Sometimes I have wonder what it is like to be a deaf parent of a hearing child. I never had a hearing child, and I know that most deaf parents have hearing children.
Deaf parents with hearing children face unique challenges, such as finding daycare programs or babysitters that can communicate with both them and their child. Other challenges stem from behaviors that result from parents not being able to hear. For instance, a daycare provider who was caring for a hearing child of deaf parents noticed that the child tended to scream or yell. She wrote in asking if it was common for hearing children of deaf parents to yell much.
Another problem for deaf parents of hearing children is that the children may try to take advantage of the fact their parents can’t hear. This problem cropped up in the blog post, “Deaf Parents with Unruly Hearing Children.” In that post, a teacher commented that her students who had deaf parents were misbehaving and taking advantage of their parents’ deafness. Readers pointed out that the children may have been reacting to the realities of their home life with deaf parents.
Some parenting challenges were addressed by an episode of TV’s Supernanny, in which the nanny visited a family of deaf parents with hearing children. In Season 5, the “Baulisch family” episode that aired 10/10/08, the nanny confronts poor communication in the family because the younger hearing children did not sign much. Jo, the nanny, explained that it was the parents’ responsibility to ensure adequate sign communication and not depend on their older child to act as an interpreter.
There is a network of parent organizations for deaf parents of hearing children. For example, there are Kids of Deaf Adult organizations in Maryland and Minnesota. Such groups provide social activities for hearing children of deaf parents, as well as providing peer support for deaf parents.
Deaf parents and their hearing children can share books such as Myron Uhlberg’s books Dad, Jackie and Me (about a hearing boy and his deaf father), and The Printer. For deaf parents themselves, Thomas Bull, a hearing child of deaf parents, is the author of On the Edge of Deaf Culture: Hearing Children/Deaf Parents, Annotated Bibliography.
The Fall 1990 issue of Gallaudet Today magazine had an article, “The ties that bind: Hearing children and deaf parents talk about being a family.” A decade later, the Fall 2000 issue of Gallaudet Today magazine had another article, “The CODA connection: Do your parents know Braille?”
Some research on deaf parents with hearing children – particularly with regard to language development—has been done. The American Annals of the Deaf often publishes studies of deaf parents raising hearing children. Another journal, the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, also publishes similar articles, such as the Summer 2000 issue article, “Deaf parents and their hearing children.” That article, which is downloadable free, discusses communication and parenting issues, the experiences of hearing children raised by deaf parents, and useful suggestions for deaf parents raising hearing children. One suggestion is to encourage the hearing child to have both deaf and hearing playmates, with the idea that the hearing playmates will help the child’s speech skills.
There is even a day in the deaf community set aside to honor the deaf parents of hearing children—Mother, Father Deaf Day.