While raising Jane does present extra challenges, I have found that having a deaf child is actually advantageous. While I am normally a bigger fan of lengthy, philosophical blogging, I thought listing the perks of raising a deaf daughter might be a fun idea.

  1. No tiptoeing around the sleeping baby. I vacuum while Jane is sleeping. I talk on the phone in her room. When I’m cleaning the kitchen at night, I groove to my dance music as loudly as I want to. She sleeps through it all. To wake her up in the morning, she does have an alarm clock that shakes her pillow—as well as blasting a fire alarm-like tone. Mostly, though, I prefer to wake her up with hugs and kisses.
  • We can speak privately in public. Have you ever wanted to tell your child something private, but were too far away to whisper? Have you ever found it hard to shout above the noise at a loud sports event or party? Have you ever wanted to correct your child’s behavior in public, but didn’t want to attract attention? Sign language allows me to correct my children in the toy aisle of Target without anyone knowing that I’m warning them to stop climbing on the shelves, or telling them for the hundredth time that, no, I will not buy another LOL Doll. Sign language also allows me to tell my children secrets that no one else (unless they know ASL) can understand. Sign language lets me tell my children things from across a large room, or in loud places.
  • We talk with our mouths full. Because Jane uses both sign and verbal language, we often have dinner conversations that transition from English to ASL and back again, depending on whether our mouths or hands are the most available modality. Hands busy holding a popsicle or corn on the cob? We use our voices. Mouth full of peanut butter toast? We chew with our mouths shut and sign. At our dinner table, the conversation never stops.
  • We can be silent, but still have a conversation. Jane has a hard time sitting still in theaters, at weddings, or in church. Not only is she a very active child who does not prefer sitting still for long, but these acoustic environments tend to be challenging for her, as they involve big sounds at long distances. I can have a conversation with her, or interpret for her, without being an audible distraction. Not only can I help her access the environment, but I can have a completely different conversation with her, if she gets bored.
  • My daughter is the best storyteller. Jane can use her voice, her sign language, and her facial expressions to tell a story. Although she still has a language delay, she is a stellar storyteller. She can be vocally expressive, but also uses the 3-dimensionality of ASL to effectively explain herself, as well.
  • My daughter is bilingual. Jane uses both English and ASL on a regular basis, but even deaf people who use only ASL are still bilingual, if they read in English. The grammar of ASL is uniquely different from English, and the vocabulary—while it can be interpreted into English—does not have a 1:1 correspondence to English, either. Not only is being bilingual great for your brain, but ASL develops your brain in unique ways: your occipital lobe, which normally processes vision, also becomes a language center of your brain!
  • Having a deaf daughter has motivated me to learn a new language. It’s hard to learn a new language as an adult, unless you have a major motivation to do so. Having a deaf daughter has caused me to develop new skills that have blessed me and been useful in broader ways than being able to talk to my daughter fluently. I am able to talk to other people in the community who are deaf or nonverbal. I was able to feel comfortable and competent serving a DHH student in my classroom. I am able to enjoy the art of using ASL to interpret music. ASL has not only provided my daughter with access to language, but has enriched my life.

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