Why the focus on speech?

When you talk to a new parent… they are looking forward to the many firsts the child has. Their first night sleeping all night, the first steps,  the first smile that isn’t because of gas, the first time they laugh,  and their first words… when hearing parents find out their children are deaf, they mourn the “loss” of the “normal” child they would have had… instead of celebrating the child they do have. Why?


Partially, I think it is because they had all these expectations for their child. When asked what they want most, many soon to be parents say a healthy child… why is deafness not seen as still being healthy? This is the medical communities fault, the audist perspectives many people have, even without realizing it.


Watch the words that are used… common words… but think about their connotations, the meanings behind them, and what they tell parents.

When a child is diagnosed as having a hearing loss, it is a scary time for parents. They are told their child will need speech therapy, there child has been diagnosed with something. Parents are told “I’m sorry” as if their new born child has something wrong with them. Those words, especially at a doctors office, are generally used for very bad, life threatening diseases.


These words have negative impacts on the child as well as the parent… the parents sense of joy at seeing their child for the first time is overwhelmed by this scary thing the doctors have said. Their child may never talk, they will never hear music, they will be left out. There is too much focus on what the child can’t do, rather than what they CAN do.


The following video can explain it better than I can…


There is so much negativity in our world, new parents shouldn’t have to feel this. They should be allowed to be happy they have just brought, or adopted, a new child into this world, into their family. The child may be deaf, or hard of hearing, but that doesn’t mean the child shouldn’t have EVERY opportunity to succeed… and with this, sign language, despite other options, such as hearing aids or Cochlear Implants is ESSENTIAL for the growth of a deaf child. Speaking when you can’t hear the words properly is frustrating… and yet, so many parents choose the oral only rout for their child? Why? The medical community is telling them this is the best option, if they want their child to be “normal”.  There are many other examples… but speech is just a modality of language, and too much time is spent focusing on speech when language development is not truly equivalent to speech development.

This video explains some of it…


Don’t get me wrong, am I happy I can speak, yes. It has helped me, especially when I didn’t know ASL, I could get my feelings out in some ways… but writing has always been easier for me. Why? Because I could see the language, I didn’t have to think about it as much, I didn’t have to think about how the words were pronounced, but I could just let it all out. Writing has always been my way into the world around me, I would write poetry, music, letters, sometimes I would just rip them up… but I could still get it out. But spoken language ISN’T a language, it is a modality of a language.


Children younger than 10, 5, 3, even 1 are being put into speech therapy, into AVT (Auditory Verbal Therapy) not to improve their LANGUAGE, but their SPEECH. There are “toys” out there to help a child learn where they went wrong in speaking, but this doesn’t equal having language.

why is this the image so many people want to see

rather than…


or this?

why is this what we focus on

rather than this?

because parents want their child to be normal… and to be normal, is the same thing as being hearing… and that is just a sad, sad thought. That this is considered more normal


Is it so important to hear your child speak rather than see their thoughts? Is it so important to hear your child tell you I love you mommy/daddy, rather than see them sign it? I think we should focus on language before it is too late, rather than words.


6 thoughts on “Why the focus on speech?

  1. good post! the first video is right on!

  2. I really have to stick up for parents of deaf or disabled children. No matter what Deaf Culture experts tell you about how awesome it is to have a deaf child, the experts also make your life a living hell trying to adjust. Just mention a CI and they go ballistic on you. You will feel alone. You will feel isolated. Thank god for the internet and networking. As for being upset about it. My friend cried when she found out her daughter was autistic. I cried when I found out my husband’s eyesight was failing faster than we had expected. We really aren’t crying because of the child, or the loved one, we are crying because we know it is going to be difficult – and quite frankly, it is. But it can make us stronger people, a stronger family. It gives us a better story to tell. Still, you have to allow that people are going to be upset. It’s just natural. It’s not about expectations, it’s about reality, and reality isn’t always pretty, and certainly not often easy.

    • thank you for your comment, that does make more sense to me. Obviously I’m not a parent yet, i’m just making observations. I do know many people in the Deaf community who get very defensive when CI is mentioned… I can be one of them, but for me, it is when CI is mentioned and ASL is given no option, or when people say that when a child grows up with CI’s they are normal hearing children…
      I know how difficult is is to be a deaf child, and looking back I can see why hearing parents would cry. Thank you for giving me another viewpoint and making me think critically about my post.

      • FYI, all of the parents I know with deaf / CI kids, have taught them ASL. This is for a good reason, imo. Batteries run out and CI’s can’t be slept with. I don’t actually know any parents that haven’t learned ASL even with very young children who get CI’s. I am assured they exist by the Deaf Culture advocates I know, but I don’t actually know them. All of the parents I have met were over the crying phase and were actually sort of excited about learning ASL. My personal experiences, however, may not be wide enough in the culture, and I’m not considered actually IN the culture, because I’m hearing, so take it all with a grain of salt.

  3. Reblogged this on bettyhoven and commented:
    Interesting video about the way hospitals and doctors talk about deafness.

  4. Thank you for making this post. I am a teacher for DHH and this is the case too often.

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