I’m sitting in a restaurant in Northbrook as I type this. I have just dropped off my daughter at the International Center for Deafness and the Arts (ICODA) and I’m passing the time as she practices for the upcoming Peter Pan play. Three, sometimes, four times a week, we make the one hour trek from our home to the tiny theatre where she joins a group of deaf and hard of hearing kids of all ages. Each and every time, she’s so excited to go and hang with her friends.
“Hey Mom, look at this neat ASL phrase I learned today!” she signs.
She’s picking up the lingo, learning the slang and gaining more and more confidence each day as she converses with the kids. This is from the kid who spoke entire sentences at the age of fourteen months and wanted nothing to do with ASL when her hearing suddenly went south at the age of four. She’s the hard of hearing kid who spends time yakking on the phone with her best friend from Texas, the one who is quick to raise her hand at school and jump into a hot debate– the child that I thought would never embrace sign.
And here she is, surrounded by a group of kids who are signing faster than the speed of light and she’s not shying away– she’s right in there asking them to repeat. Sign it again, she signs, when the rapid-fire signing “goes over her head.”
With a start, I realize she’s applying the same advocating technique that we’ve taught her over and over throughout the years– when communication doesn’t happen, change it so that it does. Ask for a repeat, ask for a re-phrase, ask for it in a way that gets the message understood. She’s soaking up the ASL and incorporating it– and loving it.
There was a time she hated it.
“Mom, don’t sign. I don’t need it. I can hear you just fine.”
It has been fun watching the metamorphasis over the years, how the diverse communication modes have weaved in and out of her life and how she’s grown and changed. I love how she’s been able to find her niche with a variety of friends– hearing, hard of hearing, deaf/Deaf.
I’m often reminded of something that I first heard from Janet DesGeorges and Leeanne Seaver about the parenting journey when it comes to making choices for our kids:
Nothing is set in stone.
Sometimes when we set out on a certain path, we think we’re heading down that path for a long time. And sometimes our kids lead us down a different path or change the direction in our sails.
Sometimes the time is just right for a new direction and as parents, we just have to give our kids the opportunity to explore all the different paths.