What is a Deaf Mentor?

Well, I intended on posting our second VLOG during Deaf Awareness Week last week, but it has been quite a couple of weeks, and I missed the boat!  Continuing with awareness anyway!  😉   Hello again from Susan and Katie!!  In this VLOG, we introduce my little boy, Odin, and share a little about Deaf Mentors!

 

As a hearing parent, learning that your child doesn’t hear can be quite a bit of a shock.   We experienced such a mixture of emotions.  Griffin and I felt scared, isolated, angry (why him?), worried and yes, sad…at first.  Then we began to explore deafness, and those emotions began to transform into excitement, honor, happiness, pride, contentment, and passion.  Don’t get me wrong, we still have a very long road ahead, and we still have so many ups and downs regarding our emotions, struggles and triumphs, but our perspectives have changed immensely in the positive direction with this new lens.

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There are soooo many things to learn as a parent.  There is no manual (much to my chagrin, being both a bookworm and very Type A).  All we can do is lean on our personal experiences from growing up and what we learn “on the job.”  So finding out your child is different from you in a very big way and that you have absolutely no experience or knowledge to pull from is downright terrifying.  We had never met anyone who is profoundly deaf before Odin, so we had no idea what deafness even meant.  We had no idea what it would mean for him as he grew up.  What it would mean for our family.  What it would mean for communicating with and teaching him.  What it would mean for expressing our love.  We were afraid.

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Finding the time to learn about Odin’s deafness as well as learning a new language has been an incredible challenge and has at times felt impossible and hopeless.  However, every time we stop to look back at where we’ve been, we see all our work and efforts have been so worth it because they have connected us so much with him and given us comfort and confidence in the options we have made available to him.  The truth is, he can do anything!  The only thing he can’t do is hear.  We chose to give him cochlear implants so that he has access to sound in this hearing world.  With CIs, the goal is that the “can’t hear” is a bit less challenging for him.  Even with CIs, he will still ALWAYS be deaf and can return to silence any time he takes his CIs off.  Ultimately, we want him to be able to make his own choices regarding his communication style.  So in order to give him the ability to make these choices, there is so much of his deafness that we want to explore and tap into, so much that we want him to grow up knowing and being able to access for himself.

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That is a LOT of information to sort through and why I highly, highly recommend a Deaf Mentor.

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What do you think of when you see/hear “hearing loss, deaf, hard of hearing?” (Notice I didn’t say “hearing impaired.”J) For us, there were so many thoughts and questions.  We imagined struggle.  We imagined loneliness.  We pictured doctor appointments, hearing equipment, and therapies.  We saw adversity and envisioned bullying.  Will kids play with him on the playground?  Will my son have a hard time in school?  Will he be able to get a job one day?  Will he find love and deep, meaningful friendships throughout his life?  Will he respect the choices we’ve made for him as parents?  Will he KNOW we love him?  These are really fucking tough questions.  We need help.  We need reassurance.  We need strength, support and friendship.  We need someone who’s been there and done that.  Sure, times have changed.  Opinions and technology and research surrounding deafness have changed.  These things are all continuing to change, but the constant for me is that I still don’t have the personal experience to fully empathize with Odin and comfort him when I just don’t understand what he’s going through.  Deaf Mentors are Deaf or Hard of Hearing adults who are fluent in American Sign Language and trained to work with and educate families and children under these very circumstances.  They can be our eyes to help us perceive what deafness is like for our children.  They can be our hands to help us with a beautiful language and way of communicating with our babies.  They can be our doors into a magnificent, rich Deaf Culture and Community that our children can be a part of.  They can be role models for our boys and girls, showing them how they, too, can succeed and thrive.  Susan is our Deaf Mentor, and she has been such a gift to our family and to Odin.  She is so much more than someone who comes to our house and teaches Odin to sign.  She has become part of our family, and we treasure her.  You may not find a Susan, but if you have a little one with hearing loss, I strongly encourage you to look into getting a Deaf Mentor and making contacts with other people who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing.  There’s so much to learn and gain from their perspectives, and it makes such a difference to walk with someone who has been down a similar path!  We hope you enjoy!

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