Was my deaf baby ‘disabled’? If so, I felt an overwhelming urge to fix her
the guardian – Health Opinion
March 24, 2016
By Belinda Barnet
The deaf community doesn’t see deafness as pathology in need of a cure which, as an Australian mother writes, creates a terrible conflict for parents wanting to ‘fix’ a child
Laura’s first word wasn’t “mama” or “dada” – it was “up”. I couldn’t believe my ear at first (I’m profoundly deaf on one side). Our baby, implanted with cochlear implants at 11 months old, was now talking. That first word came at 15 months. I’d spent the last 14 months crouched on the carpet trying to coax any sound at all to issue from her lips.
Like a spectre of the future, this first word predicted her language trajectory over the next year: her vocabulary exploded to over 400 words by the age of two. She is now three, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, with an annoying tendency to sing Disney songs when I’m on the freeway. Her language is “in normal range” – this means she speaks as any other hearing three year old might speak.
It also means I can stop and reflect on what just happened. I don’t think I breathed for the first two years of her life; it was a blur of medical appointments, bad news, waiting rooms, “auditory brainstem response” caps larded with electrodes, and more bad news.
Then there is the conflict that ate away at me for months: was this cherubic little person “disabled”? If so, I felt an overwhelming compulsion to “fix” her.