Irrationally speaking

To Mary, who encouraged me to share more personally.

The problem with arguing rationally about issues of identity is that one risks missing the forest for the trees. In a formal sense, a position should stand exclusively on the merit of its arguments. But often the central reason for arguing is personal and irrational. In my essays on Deafhood, I’ve tried to shine light on different sides of the same pride, in hopes of showing a Deafhood fundamentally self-standing, yet affected, often adversely, by a hearing world. It occurs to me that in the context of an issue that affects the culture and identity of a people, it may be crucial to tell you that behind an attempt at objectivity, I have personal, emotional commitments to what I am arguing.

I want to take a moment to reiterate what stands even if we don’t see eye to eye on differences in hearing status. In “Deafhood unheard” I mentioned that in moments of frustration the Deaf are more likely to fault social differences (language barriers to public services) than anatomical ones (“fixing” their lack of hearing). But even there, the inherently emotional argument was nearly invisible. I’ve found a clearer way to point at the heart without appealing to logic. What I want to share is abstract and almost uninterpretable. Let me tell you about a dream I had last night.

I dreamed I was inducted into a serving class in a militant society, as if I were a recruit again in boot camp. Some who had been there longer and were experienced were helping me learn the procedures. Still too inexperienced to explicitly lead, I quickly found that the best way I could give to the community was through outspoken positive morale. We were a small group from a range of backgrounds, trying to establish unity in routines, and identify our role as a serving class. We shuffled uncertainly in a food line waiting our turn, and waiting to have a better understanding of how oppressive our lives would be.

Some were my age, but many were young kids: 3, 7, 10 years old. I held the youngest and encouraged the others to move forward. Then a little girl, maybe 7 or 10, was signing and speaking to me. In both languages she asked, “Do you think we’ll be able to get enough food?” Suddenly, I discovered a remarkable clarity in my purpose. I identified deeply with her, I loved her, and I would protect her. In the face of the dull, confusing scene, a previously vague sense of purpose, I suddenly found a bedrock for my identity. She was a CODA (child of deaf adults). She was just like me, and that was worth protecting.

Because she could sign and talk, she was more like me than anyone I knew there. She was more important to me than any of the leaders, other servants or children, or any collective cause for survival. She was one of my people. She had deaf parents and grew up with the pain of seeing them judged, be treated unfairly, and regularly ignored. She knew the quirks and pleasure of a manual-visual language. She had dealt with a world that noticed her by her “cool” differences. I wanted to help her through that world.

As an adult, she would get used to explaining over and over again what it’s like having deaf parents, confirming the bias that it must indeed be different, even if neat. She might see the subtle and not subtle effects of a society that never learned her parents’ language, and didn’t give them enough opportunity to learn it themselves. And the occasional astounding reality of the hearing deciding for the deaf what’s best, without discussion.

I’m trying to contribute to such a discussion, but a lifetime of this hasn’t made for a promising outlook. For example, 95% of the world lives largely unaffected by hearing status and is perhaps unaware of its effect on the other 5%. Audism doesn’t get noticed (or appear in spell-checkers) or offend anyone outside its victims, let alone inspire apology or self-reflection. The experience of many emotionally affects the experience of the few. As a bystander, it emotionally affects me.

I identify with a group, the Deaf, that is often offended by most of you. This is not an argument or an attack, it’s an observation about lives (including mine). Before you discount it as emotional or angry, see that it’s lived. I challenge you to interface your rational, logical opinion on the topic with the lives your opinion affects.

Now, let’s get back to talking about it rationally.


For the more rational essays


———————————————————–GENERAL COMMENT: I’ve received a number of comments about the dream sequence, and it’s encouraged me to elaborate on an understated point.

The dream sequence, as many can relate to, provides a dramatic mirror of the thing (I didn’t realize) I valued. Dreams generally do this. I stated in the essay that I used a dream to emphasize the ‘irrational’ or emotional kind of evidence, and this is true. But there’s also another important element I intended for the dream to illuminate. That is, that despite being such an important element of my life, I only became explicitly aware of it through the fictional world of a dream. For most of us, we can find examples in real life where there is a strong sense of identity and in-group connection. Being a psychologist, a grad student, a veteran, I have plenty of regular concrete experiences that affirm these aspects of my identity. But being a CODA is more rare. It took a dream for me to explicitly NOTICE the identity value. The number of 10 year old children of deaf adults that I know, is zero.

We all have parts of our identity that few can relate to, that maybe are best seen in dreams, or personal writing, or just thoughts. But these rarer identities are no less vital. I don’t know of a general way to be sympathetic to this point. It’s related to the concrete question of, “If I didn’t know I was being offensive, what should I have done differently?” The only thing I can say is something vague, which is that, it is really important to invite people you’re talking to to feel comfortable to share whatever they feel is relevant.

55 thoughts on “Irrationally speaking

  1. In the last paragraph of the post, you mention that individuals identifying as Deaf are often offended by individuals in the hearing culture. Do you have any suggestions for its prevention?

    1. Sarah, thanks for asking. It’s a difficult question, but it comes back to principles of how to effectively bridge two communities. In the case of communities divided on hearing status, one side being orders of magnitude smaller, increasing awareness of audism is a great start, yet far from any complete solution. After awareness of audism, perhaps encouraging people to be more open minded about hearing status, and especially as it relates to Deaf individuals’ identities.

  2. It is interesting that a specific dream can resonate so well with what you strive to accomplish between the Deaf and hearing communities. I admire the matter of fact language you use to describe the feelings of Deaf individuals in a way that does not criticize the hearing world, but rather, simply bring awareness to the thoughts that often affect a Deaf person. The language used allows me to feel more connected with your thoughts. It makes me question if I have ever had these preconceived notions regarding Deaf individuals and how I might think to speak in a more understandable way, taking into consideration how I could be affecting both the hearing and Deaf communities.

    1. Thanks, Shelby. You raise an interesting point about the language encouraging rather than discouraging a connection. It’s easy to speak in a way that offends, and it’s also easy to say nothing at all. It’s tricky to do anything else, if differences of feelings are involved, and that’s what I’m trying to accomplish.

  3. Beautifully written. Your candid experiences speak strongly, and while reading this, I took a step back and thought about instances in my own life where I may have unintentionally caused another person to feel this way, based on my own biases. I admire that you conveyed your message in a way that did not attack certain groups, but simply stated your experiences in an eye-opening way. After reading your blog, I will consider more carefully the feelings of others before making preconceived assumptions about their ways of life, and allow them to inform me of their own opinions and experiences.

    1. Julia, thank you for your warm comments and thoughts. I can’t ask for more if this writing encouraged you to consider/examine similar experiences you’ve had. But I would say it’s hard to walk into a discussion with a person of differing views, without making some assumptions. The thing we can do is be open/ready for new perspectives, and if you’re in a position of power, to explicitly invite those perspectives, especially if discussion/decisions affect the individuals in question.

  4. I appreciate your acknowledgement of the “irrational,” emotional side; I noted how it doesn’t take away from the strength of your arguments, but rather adds passion and credibility. No argument is completely unbiased, but you use this bias to your advantage. Thank you for taking the time to share where you’re coming from and for using your unique position, specifically familiarity with two communities, to propel discussion and hopefully broaden perspectives.

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth, this is what I was going for. I agree, I don’t think there’s a lot of separation between emotion and ration, but it’s helpful to shine light on the other side, especially when discussions lose sight of the emotionally/personally relevant components. In fact, I would go further to argue that it is one’s responsibility to acknowledge their emotional commitments when making rational arguments for their own benefit, and the listener’s.

  5. I love the anecdote about the dream you had. I think it really shows the closeness of the Deaf community and what it means to you as a CODA and not how other people in the world may see your life. The dream really symbolizes how you see yourself; finding peace in an unfamiliar situation and giving love and protection to others.

    1. Jordan thank you for commenting. You mentioned the dream anecdote. You’re right about one of the functions of the dream, but there’s another point that it raises which I’d like to talk about. Many of your peers also mentioned the dream sequence and how it offers a connection, which has encouraged me to write a more thorough, separate comment on the topic (at the end of the article).

  6. I thought this piece was written beautifully. I also thought that your dream was extremely powerful, and it shows that we as people latch on to others who have been through similar experiences. I admire your strength and your willingness to be so open about your family and all the hardships you have faced in your life.

    1. Marissa thank you for commenting. Every time I write on this topic, there’s a small sense of fear when I publish the post, that maybe I said too much or took things too far. But then every time I’m met with a new, fresh discussion with someone who considered those points, I’m reminded why it’s worthwhile.

      Many of your peers also mentioned the dream sequence and how it offers a connection, which has encouraged me to write a more thorough, separate comment on the topic (at the end of the article).

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this story. This post made me think about all of the communities that I am a part of and all of my different identities. When we find anyone that identifies similarly or is a part of a like group, we flock to them and find closer connections with them, just like how you felt protective with the young girl in your dream. Unfortunately, we see too many communities and identities are often times offended by others unlike them. I enjoyed reading about how you are affected by the hearing community. I enjoy becoming more aware and having a part in closing the gap between the two communities.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts. I’m really glad to hear the post encouraged you to reflect on your own multiple roles and identities. I’m glad to hear you’re interested in helping close the gap. Just being aware of it is the first major step.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story, especially your explanation of the fact that your perspective is shaped so strongly by your personal experiences as a child of Deaf adults. I appreciate your acknowledgement up the subtle biases and audism that exists not because of poor intentions, but because of a simple lack of awareness among those unaffected by hearing status. Your post certainly has inspired some reflection and a greater awareness of the multitude of ways that personal experiences shape identity.

    1. Meredith, thanks for reading and reflecting. The only thing we can do is invite conversations and opportunities for people to share their perspective, and it sounds like you’re doing that!

  9. Before reading your blog post, I had never heard of the term audism. You are correct in saying that it doesn’t get noticed or offend anyone outside its victims. You are affected by it because of your emotional connection to the topic. That emotion makes your stance strong. It is crucial to raise awareness of audism by making people see that emotion. Opinions can be formed based on logical interpretations, but also it must be remembered that these opinions have a real and lasting impact on some people. I would like to do my part to increase awareness of audism and help others to realize how their opinions and actions affect others’ lives both in relation to the Deaf and hearing culture.

    1. I’m glad you now know the term audism, now! I’m also glad that you see the relationship between emotional/logical arguments, and the importance of that relationship. You’re always welcome to contact me as you continue to think and talk about these issues.

  10. This post was incredibly insightful, as this issue is not one that I come across often. This blog has made me aware of the issue and I will, therefore, be more conscientious in my conversations about the subject. I have never met anybody who has two parents in the Deaf community, so I had a few questions about your upbringing—when you were a child, how did other children react when they heard about your parents? Would you say that you were treated any differently? As an adult, do you become more upset with incorrect terminology coming from an adult or a child? Thank you!

    1. These are great questions- you might find it interesting to read ‘Talk about Deafhood’, which gets into it more thoroughly. In short, my feeling is that I was treated a little differently, but it was also easy for everyone to forget the differences, especially when they were invisible (like, when I’m at school).

  11. I like the view you take on how it is living in a deaf community. Although you are able to hear and speak you still have observed and taken part in the deaf community. You have experienced the discrimination and judgment that your parents experienced. I am inspired by your views as you are one of small population that can truly argue what it is like in deaf community from a hearing stand point.

    1. Thank you Sarah for affirming my experience/identity. It’s always tricky talking about, and sometimes admitting, that part of how I would define myself has to do with a physiological experience I haven’t myself had. However, I think having discussions like this, and finding ways to truly identify despite not sharing an experience, is the same kind of thing, in a smaller dose.

  12. I really enjoyed your way of describing privilege “irrationally”, so-to-speak. As someone who has learned much about my own privileges here at UW, this explanation is something I’ve rarely encountered. I think far too often people disregard conversations about privilege because they see it as an attack, and frankly I think they are too scared to learn how it affects their life. As a white, middle-class, able-bodied woman, I have engaged in numerous discussions about racial, class, gender, religion, and ability privileges. However, it wasn’t until this semester in my Gender & Disability in Film course and Manually Coded English class that I became aware of my hearing and sight advantages. I think this is huge a problem. Why are there hardly any discussions about hearing privileges? In my opinion, this partly explains (though does not justify) why the 95% is unaware of its affect on the other 5%. If we can build more discussions about d/Deaf culture and work to expand and improve the representations of Deaf individuals, I have hope that we can be a more accepting society.

    1. Thank you, Cecilia. You’re right- I came to the irrational argument as an afterthought to all the attempts at rational I could make, and I’m with you, in hindsight it’s a bit strange that the personal argument is not on the table as often in conversations of privilege. This is more often true in cases where, unsurprisingly, the conversation is being run by people of privilege. I’d love to hear more about your perspective and thoughts, both on d/Deaf issues and about privilege more generally.

  13. I admire your ability to speak so eloquently about your experience. In the general scheme of the world, it’s true that those who identify as Deaf or HoH/hearing impaired are often underrepresented or not thought of at all simply because the Hearing world is in such a vast majority. I think helping to close this gap is one of the most important elements of our job as Speech Pathologists/Audiologists. Much of my undergraduate experience at UW has stressed the importance of helping caregivers reach a clinical choice in regards to amplification or therapy collaboratively. Evidence Based Practice involves incorporating the current best research evidence, clinical opinion, and the needs of a client in choosing an intervention technique for someone who is looking for services, particularly in Birth-3 when parents are first deciding the path they want for their child. Rather than relying on the inherent Audism of the world, our field should be about presenting parents with all of the possible resources they need to make a decision that is best for them, whether it involve amplification or not. I really enjoyed getting your perspective, and also commend the fact that you are so willing to share your ideas with others to help advocate for the Deaf community.

    1. Becca, you touched on the crucial question- how does this affect audiologists? I would love to hear more about the evidence-based practices, and explore the assumptions therein, if you’d be interested. My naive assumption is that all of these definitions and practices are built on audist principles, but I may be wrong. A simple consideration that many Deaf have advocated is that if the parent wants to make a fully informed decision, the parent should meet a Deaf person, and learn about deaf culture directly. I share because a part of me needs to, and I’m glad that there have been ways to do so!

  14. I also found the dream particularly interesting and it is the part of the post that drew me in the most. It was relatable and easy for me to imagine myself as a fly on the wall watching. I was able to picture the scene and the interactions between you and the girl. I could feel the love and connection you had for her through your writing. It made me wonder about the word CODA. CODA is a new term to me and I am curious about the community of CODAs. Is there an organization that fosters these relationships and makes them easily accessible to all CODAs? If so, were you apart of this and how did this influence and impact both your life and thoughts about your purpose?

    1. Gabby thanks for reading/commenting. A number of your peers related to the dream sequence, which encouraged me to write a general reply at the end of the article, and I’d be interested in your thoughts on that. There are CODA organizations, and CODA conventions, and I think for many CODA, it’s an important experience. That being said, on a local level it’s more like a small set of friends that you might get together with every once in a while. There are so few of us…

  15. I appreciate you writing about the dream that you had as it emphasizes the close relationship that you have with the Deaf community and what it means to you as a CODA. I thought it was awesome that you were able to find your purpose in your dream. It amazes me how much clarity that you had in your dream and that you were able to identify so deeply with the little girl who was like you. I think that your dream was extremely powerful in demonstrating how people relate to others who are like them and have been through similar experiences. Thank you for sharing your story. It helped me to become more aware of the gap that exists between the Hearing and Deaf communities and that I can have a part in closing it.

    1. Kayla thanks for reading/commenting. A number of your peers related to the dream sequence, so I wrote a general reply at the end of the article, and I’d be interested in your thoughts on that. The challenge of closing the gap as you mention is definitely on an individual level, and I’m really happy to hear you’re being conscious about your role. Thank you for that.

  16. Thank you for sharing your story, as I read it I think about my family and the way I was raised to look at others as equal no matter the situation. My mother is in a wheelchair, and I know it is not the same thing but I share some of the same emotions you are feeling. Growing up I have had to explain to many what it is like having a mother who is paralyzed. People have asked me what it is like having a mother who isn’t “normal” – “well what is normal” is my response. It has always been important to me to realize that everyone is “normal” no matter the way we are born or the situation. This leads me to think about the ways in which people with disabilities are seen in society, for example someone with a prosthetic leg running in a marathon. Everyone always says “that is so amazing, he/she is so inspiring” but this is simply their way of life, doing things a different way but normal to them. I feel like this relates a lot to what you are talking about. Doing something a different way than the norm is often times looked at as cool or inspiring, but really it is just their everyday reality. I try hard to see this in everyone and strive to take into account everyone’s identity but after reading your post it opened my eyes to trying to think about it even more than I do now.

    1. Brianna, thank you for sharing your experience and perspective, I’m really glad you did. You hit the nail on the head about people being overly sensitive to what’s “cool” about what my folks can/do do, and I’ve struggled to figure out why that is so bothersome until now. It’s certainly a challenge to keep a neutral perspective sometimes, and for me the big step has just been to be comfortable with the fact that many people are well-meaning, and don’t intend to be offensive with comments like that. I would love to hear more about your experiences some time. I’m sure there’s more for me to learn and appreciate!

  17. Thank you so much for sharing. It really resonated with me when you stated that you have “personal, and emotional commitments to what I am arguing.” I believe this to be very true with the things we are most passionate about in life. Stepping back and investigating what’s most important to us, and how we identify ourselves is crucial to effective communication. I was also fascinated by the introduction of the term “audism.” Even in studying the field of Communication Science I hadn’t previously heard this term, but it is clearly very important to address and understand. After reading your post, I wonder how you feel your reflection, and your language/message has transformed as you’ve grown? Do you feel those outside the deaf community are receptive to your discussion?

    1. I’m glad you are able to appreciate the term ‘audism’, although I’m continually surprised that it’s not part of the vocabulary, as you said, given the subject matter of your profession. Your peers have pointed out that compassion is vital for being in a helping profession, and your comments remind me that it is absolutely vital, but not more vital than knowing how to be compassionate, which requires listening to the patient, and if the patient is dealing with hearing status differences, then it requires knowing what biases being hearing brings to the conversation.

  18. It seems to me that your instinct to emotionally attach to the imaginary girl-who-signs is a testament to the real-life intrinsic tendencies of human beings to identify with others who are similar. I walk around every day and see people group up based on similarities, from ethnicity and background to something simple like seeing four short brunettes all sitting together at a table at a bar, all wearing black leggings and leather boots. This tendency, applied in your mind to another CODA, can also be applied to Deaf people and Deaf culture, where people who are similar want to cling to one another and protect themselves as a group against others who might do them harm. Whether it’s rational or irrational for people to do this I can’t get into, but thinking about it in this way helps me logically understand the sometimes emotional decisions people make when reacting to others’ judgement about their identity.

    1. Noah, thanks for your thoughts. Your conceptualization of in-group criteria is perceptual. But deafhood is not usually apparent in public, and certainly not a group of CODAs, unless they’re signing. I wrote an extended comment on that point, because so many of your peers also thought about the dream sequence and how it represents my feeling of inclusion in a group. I would encourage you to think about the importance of acknowledging groups and their values. For some groups, like ‘four short brunettes’ maybe it’s harder to pinpoint the group criteria (and the group of brunettes may also not like you labeling them as such). But other groups, based on ethnicity, gender, orientation, beliefs, or physical characteristics, like being deaf, may have a fundamental quality about them worth considering.

  19. I really enjoyed reading your post, it was so incredibly well written and very insightful! I really liked how well you described your dream, I felt as though I was right there. You explained how you automatically felt closer to the young girl when you realized she was a CODA as well. I think that that is something we all do. We feel closer to those people that are the most similar to ourselves because we feel that we can relate to them the deepest. I often feel like that towards my family, especially my younger sister, so I understand how your feelings of similarity led you to feel so protective of the young girl in your dream. I had never heard the word Audism before reading your post, which proved exactly what you are saying, this word really is not noticed by the hearing community. I am so happy that I read this because I truly feel like I have gained a much better perception of the world we live in, and how to be aware of those not just that I am similar to, but also those in the Deaf community. I enjoyed your honesty about the subject that often people try to avoid.

    1. Kymberly, thank you for your warm comments. Many of your peers also mentioned the dream sequence, and I wrote a little more on that topic in response, attached to the end of the essay above. I’d be curious how this affects your thoughts on the topic. Affiliation is a strong thing, and to me its interesting that it can happen on particular dimensions, like, knowing sign language and deafhood while being hearing. Part of the crucial point I’m trying to raise is that the basis of similarity is NOT that “our parents can’t hear us.” It’s all the consequences of a world that tends to assume such is the appropriate label. Hence the need to introduce ‘audism’ to more clearly explain the difference. I would love to hear your thoughts as you continue to explore the implications of audism.

  20. I really enjoyed your discussion and honesty concerning audism. I never thought about the idea that hearing people are usually the clinicians who help decide treatment for individuals who are deaf, but now that I do it definitely could seem insensitive and offensive to Deaf culture. It forced me to reflect on the many ways our society is built for hearing people and how that can be incredibly difficult and offensive to Deaf individuals. While I was originally slightly taken aback by how Deaf culture is offended by us, your honesty makes perfect sense when put into perspective with your discussion of audism. Thank you for opening my eyes to an opinion of Deaf culture that I would have never even considered before reading this article.

    1. Nicole, thank you for your observations and reflection, and for being open-minded to a potentially abrasive article. I’m really glad that you’re considering this perspective and I hope you continue to explore and better understand some of the common characteristics and complex elements of deaf identities, and as always, I’m open to being a part of that and continuing a discussion. Thanks again for hearing me.

  21. Thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. I found this piece to be well written and engaging. I have not come across this issue often, but I think it is important to be aware that it exists. I really enjoyed the section about the dream you had. I felt I could connect to it and it brought about a sense of realism. Thank you!

    1. Michaela, thanks for your comments. I wrote more about the dream sequence (it’s below the original essay, above), and would be interested in how this changes your thoughts (or doesn’t). I hope you continue to consider these topics, especially as they pertain to any future interactions with deafhood.

  22. I really enjoyed your blog post and how you felt that you really related to the girl in your dream that was a child of deaf adults just like yourself. I feel like this relates to people of any culture and how they feel like they relate best with people of their same background. Your article has also really opened my eyes to how I, as a part of the hearing community, need to be careful with the subtle effects that I may have on the Deaf community. I will definitely be more conscious of how I interact and communicate with the Deaf.

    1. Elaine, thank you for your observations. I wrote a bit more about the dream (it’s at the end of the essay), because there was a point I wanted to make which wasn’t clear in the original writing. I’d be interested in hearing your observations about that. You put it nicely by saying ‘be careful with the subtle effects’. Two important things in there: being ‘careful’ admits, as we should, that there’s a power imbalance that hearing people hold, being the majority, and the second, ‘subtle effects’ is good to admit, because many would be dismissive of them, but in fact, none of it is subtle to someone directly affected. It’s subtle if you ask a deaf person “how would you like to accommodate your deafness”, but if he hasn’t had a chance to introduce on his own terms, deafness and accommodation, you’re subtly deciding how to frame aspects of his identity, with overt words. There needs to be a lot more listening to work against these subtle effects.

  23. The first thing that came to my mind after reading this post was how people view and treat developmentally disabled individuals. People are often very conscious about how they act around these individuals and are extremely cautious not to cause any offense. I work with children with Autism and I see this all the time and when people do not treat them with respect I also get very upset. Although this is a good thing, I feel like people do not give the same respect to those of the Deaf Community. They too have an impairment that affects their daily life however most people do not react the same way towards them. They are not given the same respect and positive recognition. Obviously they do not need to be treated just like individuals with developmental disabilities however they deserve to be free from offense and insults by the hearing population.

    1. Nicole, thank you for your observations and generalization about unfair treatment toward people who identify differently than a mainstream way of life. I’m sorry to hear, from an observational standpoint, you’ve witnessed the same kind of awkwardness people exhibit around ‘others.’ If you don’t mind, let me make a small, but important distinction in your observation, as it pertains to individuals in the Deaf Community. They do not have an impairment, unless they’ve told you that’s what it is called. It is better to assume they have a cultural and linguistic difference (ASL). They are different because sign and Deaf culture happens to not be the way the majority of the hearing world operates. For example, being in a Somali community in a predominantly white city would not be a disability or impairment, it’d be a linguistic and cultural minority. This is just a semantics issue, but I think it goes a long way in terms of being sensitive, and empowering the group of people with which we’re trying to coexist.

  24. I like your discussion of irrationality. This topic is obviously personal to you but your argument is otherwise universal to any sort of opinion. The things we are passionate about enough to argue for are usually personal to us in some kind of irrational way and it is necessary to acknowledge that. You bring up a really important point and your discussion of that was insightful. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you Nicole for your attention to the relationship between rational and emotional arguments. Was there anything that caused you to react differently, given that I was explicitly personal about the topics, or anything that affirmed an existing opinion you had?

  25. Hi Mark,
    It was interesting to get a little insight into how important your connection to the Deaf culture is. My question is regarding one of your other blog posts (Language with a Bionic Ear)-you acknowledge that 90% of deaf individuals are born to hearing parents and thus many parents opt for cochlear implants to help their child adjust to a predominantly hearing world. You also acknowledge the importance of early language development by saying we see many language milestones during those early, pre-implementation months. What would your advice be to parents who have a deaf child and maybe want to expose them to Deaf culture, but have never themselves learned sign language and are worried about giving them ungrammatical/too simple of sign input during those few months because they are just learning ASL themselves? Thank you for sharing your posts with us.

    1. Katelyn, thanks for your question, I think it’d be great if this was considered! Here’s what comes to mind to me, though there are going to be better advisors and advice on this topic. If a young parent asked me, I would think the best first step would be to find a deaf school, and explore your curiosity there. Talk to teachers, see how deaf children are learning/socializing. See if you can talk to another parent who was in your shoes before. The idea of a child that is inherently suited to learn a language different from yours is the intimidating, fundamental question. No one would expect you to master sign language, nor that everything will be smooth, but more sign is always better than less, no matter the kind and quality of it. Challenge yourself to learn sign as much as your ability and time allows.

      This is a great question that deserves more attention, and I’ll look into it more (and/or write an essay on the topic). I’d love to hear your thoughts about my suggestion above.

  26. After listening to you speak on two different occasions and again re-reading your article I have so much respect for you. I can personally say that growing up in a hearing community I have had moments where I experienced audism. But, after taking CS&D courses at UW Madison my views and the way in which I handle myself have changed. I plan to enter the field of Speech and Language pathology and I will be working with members of the deaf community. While there is this stigma associated with audism, I do not think that it always has to have a negative connotation. The goal of an SLP is to help enhance the lives of individuals with communication disorders. An SLP is trained in offering other modes of communication that could potentially have a greater benefit for the client. A person does not get into this field unless they are compassionate and can empathize with others.
    SLPs are responsible for cooperating with the family and giving options of treatment and deciding together how they can help the child improve. I wish that audism didn’t have this negative connotations because as a helping profession all we care about it bettering the life of an individual. I truly appreciate your words. You are a great advocate and I am looking forward to reading your other great work.

    1. Marissa, thank you, it sounds like we should talk more on this topic, because you bring up very important points I don’t have concluding thoughts on yet. There is stigma everywhere, and clinicians/specialists are not exempt from its effects. I’m inspired to know that you obviously take your actions, role, mission very seriously in helping others out. As you point out, compassion comes with the job description, but I want to make two, audiology-specific, qualifying points. Maybe the label of ‘audism’ is not quite what you’re referring to when you say it shouldn’t have stigma, and here’s why. The word is a word that parallels and describes effects similar to ‘racism’, ‘sexism,’ ‘agism’ and other aspects of in-group superiority. I don’t think anyone wants any of those words to lose their ‘stigma’, audism included. This relates to my response to Nicole Johnson’s comment above. The second point is the title of Harlan Lane’s book “The Mask of Benevolence.” Wanting, and having the power to affect others’ lives is only a good thing if its invited, which is not so simple as a deaf person calling to make an appointment (consider the cultural pressure that has brought them there). It sounds like you’re doing this, but as you develop your skills in helping a minority community engage with a majority community, I urge you to prioritize patiently, carefully listening to the community (or individual), first. It’s the only real way to know you’re helping.

  27. I really appreciated how well you incorporated the idea of irrationality of your argument due to your personal experiences with the injustices placed on the deaf world. It touched on how many people will rationally approach a topic that should not be strictly looked at objectively. A point that was made, which I really resonated with, was when you said people would constantly ask you questions on what it was like to be raised by deaf parents, and how it was a burden to confirm that your childhood was different than others’. Others often found your life neat, but it was burden to explain it none-the-less. I feel that this is common among people who hope to enter “helping professions”; most want to show genuine interest in the differences of others’ lives, yet they still approach it too rationally even though they have the best intentions. This made me reevaluate what types of questions I ask, and how it’s necessary to incorporate compassion and empathy when inquiring about your experiences as a child of deaf adults.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Halle. I think you make a hard point about the helping professions- it’s no easy task being constantly aware of the various needs of your clients. This is why open ended questions are worth their weight in gold, and, more important than asking questions is to listen to what the client wants to say.

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