April 18, 2011 5:59 PM
Thoughts from a hearing mother of a Deaf child
Hearing parents raising a deaf child have many important decisions to make concerning their child’s education and communication. One of the toughest questions to answer is whether to encourage their child to read lips and use a total communication approach or to rely on ASL as the child's means of communication. All children's learning abilities are unique, so this is also a factor that must be considered when determining the best approach for each Deaf child. Some children struggle with lip reading so that ceases to be a choice. But if the child can learn to lip read, is this a viable option?
In raising our deaf child, we selected a total communication approach. We encouraged our child to read lips and we emphasized the use of his voice. Luckily we had a wonderful support program at our school district who echoed our wishes. The school and the teachers stressed oral communication and our child worked hour after hour with speech therapists at school learning how to read lips and to pronounce the vowel sounds and consonants. At home, starting as early as infancy, we would reinforce this as well. We encouraged lip reading in order to understand and communicate in our home.
Our goal in stressing a total communication approach was to help allow our child to adapt better to a hearing world. Hearing parents know how useful it is for a deaf child to be able to lip read in order to help communicate more successfully in everyday situations. For example, when ordering fast food at a restaurant, you will rarely find a clerk who knows ASL.
For Deaf children, proficiency in ASL is essential to effective communication. However, in an ideal world, should Deaf children also be encouraged to read lips and to communicate verbally as well as possible? Is a focus on lip reading skills the ideal approach to use for hearing parents of a Deaf child?