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SWC Online Voices

September 2009


by Kim Ward

This month our focus is on deaf family life. Over the past couple years the blogosphere has given me a fascinating look into the everyday lives of parents raising children who are deaf. We all know that raising any child is challenging. In addition to routine parenting problems, these parents must navigate a bewildering forest of options with little to no support and become experts on all things deaf — often before their child’s first birthday.

Statistically, some estimate the number of deaf children with hearing parents as high as 90%. Most of these young parents have never seen a hearing aid up close. They could not define the term cochlear implant, have never known anyone fluent in American Sign Language. They do not know how to change a hearing aid battery, or how to keep a six month old from eating a hearing aid. It would be an understatement to say they are unprepared. And yet the early language development of their deaf children depends on their abilities to assess vital information and make critical decisions that will impact their children’s future opportunities decades from now.

Technology is better than ever before. With modern digital hearing aids and babies implanted as young as twelve months, deaf children today are growing up with many options never thought possible. Thanks to technology many deaf children today learn to speak well. They may even learn foreign languages, how to sing or play musical instruments. It’s an exciting time.

We at the SayWhatClub, as former deaf children, current hearing aid and CI wearers, and deaf parents might ask ourselves what we can do to help these young parents cope with the challenges and decisions they face. What insights can we offer? How can we reach out to them? How can we support this future generation of deaf youngsters and their parents?

I interviewed three awesome moms. The first mom is Val. Val has two young deaf children — Gage and Brook — who both wear cochlear implants. She maintains a blog about raising deaf children with cochlear implants called “Cochlear Kids.” Additionally she is a blog moderator for a blog aggregator called Deaf Village, a collection of blogs about deaf family life and support services. Val has recently published a guide for parents of deaf children called I’m All Ears.

The second mom is Jodi Cutler del Torre. Jodi is the mother of two bilingual children who speak English and Italian — Jordan was born deaf and he wears a cochlear implant. Sophia can hear. Jodi is heavily involved in international support and advocacy for parents of deaf children. Recently she published a fictional book for children called Rally Caps, about a boy who plays baseball and wears a Cochlear Implant. Additionally, she maintains a blog about family life in Italy called An American Mom in Tuscany.

The third mom is Karen Putz, who has three bilingual deaf children who wear hearing aids, speak fluent English and American Sign Language. Karen works as a manager in the voice carry-over for ZVRS, a video phone company. Karen is involved in several deaf advocacy issues. Currently she is working toward getting a bill passed that may provide insurance coverage for hearing aids in her state, as well as H.R. 3101: Twenty-first Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009 — a bill before congress that will require access to Internet videos. In her spare time she keeps a blog about deaf family life called, A Deaf Mom Shares Her World.


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