Parents of deaf children hardly have opportunities to share personal experiences of having a deaf child. Although many share feelings of rejection, disillusionment and despair in the early days of raising their deaf child, we have come to learn about their remarkable resilience in overcoming social prejudices and cultural stigma to embrace their child! Therefore, DLU acknowledges the important role parents play in supporting their child as he/she grows up into a young adult. It is for this reason that we work closely with families of the deaf and local communities to improve familial relationships, increase awareness and understanding about the deaf and deaf related issues.
Here are some inspirational interviews conducted by DLU staff with parents/guardians of our deaf beneficiaries:
Uncle shares experience
How old was your son when you realised he was deaf?
He was about 2 years old when his parents realised that he could not respond to verbal instructions. His father died when he was a small boy and as a paternal uncle, I was left with the responsibility of taking care of the family.
What was your reaction when you realised he was deaf?
We tried to look for help because we felt it was important for him to get an education, but it was too expensive to afford his school fees. I had no choice but to let him stay at home.
How did the family react towards his deafness?
We all loved him and treated him in a special way because we believe that all children are equal. Unfortunately, there is nothing practical we could do to secure for him a good future. As he grew up, we left him to work on the farm and till the land – it seemed at that time that there was no choice but for him to become a rural peasant, like most of us.
What are the main challenges experienced in raising your son?
Communication is a major difficulty because we wish to be able to interact with him but it’s extremely difficult. However, the DLU initiative to provide us with Sign Language lessons is very helpful. I am now able to greet and use basic signs as well as send my son to the shops to buy tomatoes, potatoes, etc. Also I share the signs I learnt with family members, which is helping open up wider channels of communication within the family. There is growing improvement in our family relationship as a result of the sign language workshop we, parents of deaf children, attended. We pray that DLU continues with more of these sessions in the future to enable families of the deaf improve communication.
How do you communicate with your child?
I am using basic signs as I now have basic communication skills in sign language. I am also more aware about approaching a deaf person and being sensitive to their communication needs. So I endeavor to use all forms of communication, even writing or drawing.
What advice would you give to parents of deaf children who have just learnt that their child is deaf?
Treat the deaf child equally and give them opportunities just like your hearing children. The deaf child is capable of doing the same things as your hearing children. They should never feel ignored or isolated. Never discriminate or exclude your deaf child – involve them in all family affairs and activities.
What are your future hopes for your child?
I hope that my son will become somebody valuable in the future and that he’ll become a self-reliant and productive individual, which is important for our family, community and country.
How do you feel about DLU’s support towards your child and family?
I’m so happy with DLU for the exceptional opportunities the organisation is providing for my son to receive an education. I’m also pleased that DLU is sensitising parents and communities about deafness, the need to improve relationships with deaf individuals in our local communities to build bridges of understanding and appreciation of the unique talents deaf people possess.