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Listen to me.

All parents can have days when everything goes wrong. Ms. Bose, mother of two children who are deaf, makes clear that the worst part of the experience is feeling alone and unheard.

I DON'T WANT TO INSPIRE ANYONE with my writing. I want to hurt someone the way I'm feeling hurt myself right now. I want to kick, scratch and use my whole body in language. Sometimes I feel so proud of myself, of what I have overcome. Today I feel sad.

I had a temper tantrum with some slob who took my parking place at the grocery store. You try waiting for someone to pull out of a slot near the entrance so you don't have to walk far with a deaf seven-year-old, a four-year-old and a deaf 14-month-old, and then have some nerd whip in from the other direction.

Even polite people, when they see you walking in a crowded parking lot with three kids, will toot to let you know they are approaching. But deafness is invisible, two of my three don't hear the horns. Mothers with deaf children don't get "handicapped" parking places.

Then I went to the hardware store. It was busy and noisy. The man in front of me in line marveled at how my baby could sleep on my shoulder amidst the noise. "She's deaf," I told him. "Oh, I'm sorry," he said. "Two of my three kids were born deaf," I added. "I'm so sorry," he said. I went home and cried. Having a bad day. Yes. Having a bad life. Some days I don't feel like that. Today I do.

My son who is deaf is standing near me as I type this. He's seven and cannot read. Lucky for him. This article would depress him, because he loves me and would be sad to see he might be part of my depression. My baby is standing at my other side wanting my love. I do love her, but I cannot attend to her right now.

DOES ANYONE UNDERSTAND?

I need to pour my heart out. Complain that my life is tough and nobody understands. Do you know of anyone whose two out of three kids were born deaf, who never met a deaf person in her life until she gave birth to one? Neither do I, unless I count myself and my husband. He's gone on a business trip now. Ever try getting a babysitter for deaf kids?

My children's grandparents won't learn sign language. I need $3000 now for hearing aids for my kids, even though I don't think they do any good and my kids don't like wearing them. The experts tell me they feel the kids need them.

I wonder if the experts would change their tune if they had prelingually deaf children at home and not just occasional superficial encounters with them. Please, don't ask about insurance. There is a loophole. Children born deaf are excluded by a clause called "pre-existing condition."

One time, a grandparent came to visit and was reduced to tears. Communication was impossible. We aren't invited to anyone's home anymore. People stare at us on the streets. Sign language is almost impossible to hide, and people have this unquenchable fascination with watching it, but an unshakable refusal to learn it.

NO INSPIRATIONAL STORIES PLEASE

Children who are deaf are no more mute than hearing children. They make noise. Mine don't have volume control. Again, how people stare. It seems as if everyone has a "true story" to tell of a deaf friend of a friend who is so remarkable at reading lips. They always insist the "inspirational deaf person" was born deaf.

To this "inspiration" I want to say "bullshit." The basis of language is learned in the first two or three years of life. It is extremely rare for a person born profoundly deaf to read lips, etc., no matter what you "hear" about deaf legends. And for the record, Marlee Matlin and Helen Keller were not born deaf, even though I do have great respect for them. ,

Recently I took my four-year-old hearing daughter to a seminar at the community college to learn sign language. I had told them in advance her age. No problem, I was told. It turned out to be almost entirely fingerspelling. My four-year-old doesn't know her alphabet yet, let alone how to spell. "Deaf persons learn through copying," she was told. Just copy our hand movements. That is how deaf people learn."

They failed to mention most deaf children are not proficient spellers, so why learn fingerspelling to communicate with deaf children? My four-year-old became frustrated and became a behavior problem, so we left. We wasted our money.

I have called legal aid services to see if we could take sign language classes for free. It would take an act of Congress I was told. Do you realize congressmen don't even have TDD's. People who are deaf have fewer rights than people who are blind. Even though there is a higher frequency of deafness at birth than blindness, unlike blindness, it is not routine to check for deafness in newborns.

My little boy is so lonely. I watch him at the playground. Sometimes children in the neighborhood mock his hand signals as they pass our house. My hearing daughter gets invited to birthday parties. My son does not. It seems as if people think of deafness as they do AIDS. Is it a fear of the unknown, that they will feel helpless because they do not share the same language?

My son gets so frustrated he has temper tantrums. I guess today I am having one of my own. So, I am writing this article in the hope of being heard. I can hear, but it seems as if so many of the people who touch my life do not.

Should I send my children away to a place far from home where they will be with others like themselves, or keep them at home isolated in the bosom of their family? If only those close to my family could open their hearts and learn sign language. Stealing my parking place is not such a big deal, but robbing my children of friendship is a big offense that manifests itself in the day-to-day tedium of life.

I guess I'm just having one of those days. Thanks for listening. Now, back to my children.

Jeanne Bose lives in New Orleans, La., with her husband, John, and her children, Garrett, 8, Martha, 6, and Charlotte, 2. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in Art Education from Purdue University.
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Title Annotation:mother of deaf children
Author:Bose, Jeanne
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Jun 1, 1991
Words:1102
Previous Article:Preparing for the mainstream.
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