Feb 2019 The Pine Log Online
For years, people have looked at deaf babies and decided that the best thing to do for them was to not teach them sign language. As a Deaf person, I believe that is wrong. Apparently, in teaching them sign, the deaf child will be held back and hindered by this language. It’s just funny to me, because so many people will teach their hearing children a form of sign language known as “baby sign,” as infants, arguing that it helps them establish a method of communication early on and build a stronger language base.
But they claim it won’t do the same thing for D/ deaf babies, when it’s their language in the first place. If you don’t know, when writing the word deaf, using a capital D refers to culturally deaf people, and a lower-case d refers to the scientific/medical aspect — nothing to do with culture.
Some hearing people believe teaching sign language to their hearing infants helps in furthering their language and speaking capabilities. Is it really so unreasonable to believe it will do the same for Deaf people? You know, the people this language was originally created for? I was fortunate to have (hearing) parents who understood that I needed sign language in my life, and I still use it today as a 19-year-old Deaf person.
I was given the cochlear implant at 4 1⁄2 years old, and my parents even continued signing with me after. Being able to access both the Deaf and hearing worlds has been what was best for me, and it continues to work for me today. It doesn’t work for everyone, though. Some Deaf people choose to only sign and not speak for the rest of their lives. Some choose to put on the implant and never sign again. But that’s their choice. Many hearing parents are too afraid to let their child sign because they believe they won’t be able to communicate with them. But they could, if they would just learn sign language with their child. What parent wouldn’t want to be able to communicate with their children?
Growing up, my parents had a lot of backlash from audiologists, doctors, speech therapists and all sorts of professionals for “letting” me use sign language because they believed that it would hold me back. That’s certainly not the case. If anything, sign language has allowed me to grow as a person and be confident in myself and my abilities to do whatever I want. Because I was able to communicate my wants and needs from an early age, it helped my parents be better parents. It’s understandable that when hearing parents find out their child is deaf they don’t know how to handle it. It’s scary; new situations always are.
My opinion is that it’s not fair to strip Deaf people of their language and take away part of their identity while also allowing hearing people to use it for their own benefit. I’m not saying all hearing people are selfish or anything like that, but the hypocrisy is pretty difficult to ignore.
It is well known that many D/deaf people have a hard time learning to read and write English due to not being able to learn how to read as fast as their hearing peers. This is mostly because most
people learn how to read by “sounding out” the words, and how are Deaf people supposed to do that? And if they never got a language background through sign language, how is that supposed to help them in learning other languages like English?
Not giving deaf babies language from the beginning is more damaging than giving them signing abilities. Being Deaf is not something to be ashamed of, and neither is sign language. I believe that this beautiful language should be shared with everyone but without the stigma that surrounds it.