Life and Deaf – Chapter 12 – The First Day


I did research through the mail and going to the library – there was no such thing as internet – to find the best auditory/oral education for our son, mapped out a route and set a timetable for our exploratory trip. As we traveled we would meet up with my brother and Barb, and another couple of friends, Trudy and Herb, at specified locations around the United States. In between we’d visit with many friends made through the years of college and military life. Since there were no cell phones or email we had to rely on the US Mail General Delivery and public phone booths. Although there were several highly regarded oral schools on the Eastern Seaboard we decided to skip the crowded cities of New England and explore new territory in, for us, the wild west.

I’ve found the old loose-leaf notebook where my dream of telling this old hippie story started. I open it to: The First Day–June 26, 1974. What perfect timing. So we begin:


We left in a tropical storm on our shakedown trip from Ormond Beach to Venice, FL to say good-bye to family and friends. Violent winds and rain christened the new Dodge van and our carefully packed hand-built cartop carrier leaked like a sieve. All had to be unstowed. It took all day in Grandma Fifi’s clothes dryer to dry blankets, pillows, sleeping bags, clothes, while we did an epoxy repair job on the carrier. We tried to pack “intelligently” for the big haul cross-country and still have room for living. In a van? My mother spent many hours ringing her hands (and hankies) wondering what she would do with all the leftover gear that wouldn’t fit. She had just gone through the same thing with Terry and Barb the week before and her patience was wearing thin. I don’t blame her. The Green house has always been used as home base because of a welcoming attitude, ample space, and Fif’s delicious home cooking. Of course the real reason was that two out of three of her children and two of her grandchildren were leaving in vans for “God knows where” to live as hippies for “God knows how long”. Though we’d been hashing and re-hashing the plan for over a year, none of the parents thought we’d actually become wanderers.

I, myself, found it hard to believe that we were actually giving up our stable life with two kids, our little 3 bedroom/2 bath ranch in middle class suburbia. But harder still – how did I ever talk my husband into giving up his successful position as a white-collar “investment advisor” – the new-fangled word for a stockbroker?

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)