handicapped and second-class citizens in need of being “fixed” with cochlear implants” (National Association of the Deaf, 2009). At the same time, the depiction of the deaf people being the rightful members of the society is almost completely absent from the public ideas about the deaf and deafness. This causes the parents of the deaf children to be aware of the social attitudes and take little to no actions in solving their children’s issues:
If parents are not able to accept the fact that their child is deaf and continue to deny the implications of the deafness, the resulting effects on the child are to encourage his own denial and lack of authenticity. Such a child is thus unable to accept himself and his capacity to emerge or become a unique person is blocked. He lives an existential lie and becomes unable to relate to himself and to other deaf individuals and to the world in a genuine manner (Deaf Culture Online, 2009).
To some extent, such attitudes of parents can be explained by the statistics, according to which, “at least ninety percent of deaf and hard of hearing children are born to hearing parents who usually want their children to be like themselves, to understand sound, to use their voices and verbally express their thoughts through spoken language, and to hear the voices and spoken language of those around them” (National Association of the Deaf, 2009), but it is obvious that deaf children demand special ways of parenting and upbringing to be properly socialized and introduced to the needs of language acquisition and social interaction with both hard of hearing and normally hearing people.
Major Ways of Parenting
Thus, parenting of deaf or hard of hearing children is rather controversial and challenging task which is, however, necessary to take up for the parents of such children. Scholars dealing with this issue stress the power of the social attitudes in shaping parents position and the only way out for the parents they see is ignoring all other opinions and doing what they consider to fit the best for their children:
To all parents of deaf children: I don’t know if there’s any other phenomenon that results in parents being bombarded with so much conflicting information. If your child is deaf, you might as well lock yourself in the basement. You’ll need to fight off people with a stick. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry will come at you with his own perspective on how to raise deaf children (Deaf Culture Online, 2009).
Specialists from the Deaf Culture Online, National Association of the Deaf, and the scholars including Paula Rosenthal stress the necessity of cautious choices made by hearing parents of deaf children. They emphasize the fact that being ashamed to choose a proper doctor will result in negative consequences for the health of the children (Rosenthal, 2008). Parents should be choosy in this aspect to ensure the early and proper diagnostics and all possible treatment of deafness in children. It is a universally accepted fact that the age up to six years is crucial in language acquisition and socialization, therefore the early diagnostics of deafness can assure the proper introduction of every deaf child into the system of the social interaction (Rosenthal, 2008).
Language (ASL) Acquisition and Culture Exposure
Accordingly, language acquisition, as it has already been stressed above, is crucial for cultural exposure and socialization of a child with hearing problems. The variety of ways to solve this problem is invented by various scholars and specialists in the field of medicine and children development:
You’ll also encounter those who agree with the concept of sign language, but not ASL. They might offer their perspective that it’s Signed Exact English (SEE), or any variation thereof, that might be more appropriate. Start off with SEE, and maybe move on to PSE (Pidgin Signed English). That should do it. Or, if you prefer to be more audio-visual, Cued Speech might do the trick (Deaf Culture Online, 2009).
The variety of languages and language acquisition techniques for deaf children is impressive, but to find the only one matching the needs of a certain child, his or her parents should ensure their proper understanding of the issue and ignoring the opinions of a number of advisors whose ideas might not fit this specific case (Rosenthal, 2008).
Special significance has recently been attributed to the idea of cochlear implantation as the solution to the issue of deafness. Combined with language training, either ASL or usual English in its oral form, this implantation allows, according to National Association of the Deaf (2009), “perceive sound, i.e., the sensation of sound that is transmitted past the damaged cochlea to the brain” (National Association of the Deaf, 2009). Thus, although not complete, the solution of the issue of deafness can be found; if properly implemented it facilitates the language acquisition in deaf children and makes the process of the cultural exposure easier.
Deaf people constitute a special group in the aspect of social discrimination and stereotyping against them, and, to ensure the proper development of deaf or hard of hearing children, there is a need for their hearing or also deaf parents to socialize them and introduce them to both deaf and mainstream culture and languages. Sometimes parents feel ashamed of the deaf children, and what is demanded from them is allowing their children develop their personalities as they can. Let them be deaf and help them integrate in the society instead of being critical or cynical towards them.
Deaf Culture Online. (2009). Parents of Deaf Children. Deaf Culture Online. Web.
National Association of the Deaf. (2009). NAD Position Statement. NAD. Web.
Rosenthal, P. (2008). Do’s and Don’ts During Early Diagnosis of Baby’s Hearing Loss. Hearing Exchange. Web.