Friday, April 22, 2011

A Shared Experience

Last night Christian's school hosted a panel of young adults with hearing loss. Panelists included a bright working Mom with a Cochlear Implant, a high-school senior with bilateral CIs heading to college next year (and who happens to be the head of school's son) and the infamous Josh Swiller. The conversation with the panelists covered everything from how they incorporated today's technology such as iPods and iPads into their lives with their CIs, what their experiences were growing up in mainstreamed schools as children with hearing loss, and what some of their challenges were socially. They spoke of what it REALLY feels like to be mapped, if they REALLY switch between their programs on their processors, if the REALLY take their CIs off to have quiet time. It was a really insightful and inspiring evening.

We had an interesting conversation about the role of American Sign Language, how people with CIs are viewed within the "BIG D" Deaf community, and the role of ASL and the culture of being deaf. I often find myself having to explain to people why we don't use ASL. I think there is a misconception out there that ALL "deaf" people use and need sign language. I also feel that sometimes there may be an expectation by some in the deaf community that despite our choice as a family Christian NEEDS ASL.  I want Christian to learn sign language one day. It will open up new opportunities and expose him to new experiences. Josh had an interesting take on all of this. He suggested that "Rather than deafness being viewed as a culture, it should be viewed as a shared experience". I couldn't agree more.

With all of these debates, I often feel as if I am constantly on the edge of a beautiful pool. From the edge, it's gorgeous. It's vast, and deep, and I know that once I'm in it, I will feel refreshed and relaxed. Before I jump in, I dip my toe in just to test it and I quickly jump back because the gorgeous beautiful pool is actually freezing cold. I step back, and while on the surface it is glistening, the deeper it gets, the murkier the water becomes. I know one day I will take the plunge, but for right now I'm ok enjoying the pool deck with a cocktail in one hand and my Nucleus 5 remote in the other.

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