the cuckoo in the nest

I am the cuckoo in the nest, the changeling in the crib. I am the deaf child dropped into a world of sound, by herself. I am the child who perfected her mimicry to be indistinguishable from the rest. It is a camouflage easy to maintain with distance but which cracks with increasing familiarity.

Told by hearing people: You must do this. You must use that. You must fit into our world this way. Pats on the head when successful, admonishments to try harder when not. It is, of course, only a matter of effort, diligence, and faith. As a solitary player in a game with rules designed by others, there’s very little choice.

But hearing is not a skill. It is not practiced until perfected. Endless hours with my speech therapist who would run a tape recorder in the background so that I would “learn to function” with noisy background, until I said “Enough.” A second time, and threw the tutor out. But it continues; even well meaning friends feel that if I “tried harder” I’d understand more, I’d do better at hearing them. On the other hand, what else can I do? I do not know other deaf people, after all.

I’m trying to make it clear why it is not a good idea to isolate deaf children.

There is a catch-22 involved here, though, which Moi astutely and clearly points out here. Because the deaf schools are seen as the most restrictive forms of mainstreaming, because the hearing world regards the mainstreamed hearing class as the model of success, the children who do not function in the mainstreamed classes are regarded as failures, and the deaf schools are therefore taught that way. So going to a deaf-only school very often means a near to total abandonment of academic excellence. That is why so many deaf children cannot communicate clearly in English. They were never pushed to, even though every last one of them is as capable of doing so as a similar group of hearing children. Don’t believe me? Consider the excellent written English many non-English speakers have. Deaf illiteracy isn’t due to ASL being a separate language from English, it is due to the quality of teaching many deaf students receive.

I am the cuckoo in the nest, the changeling in the crib. I am the outsider; and as the outsider this is what I see.

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