I am one of the lucky 30% who did not grow up with language deprivation.
I was born before universal neonatal hearing screening, and my parents had no idea that they could have a child who couldn't hear. After all, they were both hearing, as were all their siblings and their parents. By six months of age, it was apparent to my family that I was not responding to environmental sounds, and I was diagnosed with moderate to severe hearing loss. I started early intervention services right away. My hearing parents followed medical and cultural advice and raised me orally. Signing was discouraged because doctors told my parents that I would never learn to speak English if I used ASL as a "crutch."
So, my parents followed the doctor's advice and sent me to hearing schools (mainstream), where I was in honors classes, receiving no special support. Every year, I was the only d/Deaf student in my school, with the rare exceptions where my younger sister (4 grades below me and hard of hearing) shared a building. I enrolled at Drew University, an excellent and small liberal arts school following high school. I did well there, primarily because of the smaller class sizes and the addition of note-taking support. After obtaining my BA, I still felt like something was missing from my life, so I decided to learn American Sign Language at Ocean Community College with Kathleen Basilotto.
Once I had a grasp of ASL, I knew what I was supposed to do. I enrolled in Rutgers' Masters in Social Work program, intending to focus my education on issues related to Deafness and disability. After graduation, I worked for several years before returning to Rutgers to pursue my Doctorate in Social Work. I am the second Deaf person to earn a doctorate from Rutgers, and the second Deaf DSW in the United States. According to Deaf researchers, I am #755 of Deaf people who have received a doctorate since 1743.
It should go without saying, but all parents want what's best for their child, but sometimes what's best isn't always evident or straightforward or easy.
My father, who died in 2020, always told me that the important things in life are worth working hard for. During this project, my mother and I had many discussions about my childhood and her choices as a parent who wants what's best for their children. She set me up for success, though I was raised orally. That's because my hearing loss was diagnosed early (at six months, which is a rarity before universal neonatal hearing screening), bilateral hearing aids work well for me, and my mother was at home with me when I was younger, reading to me, bringing me to intensive services like audiology and speech, and making sure I was surrounded by accessible language.
Thank you, Mom.
Though I didn't grow up language-deprived, I see the devastation of a life without a strong language foundation daily in my clinical work with d/Deaf adults. I see the adverse effects of increased addiction, estrangement from their birth families, increased risk of abuse and intimate partner violence, poverty, and wasted promise.
I know it doesn't have to be this way. I hope that this website has been helpful for your and your family, and I hope you use ASL in your home and provide your d/Deaf child a chance to explore their d/Deaf identity, knowing that you love and support them always.