Deaf child + Hearing parents -- options?

So, having had to deal with the real possibility that our newborn son is deaf, all sorts of new questions have run through my head, and I don't have answers to all of them. Firstly, I think my wife and I are in a much better position to make an informed decision than most hearing parents of deaf children because I am already learning ASL and teaching my wife and daughter some as I go. That doesn't really help me understand how Deaf children are raised and educated, though.

Let's just assume we decide not to get CI for him. Obviously we would start teaching him ASL as early as possible, but since our primary communication in the house is spoken English, we would need help. He would not be able to "acquire" ASL like a Deaf-of-Deaf child would. Who would help us before school age? Are there programs dedicated to this? Obviously we would need help, too, or he would surpass our signing skills sooner than later.

Then what about school? Can a deaf child be properly educated bilingually in mainstream schools, or is it far better to look into Deaf schools? (we have a deaf school, but the commute would be 1 hour each way). Are all Deaf schools residential? How does that really impact a child's relationship with his parents being "sent away" to school at such a young age?

It is one thing to oppose CI in theory, but when faced with all the very real details/problems of raising a literate and educated deaf child I can see why hearing parents could be easily swayed into CI. Please help me understand more, or point me to informative internet sites on our choices and options here. Thanks in advance for any help!


ChillyGurlz said…
Hello there... I am a deaf child who was born deaf into a hearing family. i learned to sign and speak at age one, started school very early on. i was mainstreamed with deaf prgrams in school with other deaf kids, it was a nice program, i also started going to deaf schools when i was in 8th grade... so i had alot of mix experiences with deaf and hearing world, i am happy for that. at least my mom allowed me to be part of deaf culture at a very young age. my mom is more accepting of my deafness then the rest of my family... i do have a vlog site if u want to check it out, i have topics ranging from deaf issues, school issues, humor, childhood years...
Shel said…
Hello! I am a fluently bilingual Deaf child of Hearing parents, born in the late sixties. If you wish to view my blog/vlog site, I posted a blog on growing up in a Hearing family, and touched upon the decision my parents made to raise me bilingually.

If you have more questions, feel free to contact me.
Deb Ann said…
I was born deaf. It was unknown. My hearing parents decided for me and my deaf brother to go to a school with Deaf and Hard of Hearing program. They provided interpreters and had two deaf teachers. They also provided tutors for deaf and hard of hearing students during their free time and after school. I'm so glad that my parents made a good choice for my deaf brother and me. I'm so thankful to have them! My school's Deaf and Hard of Hearing program was the best in my homestate. Now it's closed, and it has been about 40 years. We used to sign in English, but we also learned in ASL. I heard there is one program like that in California, too. Some deaf schools are wonderful, but they are mostly are in the East and California (but not in my homestate). If I have a deaf child, I won't probably send him or her to live in a dorm, but we will live close by, so she or he can go to the deaf school during weeks. I'd rather have my deaf child to live with us as a family.
I heard that there is a wonderful deaf school in California. I met so many deaf people, who are really smart and do well in English, from Riverside deaf school in CA. It's a great education (I could tell).
I noticed that I learned the best in Education by using PSE and ASL.
I had a four-day speech therapy every week of my childhood. It didn't turn out well for me. Some of my friends can speak pretty well with their hearing aids. Mine is so different than most of my friends. I don't have any hair inside of my ears to percieve the sounds, and my nerves for high tunes are damaged. I can't understand words, letters, and phonics by using my hearing aids. I doubt that cochlear implants would work on me well because of my damaged nerves. I only can hear low tunes with my hearing aids. Deaf/deaf individual is different. My best friend (deaf) speaks really good with her hearing aids. Everyone can understand her well, and she can read lips as well!
I hope others than me will leave their messages and share their experiences with you.
Good luck on making a good decision for your own deaf child. Your deaf child is so blessed in every way! I believe that your child is so lucky to have you in his life. :) I know you'll do what's right.
Jenee said…
Hi there!

I was born profoundly deaf in both ears in the late 70s. I'm the only deaf person in the hearing family. When my parents found out that I was deaf at 1 and 1/2 year old, the doctors, audiologists and AG Bell recommended that I be put in the AVT and Oralism programs. It took me 7 years to say my first name. Although I was learning to speak and listen, I was also struggling with the speech concept and the language itself. I had to repeat a grade because of the lack of my reading and writing abilities. I was an only deaf student at public schools. When my father got a new job and we relocated to a different place, I went to a mainstreamed school and met several deaf students there. I finally got a chance to learn sign language when I was 14. Naturally, I picked it up like a sponge absorbing water! In addition to that, I learned a lot about my identity. I was progressing so well in English.

Unfortunately, my father got a job offer that he could not turn down, so we had to relocate to another different place. (I know I know that's the worst time for adolescents.) The town was extremely small, and there was not many deaf students at my high school. I began to lose confidence and self-esteem as years went by. I didn't sign as much. I was torn apart inside because I wasn't sure whether I was hearing enough to fit in the hearing world nor was deaf enough to fit in the deaf world. Basically, I had no identity at all. I never really accepted my deafness. I graduated from high school with high honors, yet with a miserable social life. Moving on to college, I went to RIT/NTID. I LOVED IT!!!! The deaf culture was so enriching! I've never been happier until I attended there. I finally accepted for who I am, and I'm embracing myself more and more every day.

Learning the spoken language is very important, but if they exposed me to ASL, I would have strived so much better academically, emotionally, and socially. I strongly believe that ASL is the best way to teach a deaf baby. Not only does it teach the baby the language, but it definitely helps the baby develop an identity as well.

- J
Dianrez said…
My experience has been with all types of programs, (except cued speech), and my blog has some notes from that here and there.

In your situation, I would stay with ASL and English no matter what hearing assistance method you choose, or what school. This background will insure that you keep a close and warmly communicating family atmosphere throughout the childhood of your children.

Teach a love of books early as possible. Read to him, in ASL and English, often and describe or discuss pictures as you go along (See the red dog. Big red dog. His name is Clifford.) Post words around the room. Ask questions of him often. As he grows, tease him to think out situations (Daddy has blue hair, no? Really?)

Depending on how well your child does, go mainstream for the reason you and the child need to be together during the early years. Look for programs that have full support such as speech instruction, ASL interpreters and presence of other deaf children.

Later on, as life changes, you might choose to transfer your child to a school for the deaf, especially if he decides he wants to go. Usually this might be around age 10 or so and involve social interaction reasons.

Always be on the alert for gaps in education or communication that might arise in any situation and be ready with an arsenal of solutions for each. Flexibility is key. And above all, enjoy your son!
Sue said…
Here are some tips from a mom that has been there....done that..

First congratulations that you already know the importance of giving your child language through his natural visual language ASL. This is what all parents should do when they find their child is Deaf but unfortunately there are so many options out there that parents can easily become confused.

Even though the language in your home is English, your child's language is visual and now your family is bridging the gap by learning his language. This is wonderful because your child will now have a first language of ASL in order to learn English as a second language. This is the foundation of bilingualism. Not only that, by learning ASL and teaching him the basic signs that you are learning, you are now communicating in the most accessible language for your visually oriented son.

I am a hearing parent too. When we learned our child was deaf, the first thing we did was start to learn sign language. We hired someone to come to our house once a week and teach our family and friends basic signs. From there, we took classes at a church for free. There we met Deaf people who introduced us to the beauty of ASL and Deaf culture. Once we met a few people in the Deaf community, our network began to grow. This is very important for hearing parents to have Deaf mentors especially in the early years.

We learned ASL along with our child, baby signs became toddler signs and evolved from there. It is okay for hearing parents to understand they do not have to be fluent in ASL to give their child access to it.

Find the Deaf community in your area. Go to the Deaf School that is one hour from your home. Talk to their Outreach director and find out the services they can provide for you. The reason I direct you to the Deaf School is because they are a big resource of services for your child and your family. There are Deaf peers, role models and teachers at Deaf schools. The networks you need are right there.

Get your child into a preschool with other Deaf peers and role models so that he has a chance to socialize with other children who sign and adults that are fluent in ASL. Believe me, having that network, will take a lot of the fear and uncertainty out of your future decisions for your child.

Our family, along with many hearing families, have made sacrifices to move closer to good Deaf schools in order for our children to grow and learn in a fully accessible, rich in peers and role models, and equipped with the strategies to teach English literacy and all academic subjects in a bilingual environment. For us, it was the best decision we ever made in our lives.

Especially important is follow your child's lead. His life is not about making your family's life easier. You have been given a gift. You and your family are now invited to learn a new language and meet the wonderful Deaf Community of people that love and embrace your child and your family.

Choose technology carefully and cautiously. Don't jump into fast decisions.

The most important thing you can do is respect and embrace your child as a Deaf person. Give him access to ASL and Deaf Culture through creating those networks for him.
Dr. Don G. said…
I understand you live in the Philadephia area. I interned at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf (in Germantown) many years ago that had a good positive perspective on Deaf people, that supported bilingualism. I have not heard anything negative about their program since then. As I recall, they had a great preschool program too. I would recommend you check into taking your child there. You can find information about the school at

Good luck! I hope you will raise your child to be a confident, well-functioning, proud Deaf adult!

If you have other questions, please feel free to contact me at DrDonG @ (remember to remove the spaces).

Dr. Donald Grushkin
Aaron said…
I really appreciate all the responses! I am looking into a great many things now =)
Karen said…
Hi Aaron,
Congrats on the birth of your son!

So many questions to explore and so many options to figure out. :)

You may want to check out the three parent organizations:, and All three sites have a lot of information. There's also also has a wealth of links and a parent support listserv that is non-biased about communication methods.
I'm a mom of three deaf and hard of hearing kids and I remember the search for info and support in the early days. If I can be of any help, please do email me at karen 9at)
inchrist said…
Kids can live with hearing parents and turn out ok! I say this because I have experienced the joy of raising a deaf child in a hearing household. Our family has been faced with many challenges and turned them into opportunities. The most important part of raising a deaf child is to love them and treat them as if they have no disability. At the same time be aware of the special needs of that deaf child…and do everything in your power to advocate for them and provide them with the best education and resources available to them. If this means creating your own programs, well than do it.
We have done the following for our child:
 When the public education programs let us (and him) down, we decided to home school!
 When the community sporting programs did not offer suitable and safe programs, we started our own teams.
 When the local Boy Scout troop offered to lead our son the Eagle Scout, we were there at every campout, merit badge class and event.
 When our son entered college, we made sure the local community college supplied the needed interpreter supportive services. We also attended ASL classes to not only support our son’s communication needs, but to have the ability to communicate with his older friends.
 When our church family needed a bible study for the deaf…we stepped up to lend a hand.
Without sounding ego centered or self serving, we have always put the needs of our son, and hearing daughter first. They were our choice to bring into this world, a gift from God. Our reward has been two wonderful young adults. I challenge any parent of a deaf child to do the same, and make it first priority in their life. The rewards will pay tenfold, not to mention that’s what parents are supposed to do.
Our deaf son has not grown up angry. Partly because he realizes he is loved and supported. My wife has been his teacher through most of his grade school and high school years. She made sure he had the best chance at learning he needed, he also has some physical mobility challenges.
The only area I think a child of hearing parents need to take an extra effort in is the ability to have a deaf child interact with other deaf children. To have “friends” at a young age is very important. Don’t expect it from the rest of the extended hearing family. If it happens, consider it a blessing. Most extended family is not around the “in home” signs or attending ASL classes. Our experience has been that it’s cute to learn some basic signs during the early years like eat, hello, love you, ice cream. But try and watch a hearing cousin or aunt/uncle try and explain in English how to play a game or even change the TV to closed captions.
Deaf kids can and do live in hearing families. They are fun kids and have much to contribute to the hearing family. I would not have our family any other way!
Anonymous said…
right now i am going to school in american sign language 2 my advice is NO Cl. They are just as normal with out it. a.s.l is a very fun language to learn and if you have already started theres no point in stoping.
Anonymous said…
First of all Best wishes to you & your family.
I have a deaf daughter and I was lucky enough to be able to return to school and major in Deaf Studies so I could learn first hand whats best for my deaf daughter.
I realize that all people cannot do this. However I strongly recommend you to learn ASL to communicate with your son and do not force him to speak or use his voice. If you do, it could make him angry or resentful.
Stay very involved in the life of your child, school, friends, Deaf events. Good Luck

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