Kim's Story: A mother's perspective of raising a deaf child
HI! My name is Kim Martinez, and I am proud to say, I am a mother of a deaf child. She is now 26, and I would not change the way she is. I know most mothers say this, but this is so true for me. When God gives you something special like this, you do one thing…..PUNT!!
I am not going to say this has been easy, it has been really hard actually, but because of the gift of a deaf child, it shaped her sister, my husband, myself, and most of all, OUR FAMILY!
We found out Lizzy was deaf when she was 18 months old. I have to admit, I felt guilty for not recognizing it earlier. God knows it was overwhelming, to say the least, to hear that our daughter was not "perfect." What’s perfect anyway????
I would say she was pretty darn perfect. As for overwhelming, let’s just say I went through a whirlwind of emotions. Sad, happy, shocked, concerned, worried, but I really had to go through all of those emotions, to be the mom that I became, because of her. I literally sat on the kitchen floor and cried for 3 days while the world went on around me. Thank the Lord my husband was there. I think I just needed to “process” what “our” future would be like.
The next question was, “what do we do now?” In 1986, there was no Internet, very little information, like there is now, so, MOM and Dad’s, thank your lucky stars, and jump on that Internet! If I had the information then, that there is now, it would have been easier, to say the least. But what does not kill us makes us stronger!
I was very fortunate to have a Center Based Total Communication School near us. I did hear about a School for the Deaf, but after some calling around, there is NO WAY, I could leave my child in a dorm, and see her on the weekend. Not my cup of tea! It may be good for others, but not us. And that’s ok, different strokes for different folks.
School was FUN!! She was a sponge and I have to say, she made it EASY! So receptive to sign, and loved communication. As soon as she was given a language, she TOOK OFF! She made us love the language. Sign Language was “our language” in our home.
My daughter came home with SO many new signs. I thought we had given her a "base," but wow, there was so much out there that we still had to learn, and putting her in a deaf and hard of hearing program was the way to go. She taught us more than we taught her. Matter of fact, I am still learning. She would come home from college, and teach me a “slew” of new vocabulary. Still to this day, when she comes home for a visit, I am still learning. Keep your eyes open to the deaf world, they can teach us so much and we will never stop learning. It’s their language, "listen to them." No pun indented!
Elementary school was pretty smooth sailing, even though I am pretty sure that I drove the teachers crazy. Communication books were my saving grace.
We were able to "keep in touch" between the happenings of our household and the school. I guess I didn’t take into consideration that the teacher was trying to teach my child, and they didn’t have time to write me a "journal" like I did to them. Communication is the key!! Remember that.
Middle school was very trying, to say the least. It doesn’t matter if your child is hearing or deaf, they still have hormones, feelings and MIDDLE SCHOOL DRAMA! YUCK!!
We had a lot of struggles, a switch of home district schools, socialization issues, and did I mention hormones???? There were a lot of concerns, which I hope my daughter will tell you about later in a personal blog of her own.
I am really proud to share with you "the normalcy" of High School. Lizzy was mainstreamed into all her classes with ALL of her hearing friends. She went into the Deaf Education Classroom for English and minor support. She maintained an A-B average grade through all of her high school years. She was a pitcher on a varsity softball team for 4 years, played volleyball, and socialized "nonstop." She had an enormous amount of hearing friends along with her deaf friends. ALL of her hearing friends knew sign. I feel that was the MOST important part of her education!! She was "included" in all events, conversations, and "gossip." All of her friends were considerate of how much she was missing if they didn’t sign to her. She was very lucky to say the least. I was lucky!
Lizzy graduated and we were very proud, TIRED, but proud. I will be completely honest with you. It’s not easy at all! There were many nights of homework, probably every night. Sitting with her, helping her, and if she didn’t get it one way, we would find another way for her to comprehend it. She was very smart, but with a language deficit sometimes you have to find another way to explain it. Drawing it out, acting it out, standing on your head… whatever it takes. There were many times that I became frustrated, and she became frustrated with me, so we either had to take a break, or my husband would take over. In the end, she "got it," and that meant a successful child.
Lizzy attended Gallaudet University for 5 years and graduated with her teaching degree in Education. Wow, my child is a Teacher! That is certainly a very proud thing to say! She always said she wanted to be a teacher because she wanted to give back to deaf students what she received in her schooling.
You know, in the end, it took a lot of work, a lot of laughs, a lot of tears, but most of all; we treated her like any hearing child. She never used her deafness as an "excuse." She was expected to do and act like her hearing younger sister; there was nothing different about her. We use to say, "your ears are broke, big deal."
I would not change her for the world, and I could not imagine her any different. I have become who I am today, because of her. I am working in a school district with deaf and cognitive students and love my job. I didn’t wake up and say, "I want a deaf child." I was given this gift, and I un-wrapped it and shared it with the world. Now I am here to share with you, "my gift." My overall suggestion, as a mom of a deaf child is, COMMUNICATE. Learn sign language or whatever mode of communication you use, explain to them everything, never leave them out, foster independence, protect, and most of all LOVE THEM FOR WHO THEY ARE!