Follow-up to “Community”

It’s so nice to have guest writers from time to time if not for any other reason, than to give you a break from me! Today I am posting a well-written and thought-provoking comment from Dr. M.E. Osborne, whom I share a “community” with at the Cochlear Community. Feel free to leave your comments (as always), and if you like I can forward personal messages to her via email.

Dr. M. E. Osborne

Denise : We are all thankful you are a member of the Cochlear Community. You bring us different, clear viewpoints and concepts to think about.

Your description of the grocery store incident put me there as if I had been a butterfly on the top shelf. Some thoughts flew instantly to mind, and others developed as I thought about the incident throughout the day.

FIRST: How sorry I am for the little boy; he is being taught prejudices. If a parent actively, consciously imparts a narrow connotation of “normal” – for 7 years – you know there are other interrelationship terms that are also skewed.

SECOND: I take it she also was hearing impaired and was referring to “normal” in the “deaf community” through her experiences and the results of the choices she made. By 7 years of age a child’s basic personality and framework of values are 80% set. But the input of details that determine our ability to make our own choices is only about 30% set [Kaugher, 2004] That little boy is on the cusp of making important choices for himself.

His language development is still open. Unless his parents permit his examination, it will be another 11 or 14 years [depending on “legal age for self-care” in the state where he is then living]. Those of us in the Cochlear Community each know at least three people who had no hearing until Cochlear Implant[s] happened. That might be case for that little boy. He would be eligible for speech/ auditory/ aural/ oral services. He might come to speak as clearly as a couple of Cochlear Volunteers. IF THE MOTHER’S ATTITUDE PREVAILS, HE WILL NOT HAVE THAT CHANCE EARLY IN HIS LIFE. HOW TRAGIC.

THIRD: You were SO much more polite than I would have been. I would have flown after her to “ask” her, HOW DARE SHE MAKE THAT IMPORTANT CHOICE FOR HIM!  No matter how I had to communicate – sign with the ASL I remember, spell words one letter at a time, or write it. She would understand my intense furor with her making life choices for another person.

She is exactly the type of parent who drives people in my chosen area of expertise out of our minds. She is afraid of technology and teaching that prejudice to a child, not describing options.

[For those of my Cochlear Cousins who do not know, one of my doctoral concentration areas is Special Education Administration. The program I completed was heavy in being an advocate for the client – especially for youngsters.]

Then I would have emphatically flown off into “WHAT IS ‘NORMAL’ IS SITUATIONAL.” The two of them “out in the usual world in a grocery store, using ASL to communicate,” was not normal right then – unless everyone in the store at the same time was using ASL

“Normal” implies behaviors, clothing, manners, foods, rules, customs etc. that are highly predominant among a group of people.

THERE IS NO ONE NORMAL FOR EVERYWHERE, ANYTIME.  I have lived both as a citizen and as a military member, literally around the world; traveled extensively on four continents, and have been privileged to be part of many social communities. Communities may be defined internally – people who have chosen to be self-segregated from interaction/ participation with those outside. Communities may be people forced to separate, by customs, laws, etc. Communities may be segregated from each other on some binding reason the members consider enough – an example is the “upstate homies” and the “downstate homies” in a juvenile prison.

While teaching in a southern city, I was accepted by the Deaf Community as one of them because I tutored/ taught the children. The same reason was in force in a northern city as I taught three young people for 6 years. Their three “accompanying interpreters” in public school, agreed to provide a concentrated ASL class for the 24 teachers involved.

What are perceived as communities, sometimes must merge, not just function, but each individual interact successfully. Consider the situation: Nancie was one of the school interpreters; Black; attending an active Catholic church with an almost total Black congregation, and the congregation kept many traditions of Black, southern churches – the Mother of the Church and the Sodality Members wore white, all other members wore navy blue, to any church service. Nancie’s mother passed away. The three students, the two other interpreters,  all 24 teachers, students close to the signing student’s, & the students’ families, piled into a school bus at the school located on the fringes of the city, to ride deep into the city,  down to the river. In the melee of people were Black, European, Hispanic, Jews, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, hearing, partial hearing, and totally deaf. We were greeted and welcomed by the Priest and the Mother of the Church. You bet we had it together … because it meant something to Nancie, and us. We sat behind the Deaf Community – one of the two interpreters signed in the front – the other about in the middle, both up high enough to be seen. All teachers, families, etc were in navy blue dresses or suits. The Catholics spread out through the group to help the others get through a completely sung, old fashioned, high Mass. [For those of you who wonder, the cemetery was a short drive to the north. Yes, our bright yellow school bus was in it.]

Imagine the chaos, the pathos, the inflicted insults and injury had every individual clung only to what made them comfortable.

Currently I am in the USA, living in a SC rural area near an average small city, 50K people.  Permit me to list some things that might not be the norm, the usual, in public situations:

  • ASL, or for that matter, any language other than English;
  • an assistance dog, lemur, ferret, or tree monkey;
  • a lady who covers the left side of her head, but puts a finger in her right ear when eight F-16s go fly low, landing/ taking off.    [Guess who with a BAHA]
  • people using heavy, metal, leather braces and cup crutches;
  • families of 21 children;
  • people wearing clothing that openly indicates their choice of religion/ religious practices – Hutterite plain clothes, burqa, nuns in habits, yarmulke/ Kippah;
  • people with little screens on their head attached to a weird looking hearing thingy – you can see one on Rush Limbaugh.

Some things that here are the norm:

  • No matter the time of day, lots and lots of men and women in military uniforms for the Air Force or Army  [NOT Navy or Marines] Shaw AFBase is in Sumter, Ft. Jackson Training facility is in Columbia, and the 3rd Army is coming to Sumter piece by piece
  • Many large, off road capable, pick-ups with a full gun rack inside the back window of the cab. Often there is not a need to lock the truck, there are a couple sets of large barking teeth on guard
  • After people have been home from medical, banking, other “white-collar” jobs, welding shops, construction, several groups of motorcycle riders gather – Legion Riders, Sons of God, Hyundai Hots – each in a different huge, parking lot
  • Men and women who proudly have Concealed Weapons Permits, carry their handgun, and love to take them out [unload all] and compare. [Me too]

NONE OF THE LAST FOUR ITEMS WOULD BE “NORMAL” IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO AND ZIP CODE 60625.

Thank Our Lord for people in the Cochlear Community who

  • chose to create and maintain an open, welcoming community
  • accept input from professionals, family, and friends in making decisions; and also welcome the prayers of us who offer them
  • respect and embrace the decisions community members make
  • have the personal courage – sometimes at the cost of pride – to ask for support from others who also live with Cochlear technology
  • encourage us who are slugging our way through our CI/Baha  journey by sharing in both disappointments and joys
  • are ready to show their own personal hearing technology to people – recently I listened to a campaign manager explain that a car magnet was worth 300 votes for a political candidate – so I was thinking,  can we assume every CI magnet explained will bring 300 more people to hearing ?  Maybe the person spoken to, maybe someone they talk to ?
  • belong to SEVERAL social communities and move comfortably from one to another – even if we make a mistake now and then – such as when I heard my name called in exasperation in Eastern Star meeting, and snapped to my feet, smartly made a Navy military about face, to attention, and said sharply, “Ma’am”. Wrong community. The response should have been to stand graciously, make a small bow, and say respectfully, “Worthy Matron.”
  • are not afraid to risk making new friendships, that begin in the ether of the Internet, and because of geography, might never move to in-person friendships.

Dr. M.E. Osborne

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3 thoughts on “Follow-up to “Community”

  1. Well, I think the boy was only interested in CI because he thinks the dog would go with it. But being in the deaf culture is normal for her. Being deaf is normal so let her think so. Not everyone feel they have to fix their hearing.

  2. I agree that the boy equated “getting a CI” with “getting a dog” – neither of which he had. I also agree that Deaf culture is normal for the mother as I believe I can make a fairly accurate presumption that she is culturally Deaf. I think what the follow-up discussion and comments left on the original blog post are pointing out the need for, is equality in “normal”. Everyone has the right to their own normal, and just because someone is DIFFERENT, this does not mean that they should be labeled as “not normal”, nor should someone perpetuate prejudice and stereotypes when doing so. Thank you for your comment!

  3. I hadn’t assumed the mom was also deaf, although the way I see it, that’s not the real issue.

    To DeafA – yes, being in the deaf culture is normal. Nothing wrong with that! But there’s also nothing wrong with deaf/HoH people who want to use the technology (and other support – like dogs!) available to them.

    Why should the boy be deprived of access to an assistance dog, or a CI, if he wants one? What if he wants to learn to communicate, and read and write in English?

    I thought she meant that wearing a CI would make him “appear” (visibly) different, and that was threatening to her. Maybe I interpreted the word “appear” too literally. But either way – if she wants him to “appear normal” to the deaf community OR the hearing community, she’s handicapping him by making the goal of appearing normal (whatever that means) take precedence over other options he might want to explore.

    My glasses don’t “appear normal”. My son’s hearing aid doesn’t “appear normal”. And our friends’ insulin injections don’t “appear normal”. My friend’s artificial arm doesn’t “appear normal”.

    Who cares?!

    They improve all of our lives!

    Julie

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