My Daughter Doesn’t Know She Is A Child of Deaf Adults
My daughter, Coral doesn’t know she is a child of deaf adults (CODA).
We have been pretending to be hearing for a bit longer than two years now. We rocked out to the music. We chatted with each other in gibberish. We toss an object across the room and pretended to hear the noise. Out in the public, we nodded every time people spoke to us and replied back in gibberish. Our family and friends knew about our secret plan and they went along with it.
When do you think is an appropriate time to inform Coral that she is a child of deaf adults?
I am considering maybe once she turns 18, so we do not have to pay for her therapy sessions.
Just kidding!! 😉
Why do I say a child of deaf adults rather than deaf parents?
The term, Child of Deaf Adult/s (CODA) is commonly used in the deaf community to describe hearing children born to deaf parents. When I chat with deaf people, I tell them I have a CODA. With hearing people, I say I have a hearing child. She is a part of the CODA community jumping between the deaf and the hearing worlds.
There are two acronyms, CODA and KODA (kids of deaf adults). People would use CODA to describe older children and KODA for younger children.
Coral is only two-years-old. She knows she has parents just like everybody else, but she has no idea that we are different from most parents. Having Deaf parents is normal for her because she doesn’t know of another way of life. She is hearing, but we are raising her in a Deaf environment.
What does my Deaf household look like?
We have conversations in American Sign Language, have closed captioning on TV always, possibly have the TV volume on really loud or on mute, rely on waving our arms in the air, flashing lights or stomping our feet on the floor to get someone’s attention, have that annoying chirping sound coming from the fire alarm (low battery, don’t ask me how often this happen), write on papers or texting on phones to communicate with non-signers, and we make calls through a video phone company.
Coral was exposed to the deaf culture when she was born because we signed to her right away. It was strange for us to sign to a newborn because she barely looked at us. She seldom paid attention to our signs as she grew. Imagine my surprise when at hardly six-months-old, she signed her first word, NO. She waved her index finger at people like the image above, our dogs or objects and signed, “NO!”
Coral LOVES to do facial expressions from early on. When she signs or says words, they often come with facial expressions. She also makes a lot of noises when she signs just like we do. Don’t assume that deaf households are quiet because trust me… they are not. deaf people are loud!
From there, her sign language and spoken language flourished. She grew into her bilingual and bicultural identity.
Wait a minute! How did she learn to speak if we don’t speak at all?
We live in a hearing world. There is noise everywhere. She listened, surprisingly paid attention and learned to speak on her own. We may have watched a bit too much Youtube shows, listened to audible books and countless songs, however, they helped her to learn. We are also surrounded by hearing family and friends. So, she is ALWAYS exposed to the hearing world.
She knows to tap on my leg or shoulder to get my attention. She started doing that when she was an infant. Before she could walk, she crawled up to me and tapped on my leg. She knows to maintain eye contact while communicating with other people. However, she is being a typical 2-years-old nowadays so she ignores people on purpose.
Coral truly believes that all people know how to sign.
Boy, how I wish that could be true. She gets discouraged when she tries to sign to other kids and they do not acknowledge her. She gets puzzled when she signs to non-signers and they don’t understand her. When she is around family, she prefers to sign even though they all are hearing and can speak.
When she gets older, she will realize that her parents cannot hear nor talk with their voices.
I hope when that day comes, Coral will be proud of her Deaf parents and of her bilingual & bicultural identity as a CODA.
It has been a grand adventure after finding out that my daughter was hearing navigating through life raising a hearing bilingual & bicultural toddler.
UPDATE (as of November 2018): I now have two CODAs (hearing children of deaf adults). Coral is 5 years old and Ocean is 1 year old. Coral knows we are deaf and is soooooo proud to be a child of Deaf adults. She enjoys growing up with deaf parents and still prefers to sign rather than speak. I will never forget the beginning of when she started to realize that I didn’t hear her behind me. Since Ocean is only 1, he has no clue about deafness. However, he has started signing and tapping on me to get my attention. He loves to watch and dance when his big sister sign songs.