“Don’t worry, many babies don’t pass the hearing screening the first time. She’s probably fine.”
That is what the nurse told me the morning after Rowan was born. Her left ear failed the hearing screening.
What the nurse said really bothered me. Not because my baby might have hearing loss. (In fact, having a Deaf baby would be exciting news for my family, as I have a Deaf mom and grandparents–not to mention friends!) No, what bothered me was the way the nurse shared the results with us.
“Don’t worry…She’s probably fine.”
She was telling me not to worry because the second test might show different results. But… what if it didn’t? What if my baby did, in fact, have hearing loss? What then? Would she no longer be fine?
Because that’s what the nurse just implied.
Really, it’s no wonder that so many parents are devastated at the news of a deaf baby. Their precious baby failed the hearing screening. Failed. At a few hours old, their baby has already failed something.
I won’t try to minimize the confusion, anxiety, and fear that many parents experience when they find out that their baby is deaf. Without a doubt, if you’ve never been exposed to the deaf community, much less been in contact with deaf people, the news would seem tragic. It’s unknown, and it’s scary.
But, parents must know the truth.
The reality of the situation is that a deaf baby is 100% fine. Deafness is not something to worry about, contrary to what the nurses say.
However, it is a call to action.
Before It’s Too Late
I recently met a hearing woman whose four-year-old son was attending a special needs school. She was concerned because he didn’t seem to be growing socially or intellectually. The thing was, her son didn’t have special needs like those attending that school.
Her son was deaf.
As I listened to this woman talk about her son, my heart sank. How could she not realize that a deaf child doesn’t require a “special needs” school?
Her son didn’t belong in a special needs school; he belonged in a deaf school.
Her oblivion cost her son four precious years of language and support in the nurturing environment he needed. Four years.
At age four, children are able to express themselves using complex sentences. They’re able to problem-solve and express their opinions. But without language, that isn’t possible. It’s no wonder this boy was delayed.
I’m not sure how or why situations like this exist. But they do, and it’s important that we educate others! We can’t allow deaf children to grow up without language and support! They deserve a strong foundation and a future of possibilities, just like any other child does. Deaf children need to grow up with access to their natural language–American Sign Language–and a visual learning environment.
Did you know that there are schools dedicated to educating deaf children? For example, if you live in Maryland, your deaf child is eligible to enroll in Maryland School for the Deaf (MSD), which provides support for deaf children and families, from birth to age 21.
For more info on early childhood and family education at MSD, click here.
MSD, and other deaf schools nationwide, provide deaf children with excellent, up-to-date resources and educational opportunities for a promising future. The students at these schools thrive in a place that they’re proud of. These students are bi-lingual, communicating in American Sign Language (ASL) and written English. These students compete on sports and academic teams. They’re taught in a language that they understand fully.
Your deaf child has a world of possibility waiting to be explored!
What You Need to Do NOW
If you have a deaf baby, find out where the nearest deaf school/family education program is. If you don’t know ASL, you’ll need to enroll in a class and begin to learn so that your baby and you can communicate as soon as possible. Check out local colleges for ASL classes–have fun learning the new language with your family!
Remember, being deaf does not hold a person back–but lack of communication and language does.
For more information, check out the American Society for Deaf Children.
You can also feel free to contact me directly, as I grew up in a hearing/Deaf community, and now work at a Deaf school.