Life and Deaf – Choices

Sorry for the long delay. I’ve been recuperating from a long illness. Onward!

We spend the next two weekends breaking the news of Scooter’s profound hearing loss face-to-face with our parents. First St. Augustine, the site of State School for the Deaf and Blind, where daddy Ray was born and his father and stepmother still live. Grandma Trudie used to work at the school and holds it in high regard. My heart sinks as I listen to her description. “Sugar, this is where the experts are. The staff knows what’s best for those sweet handicapped kids. They’re well taken care of, around others just like them and will be protected, not bullied.”

Every word she says makes my heart sink lower. Protected? Boarded? Caged like animals? “Uuhh, I’m sure it’s a good school. Maybe it’s an option.” I’m not ready to give up my firstborn, beautiful son that easily. “I’ve got lots of researching and learning to do first.”

“Oh honey, I meant no harm,” Trudie stammered. “Just givin’ you an option. And I have some experience here.”

“I understand and appreciate your thoughts, but I know the philosophy of the St. Augustine school. They believe in the age old method of American Sign Language. I know it’s given deaf people a way to pull themselves out of the mire of “deaf and dumb” and given them a language of their own, but I want to give Scooter a chance to fit the best that he can into the hearing world by learning to listen and speak.”

I find out about a group in California called the Tracy Clinic, named after Spencer Tracy and his wife who also have a deaf child. They stress treating your child as any other, getting him fitted for the best hearing aids if there’s any residual hearing, and at the same time saturating him with language in a normal household.

The correspondence course is offered free as long as the lessons are followed and a feedback letter returned. Scooter at 2 years old, has a single hearing aid, and is definitely speech delayed. The best and most important advice saturating these lessons is Talk, Talk, Talk; making sure he can see our lips to practice lip reading. We stick bright simple signs on everything in the house for visual stimulation. The key – work with everything you’ve got and give it all you’ve got. And that’s the basis of Ray’s Auditory/Oral Education.

We find a support group of parents in Daytona Beach area dedicated to the oral approach, start making friends and getting positive feedback. Friendship and exchange with these families is probably the most important step up out of the mire of doubt and depression. We finally are getting to know people going through the same thing  giving us hope, support, answering our questions, laughing and crying with us.

Next time: Teaching Scooter (Ray)