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Chapter 3 Field of Dreams I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. —William Butler Yeats, “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” Parents of newborn babies greet their children with hopes, dreams, and grand expectations. Among the approximately 4.13 million annual births in the United States, the Department of Health and Human Services reports that approximately 5% are children who have a hearing loss sufficient to impede speech and language acquisition. It is not uncommon for hearing parents , upon learning of their child’s deafness, to experience a strong emotional reaction to the clinical pronouncement. Their dreams have not only been trod upon; they have, in some cases, been shattered. Parents may deny the deafness itself, the condition of being deaf regarding its permanence, or the reality of the impact deafness will have on their child’s communication and socialization as they begin to attempt to understand their child’s inability to hear. Most often hearing parents experience feelings of sadness, disappointment , hurt, guilt, embarrassment, shame, blame, anger, bewilderment, and/or a sense of isolation upon learning of their child’s deafness. Such feelings can distort parents’ perceptions of their children and interfere with their ability to process all of the advice and information that are suddenly thrust upon them. 41 GETTY_C03_Revised.indd 41 26/02/14 3:13 am 42 Building Bridges, Crossing Borders It is not uncommon for tension within the family to arise should the parents be in differing stages in coming to grips with the situation at hand (Calderon & Greenberg, 1997, 1999; Ferris, 1980; Mindel & Vernon, 1971). Author and cochlear implant recipient Michael Chorost describes the shock as follows: For parents, a child’s handicap often causes a grieving not incomparable to that following death. Every parent prayerfully imagines their child’s first steps, bat mitzvah or first communion , first date, graduation, marriage, and beyond, and their hopes range ever forward into that vague future in which they find their own grave but not their child’s. But when their child cannot see, or hear, or walk, those multifold futures die. They can no longer see their child as a strong, confident, proud adult. In its place they see nightmare images of wheelchairs, white canes, hearing aids, halting speech and lifelong dependency. My mother and father walked around for days in sick horror. (p. 28) It is imperative for parents of d/Deaf children and professionals in the field to appreciate some of the likely psychological ramifications of learning that a child born or adopted into the family is deaf. Dr. McCay Vernon (Mindel & Vernon, 1971) was among the first to isolate the emotions that hearing parents may experience upon first learning of their child’s deafness, as well as the process of coming to accept and deal with its implications. Initial reaction to an occurrence of something not expected is that of shock or disbelief. Disbelief can eventually manifest itself as denial. Once deafness is suspected, parents’ observations of their child become acutely attuned to watching for a response to auditory stimuli . . . some indication that hearing is indeed present. For instance, loud sounds often produce an accompanying vibratory stimulus like the beating of a drum. In other situations a visual cue or movement can accompany a sound. Given these conditions a child will often respond by looking toward the movement or the source of the vibration. Such behaviors can GETTY_C03_Revised.indd 42 26/02/14 3:13 am Field of Dreams 43 cause a parent to reason that the child is attending to the sound rather than the vibration or movement, making it more difficult to accept the reality of deafness. However, once irrefutable confirmation of the child’s hearing loss occurs, it is not uncommon for parents to experience symptoms of shock. Shock in this instance, according to Dr. Vernon, is a blend of disbelief and grief, helplessness, anger, and guilt. We are all familiar with the age-old “Why me?” question when what we least expect becomes our reality. Parents may look at others with seemingly perfect children and mourn the loss of what they had envisioned . . . dreams they fear are now lost to them and to their child. As one might imagine, these same feelings may occur when parents who are Deaf give birth to an infant with normal hearing. Hearing parents of deaf children may have a tendency to overidentify with their child’s hearing loss. However, a child deaf from...


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MARC Record
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