Tulpen is a newer friend, a woman who I admire for her tremendous strength, sharp wit, and unfailing honesty.
I am drawn to writers who are multi-dimensional, who are real and raw and forthright. Tulpen is all of these things.
I am keeping my words here to a minimum so that you’ll follow Tulpen over to Bad Words once you’ve read her words here.
Thank you, Tulpen, from the bottom of my heart.
No voices — by Tulpen
A couple years ago, I was approached by a Mommy on the playground. She’d noticed Owen’s hearing aids, and pointed out her son, who had a cochlear implant.
One would think that we’d have much to talk about, having such an important aspect of our lives in common.
One would think.
But. She’d made a choice for her son, that made the boys very different indeed.
She explained to me about her decision, and how very difficult it was to make, to mainstream him in a public school.
She finished her spiel, and prompted me to take my turn at expressing the difficulties I’d faced in choosing an education for my child.
She didn’t get what she expected.
There was nothing difficult about my decision. In fact, it never felt like a decision at all, just another gift.
Of course, our situation was unique in that normal was never going to be an option for Owen. Before his hearing loss was discovered, I’d wondered how he’d fare in school, amongst ‘normal’ kids; as the kid with all the scars, with the developmental delays, with the feeding tube.
We’d been warned that he would likely lose his hearing due to massive amounts of Gentamicin given to him in his first weeks of life. But still, I was shocked when at 15 months he was diagnosed with a mild to moderate hearing loss (which has since progressed to profound). I was handed a thick folder full of resources for raising a child with a hearing loss, and pointed in the direction of a woman who ran a school I was lucky enough to live near.
Within the week, she was sitting on my living room floor, signing to Owen. And telling me about her school. The school he’s been attending since he was 15 months old.
A private school for the Deaf that rents out space within a public school system. All academics are in ASL, group and 1:1 speech therapy, English language instruction, with a staff that are all Certified Teachers of the Deaf, 50% of them Deaf themselves. Students may, if and when they wish, attend mainstream classes with an interpreter, or an FM system. Lunch and recess are with the Hearing kids.
This magical little bubble gives him a place to belong that, if not for his Deafness, he wouldn’t have.
A place where each child, though they may have varying levels of residual hearing, all have a language in common. A community, a culture.
Though he may be able to get by in the Hearing world, it will always be with some struggle. Any background noise interferes with his comprehension of spoken language. A crowded room, store, playground? He’ll struggle to hear. He’ll try, and he’ll get some, but he’ll miss plenty. And that will be a fact of his life. He’ll deal with that always.
He’ll also have access to a world without those struggles. A community of Deaf people, who speak his language; one he won’t ever have to struggle to understand.
Watching Owen with his Deaf friends melts my heart. They all speak. Some better than others. And? They all sign. Better than I do.
I’m mostly a self-taught signer, and seeing that Owen and his friend’s skills’ have surpassed my own, I signed up for an ASL class. An advanced, voice off class. I was nervous, and attended the first one alone. The instructor is an animated, funny, fluent, Hearing signer. The atmosphere of the class was very relaxed and welcoming, with mostly Hearing students, but a few Deaf as well.
The next week, Owen begged and begged, and I let him tag along.
As we made our way down the aisle, the class being held in an auditorium, heads turned. Faces lit up. First the students’. Then Owen’s.
Hands and arms and faces welcoming him. Asking him his name. How old is he? What grade is he in?
No voices. Only bodies. And faces. Big smiling faces.
At first, his hands were small, shy, signing close to his body, close to me.
The teacher focused her lesson on Owen, as he was the only Deaf person there at the time. Checking with him to make sure she’d done the sign correctly. He’d let her know if she did, or if she didn’t. A good enough teacher she is to make a mistake and give him the chance to correct her.
A half hour into the class, Erik showed up, animatedly apologizing for being late. He was welcomed by the teacher and the rest of the class and took his seat right behind Owen and introduced himself.
Recognizing Owen as a fellow Deaf person, the two of them took off into an ASL conversation that left every Hearing person in the room a puddle on the floor.
I didn’t even bother to try to follow along. Though It would have been a futile attempt through the tears in my eyes.
I was peering into the little world I’d given him. The world where he isn’t disabled. Where he isn’t different. Where he is loved.
Where he just simply belongs.
If I’d ever doubted my ‘choice’ to give my son this world, though I never have, this moment would have convinced me that I’d done right.
Please, if you are a fan of Small Moments Mondays, go visit Tulpen on her blog. While you’re there, don’t miss When, Another Goodbye Story, Sitting, and With Me, But Not Belonging to Me. I don’t typically point you toward four posts, but each of these is amazing and not to be missed.
I believe that you’ll walk away with a new appreciation of life and, if you’re like me, you’ll just love her.
You can also find Tulpen on Twitter.