Writing articles about cochlear implants made me think about the hard decision families make that would affect the entire life of their deaf children. After reading all the comments made from my latest entry which has the most number of responses so far, I realized how great an impact selecting whether undergoing Cochlear Implants, hearing aids or even oral or manual method can be to their child’s future.
I remember a few years back, when I was faced with this serious question. The parents together with their five year old deaf child went to our school. Although MCCID only caters to deaf post-secondary or late teenager students, I didn’t realize that people like them would seek advice from me. The parents were probably in their late twenties, good looking and are both professionals. The mother was holding her beautiful little angel in her arms in order to prevent her from wandering around. She appears awed as she looks at the deaf adults through the glass outside the office frantically moving their hands. When they saw her smiling at them, they smiled even more and waved their hands to her. She was in her best mood.
Her mom and dad introduced themselves to me and told me about their situation. Their only daughter was barely one-year old when she had a high fever and they went back and forth to the hospital in order to save her. She was saved but at the expense of losing her ability to hear. The family were not aware at that time but as she was growing, they suddenly noticed something amiss with their child. She hasn’t uttered any word and she never turns around when they call her. The normal thing for them to do was to have her ears checked up. But the frightening announcement came to them. Their three-year old angel is diagnosed as severely deaf. They were devastated but they never lose hope. They said that their only jewel can hear and will live a normal life. So they did everything they could.
Fast forward to age five, the mother asked my opinion as to what to do with their child. She inquired about what I could recommend to them as regards her child’s education. Now, that question was tough. As I was gazing at their beautiful, long dark-haired angel, a question popped my mind. I then, asked the family,
Have you accepted that your child is deaf?
I backed up my question by explaining to them that their decisions and directions will become clearer once they resolved this feeling of accepting their child’s situation. As I was elucidating my point, the mother looked at her only child as tears running down her cheeks. She said that all these years, they never gave up on their hope that their child would be “healed”. She started to sob as she explained to me all the efforts the two of them did to save her hearing. They brought her to many specialists, a few churches and priests, famous divine healers and herbal doctors. No luck.
I told them it’s time for them to accept their child’s fate. Once they recognized her situation, its time for the family to move on to the next decision. The next question that I asked was,
How do you want your child to communicate?
If they selected the ability to speak, then I can recommend them to a famous oral school in our country, the Philippine Institute for the Deaf, where she can learn the proper way of using her vocal cords and produce words. But if they want their child to learn fast, then I can recommend them to few government schools that offer special education, including Philippine School for the Deaf, the oldest school in Asia (est. 1907). There their child can learn sign language.
When she asked about my opinion regarding what to choose, I did not reply directly. I simply told her to look around our school. Most of our Deaf students don’t know how to speak yet they have adjusted quite well and most of our graduates have landed in jobs that were seemingly unbelievable due to their disability. I left the decision to them and I hope they did the right one. I haven’t seen them since that day.