Children of Deaf Parents

abril 23, 2009

by Disaboom Health Team

"Research shows that more than 90 percent of all children born to deaf parents are hearing, presenting special challenges and rewards to both groups. And although information about hearing parents raising deaf children abounds, it’s harder to locate advice about what deaf parents need to be aware of in parenting their hearing kids.

Overall, the children of deaf parents do just as well as their peers in family life. But it pays to be aware of a few pitfalls that can be encountered:

1. Children Interpreting for their Parents

Because children of deaf parents are usually proficient at sign language and speech both, they are often expected to serve as the interpreter between their parents and members of the community. However, there are times when this task is inappropriate because of the subject of the discussion and/or the age of the child.

What to do: If there is a topic or situation where your child should not be exposed to the conversation, such as a legal matter, adult conversation or problem with the school, hire a professional interpreter or ask the school or government agency to provide one.

2. Communication in the Family

Deaf parents may speak to each other exclusively in sign language, but use a mix of speech and sign language with their children. This can inhibit the child’s ability to use sign language, limiting communication with the parent. At times, the parent may not be able to understand what the child is trying to tell them.

In an attempt to avoid the interpretation problems listed above, deaf parents may purposely neglect to teach their children fluent sign language. But if this means the child is hearing unclear speech and incorrect grammar, the child is left without mastery of either sign or spoken language, putting him or her at a disadvantage in both communities and leaving him without an effective means of communication with his parents.

What to do: Don’t be afraid to teach your child sign language if that is the form of communication you use. Studies show that children will pick up spoken language from their peers. What is critical is that you and your child are able to communicate optimally with each other.

3. Filtering and Protecting

Children who are using sign language with their parents in public may hear objectionable comments from passersby who assume that they can’t hear. The children often internalize the remarks in order to avoid hurting their parents.

Other children may avoid socializing with children in the family because they feel uncomfortable, leading to hurt and isolation for the child of deaf parents.

Children with deaf parents may feel intense responsibility to listen for alarms, announcements, burglars and other noises in order to protect the family.

What to do: Talk to your child openly about situations they may encounter. Discussions should include the possibility of discrimination, and suggestions for what the child can do. Let them know that it is alright to tell you when they encounter discrimination.

Here are some additional resources to help guide you through parenting a hearing child:
Gallaudet offers its Deaf Parents of Hearing Children Pathfinder which contains a wealth of information.

  • Visit Deafmom’s blog to get a personal view of what it’s like to be the deaf parent of hearing kids.
  • Your children might want to join KODA (Kids of Deaf Adults) or CODA (Children of Deaf Adults) if they are now adults.

See Related Disability Articles:

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