Friday, October 11, 2013

Cuehood: A Deaf Parent's Perspective

A new chapter in my life has begun now that my own daughter, Arabella, was born on October 10, 2013. Already my wife and I have been cueing to her, even though her vision currently isn't strong enough to distinguish between hand shapes. However, we know that we want to raise our child as a cueing family and we've committed to the idea that we will cue everything we say to her because we want to be models of cued language for her so she understands the importance of Cued Speech in our lives.

Already I'm imagining what life would be like five, ten, even fifteen years down the road as a parent with a child whose hearing status is yet to be determined (most likely hearing, but you never know with genetics). One thing that is certain for sure is that we will take every opportunity to immerse our daughter in cueing environments and expose her to a large variety of cuers as to increase her receptive and expressive skills. Who knows if Arabella will end up going down a similar path as many CODAs have in regards to accessibility services for the deaf and hard of hearing. It'd be interesting to see if she ends up being a cued language transliterator, at least to support herself as she pursues her dreams.

Regardless of the passion that my wife and I have for Cued Speech, we know we'll support our daughter as she pursues whatever dreams she has set for herself, even if those dreams have nothing to do with Cued Speech. What we will do is make sure that Arabella understands the importance Cued Speech has in our lives and the role that her parents have played in increasing awareness and availability of resources related to Cued Speech.

In the event that Arabella does have hearing loss, I will work to ensure that Arabella does not have to face the same struggles that my wife and I experienced growing up in terms of acceptance and support from the greater deaf community and professionals. We will make sure that our school district is held accountable for providing quality cued language services and that professionals will be made aware of their own biases regarding different modalities and teaching philosophies.

If we end up facing opposition, I know that we shall overcome these barriers because of our passion, education, personal experiences, and the fact that the law is on our side. No one will tell us that we need to use sign language or that we need to implant her early on or that we need to put her in a center-based program because that's the only way she can receive cued language services.

The cueing community continues to grow because more and more people are recognizing the implications for visual learning and visual languages in terms of achieving goals that were previously difficult to reach without extensive services and exclusion from the mainstream setting. Yet the availability of services is not keeping up with increased demand.

The fact is that many parents of cuers are still facing challenges in the educational setting and they are struggling to ensure that their own children have consistent access to cued language services. Some are still being told that Cued Speech is not appropriate for spoken language acquisition and literacy development. Others are told that sign language services would be more appropriate in the educational setting, regardless of the fact that Cued Speech is the primary mode of communication in the family unit. The research and anecdotal evidence is pointing to the fact that Cued Speech does support specific outcomes related to language and literacy, yet people's personal biases are still getting in the way.

Furthermore, adult cuers still struggle to get access to cued language for health care to legal services and are resigned to using sign language services when there is no other option, even though their desire is to have direct access to spoken language through Cued Speech. Even my wife and I have been frustrated with the accessibility process in regards to our requests for cued language transliterators. There is much work to be done.

Arabella has been and will continue to be my largest source of inspiration for supporting cuers from all walks of life. Because of the struggles many cuers face, I will keep working on behalf of these cuers in terms of increasing availability of cued language services and awareness among the mainstream population for supporting different populations in regards to visual learning and access.

In the end parents chose Cued Speech because they saw the potential for a lifestyle that allowed for ease of spoken language-based communication and wanted to give their children the opportunity to live full lives as independent adults who had diverse skill sets in terms of language, literacy, and socialization. For my family, Cued Speech is a means of access, a way of life, and our core identity as people with hearing loss. Arabella's own identity will also be shaped by the presence of Cued Speech in our lives, therefore developing her own sense of cuehood, regardless of hearing status. She will grow up knowing how important Cued Speech is to her parents.


Caroline Eacho said...


Mary Lou Cues said...

Congratulations on the birth of Arabella! I am absolutely in awe of this post, and am inspired to push forward with my passion for Cued Speech! How wonderful that you are exposing her to CS on her first days of life, regardless of how much she can see or hear. Know that there are many people, like me, who support what you are doing!