On Parenting, Acceptance and Education

I got hold of this touching story of a 17-year old deaf girl named Micaella while I was browsing Inquirer.net, my favorite online newspaper. The commentary came from Mr. Roberto Salva, executive director of Catholic Ministry to Deaf People (CMDP).

In May 2009, Micaella died of liver ailment, apparently due to the condition in the estero where she lived to get an education. She was one of the CMDP scholars. She died in order to get an education. Such a sorry state in our country’s educational system.

According to Salva, Micaella’s deafness caused her family to move from their hut in Bulacan to the estero beside the Divisoria mall – despite its unhealthy state – so she could be near a school for the deaf. Such was their love and hope for her.

When his father was interviewed by CMDP as part of their process in accepting scholars, he wrote,

“I have big dreams. I hope my two children will finish their studies and hopefully, in the future, we won’t be on the streets anymore.”

Micaella’s parents are unique among hearing Filipino parents of deaf children. They were not disabled by their child’s deafness.

A study was conducted by CMPD concerning the role of the hearing parents in rearing their deaf children. They initiated the study because they observed in families of their scholars the lack of expressed closeness between the deaf and their hearing parents, and the breakdown in communication.

According to the survey results of among 151 scholars in May 2007, around 81 percent of the household heads (and 77 percent of their spouses) could not pass the evaluation for Basic Sign Language. Fourteen percent of the household heads, mostly fathers, were not communicating with their deaf children at all, including 3 percent of the mothers.

Many organizations for the deaf like MCCID and CMDP, have responded to this dilemma by offering sign language classes to the parents. Although it is one step closer, learning the language is not enough for them to play an active role in their deaf children’s lives.

Continuing with their survey results, 30 percent of the parents expressed sadness when they discovered they had given birth to a deaf child. Twenty percent of the answers were questions, mostly expressing worries (15 percent) about the future of the deaf children – whether there is one. Thirteen percent articulated non-acceptance, 9 percent hurt, 5 percent fear, 4 percent disappointment, and 3 percent sense of loss.

However, as Salva pointed out, there are parents like Micaella’s who immediately get over their sense of distress and focus on what they can do to help their deaf child. They represent roughly 3 percent of the respondents. The others are able to hurdle their issues only gradually as they see their deaf children grow.

The parents’ acceptance of their deaf children, the calming of their worries, and their pro-active sense with regard to their response to the deafness of their children surface when they learn of the opportunity available to, or the ability of, their deaf children to get an education. Forty-one percent of the parents expressed that. They realized that, except for the inability to hear, their deaf children have the same capacity as hearing children.

Unfortunately, the opportunity to get education in the Philippines is not accessible to all deaf Filipinos. There are not many schools for the deaf in the country. We still have not even been able to correctly account for all the deaf children. This leads us to another question, how many deaf children are there in the Philippines anyway?

A deaf girl from Bohol, photo taken from Idea Deaf

Many of the hearing parents of deaf children are unaware of the educational opportunities for their deaf children and of the need of these children to learn a language, especially sign language, for their holistic development.

I am in unity with Mr. Salva in dreaming of a day when education is accessible to all Filipino children – with or without disability, deaf or hearing, of a minority or the majority, rich or poor.

We dream of a day when families like that of Micaella need not risk their lives along the creeks of our metropolis to be near a school for the deaf.

You may view the complete article here. The Catholic Ministry to Deaf People has been an active partner of MCCID in providing “Young Adult Health Education Program” for our deaf students since late 90s. They have also supported some of our students as part of their scholarship programs. I have blogged about their organization and their selfless endeavors here, here and here. Mabuhay po kayo! 🙂

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