In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Hearing Parents’ Perspective on Raising and Educating a Deaf Child
  • Frans Krige (bio)

A Life-Changing Event

As a doctor working in a small, church-owned, rural hospital in Malawi (a country in central Africa), I delivered our daughter Susanna myself, or, rather, helped my wife with the birth of our third child in 1982. When Susanna was 19 months old, we discovered that she was profoundly deaf. As is so often the case with the arrival of a Deaf child in a hearing family, this was a life-changing event in our lives.

The Carel du Toit Center for Hearing Impaired Children in Cape Town was the facility that helped us through our initial bewilderment and the subsequent 5 years. Already in the 1980s it was not only a world-class institution, but also one with a strong nonracial approach in what was still apartheid South Africa. The Carel du Toit Center helped my wife with all aspects of parenting in a comprehensive manner, including coming to grips with acceptance. The Center uses an oral approach. Its attention to emotional support, language acquisition, and the details concerning hearing aids, as well as the availability of the multidisciplinary team (occupational therapists, educators, pediatricians, neurologists), were all truly comprehensive.

From the Carel du Toit Center, Susanna went to the De la Bat School for the Deaf in Worcester, and after that to Gallaudet University in the United States.

At the De la Bat School, she went through the primary school phase and experienced the transition from a more oral to a more sign-oriented approach. In secondary school her academic progress was remarkable, and the educators did their best.

I will now examine both the national and family issues that we as hearing parents of a Deaf child over the past quarter-century in South Africa experienced ourselves. They can be summarized as follows:

  • • We started out with an oral approach, which was the only available option at that time.

  • • Over the years, there was a slow change from “oralism” to a bilingual-bicultural approach and an embracing of sign language.

  • • Following the formal end of apartheid in 1994, a very pro-human rights and therefore pro-disability constitution was instituted in 1996.

  • • One result of South Africa’s new start was a disability employment target of 2.00% in the public services (government service); even though the Department of Health has only achieved a level of 0.25%, the new policy has created opportunities.

  • • A few members of the South African Parliament were specifically included on the grounds of having a disability, including one Deaf member. The rules of Parliament had to be changed to accommodate her sign language interpreter.

  • • There was an overall improvement in the services and opportunities for people living with disabilities, from a very low and inequitable base.

  • • There was a move in government policy for children with disabilities to be mainstreamed at school.

The personal issues we faced can perhaps be described as the usual events that happen to hearing families with Deaf children:

  • • We adapted to the needs of our child, and changed houses and jobs several times.

  • • We struggled and failed with acquiring sign language ourselves (having started off on the oral route). Looking back, we should have tried much harder, as doing so would have prevented the ostracism that Susanna consequently experienced in a hearing family. [End Page 511]

  • • The effort to mainstream our daughter educationally was unsuccessful at the time because of her inadequate language and speech acquisition.

  • • We were then exposed to a new world: the world of the Deaf and the world of people living with disabilities in general.

  • • We had to balance the needs of two hearing older sisters and two hearing younger brothers with Susanna’s unique needs.

  • • Having a child with a keen desire to learn, we experienced the obstacles to tertiary education in South Africa as being too large and the opportunities too restrictive. Therefore, she then applied for admission to Gallaudet University, the world’s only higher-education institution designed for Deaf students. This option was in stark contrast to the opportunities available to our hearing children. Unfortunately, this option is available to very...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1543-0375
Print ISSN
0002-726X
Pages
pp. 511-512
Launched on MUSE
2011-01-14
Open Access
No
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