A birth of a child is usually accompanied by the expectation of the happiness and joy of parenthood. The couples, especially the healthy ones with no genetically transmitted diseases, do not anticipate that their baby will be born with some disability or a handicap. Thus, many people are not ready to the situations when their son or daughter turns out to be imperfect and in need of special treatment and attitude. The book Deaf Like Me tells how the Spradley family learned how to live and communicate with their deaf daughter Lynn.
Thomas and Louise were an ordinary family, who already had one normal and healthy child a boy, Bruce. They had no idea that their second kid, Lynn, will be born without the ability to hear. Since the story took place in the 60ies, neither was the technology developed enough to help the deaf, nor was the society ready to accept the people with disabilities as an important part of the community with equal rights to live a full life. At first, the parents did not even notice that Lynn was deaf. Since she was very responsive, both the Spradleys and the doctors were sure that the girl was healthy and fine.
Everything changed after Lynn had not reacted to the noise of the fireworks shot on the Fourth of July. When she was tested, the parents were told that she had profound hearing loss. The news broke their hearts since they had no experience in managing this sort of situation and did not know what to do. The Spradleys were torn between the advice, choices, and decisions they had to make. Eventually, the parents were recommended to have Lynn visit the hearing specialists and oral schools where she would learn to talk. At that time, they could not even imagine that it was almost impossible to teach a prelingually deaf girl to speak.
This is when the most difficult and emotionally exhausting period began. Following the advice to make their daughter normal and ignoring her special needs must have been the worst decision the Spradleys could have made. Firstly, the girl spent a lot of time being treated at home trying to learn to read lips. Later, Lynn attended oral schools where she, together with the other children like her, was taught that the only acceptable way to communicate was to speak like the other normal people. It is sad reading that at that time, the only advice the troubled mother could hear was to keep talking to the girl and to make her read the lips and talk herself. For some unknown reason, gestures as a method of communication were unacceptable.
The Spradleys were made so scared by the other parents and doctors that their daughter would grow as a deaf personality, who would be locked away in her own world from the other people if she did not learn to talk that they did not try any other way of communicating with Lynn. They simply forced her to learn to read lips. It was difficult going through the story and understanding how worried the parents were about the results their girl made. It was hard to observe how the Spradleys attended meetings of the deaf people and discussions concerning whether it was better to use signs or to learn to read lips, and how they were torn between the choices they had to make since the future of their daughter depended on what they would decide. Eventually, they chose to try using American Sign Language which actually allowed them to start communicating with their daughter. As a result, with a combination of signs and lipreading, Lynn grew up a successful personality.
It is very hard to read this book since it evokes a very strong emotional response even if the reader has never faced any problems similar to the Spradleys. The story allows going through the entire specter of emotions the parents must have gone through. When reading how the family met Bunny and Dave, a couple who also had a deaf daughter, it is impossible not to feel ashamed and envious at the same time, as the Spradleys must have felt since that couple could clearly communicate with their child, while Lynn could not say her own name. Moreover, it was terrible reading how the parents were berated for Lynns inability to understand some words or sentences, or when Lynn herself was blamed for the lack of desire to study.
Thus, the episode, when the girl with the help of the signs tells her parents and brother that she loves them is very touching. It is impossible to remain indifferent to the happiness of a child who finally gets a chance to really understand the others and study the world around her in the understandable way. Lynns example helps to realize how hard it is and how limited a life of a disabled person, especially a child, can be ,and how important it is to give a chance and to do everything possible to allow disabled people experience the magnificence and the diversity of the world.
The main goal of Deaf Like Me is to demonstrate how much effort, patience, and emotional endurance is required to raise a child with special needs, and how much the particular family had to go through to decide what was the best for their daughter. One of the most difficult choices for the parents was to select the correct approach of the future development of their kid. The Spradleys were first assured that Lynn would never live a happy life or achieve anything if she did not learn to talk and read lips. And, it is strange how prejudiced the people of that time were believing the American Sign Language was not able to assist people in having a full meaningful conversation. In addition, the Spradleys were wrong listening to the advice of the individuals who had never faced the problem they did, and who did not have the experience of raising a deaf child.
The other problem that delayed making the right decision, in my opinion, was that the doctors both believed by themselves and convinced the troubled parents that their daughter was really sick, and that her inability to hear would cause a lot of trouble in the future. Today, people with disabilities as Lynn can easily communicate without any problem; thus, it is clear that deaf people are absolutely normal and can live full lives.
Lynn, being physically a healthy child, who did not know what the absence of sounds was and, thus, did not suffer from that, could spend a happy childhood if she was not marked as a disabled child by the so called specialists. The authority of the doctors, who really neither truly understood the nature of the problem, nor wanted to try to realize what the little girl and her parents felt, made the road to the right approach and the acceptance of the existing situation too long and too hard.
This book demonstrates how great the power of the social opinion and views is. The story was written in the second half of the 20th century, when the sign language for some reason was perceived as something weird and unacceptable. It seems that at that time to be strange or not like everyone else equated to a crime. Therefore, it is possible to understand how difficult it was for Lynns parents to choose using the sign language. Still, I felt relieved when they finally stopped making their daughter learn to read the lips and decided to use the American Sign Language since with the help of it they finally could explain Lynn how much they loved her. It is great that they found the courage in themselves to go against the common order, and to be a little different from the others, but to make their daughter happy and live as a family, where everyone is understood and accepted without any barriers.
About the author
Rico Shenk specializes in writing academic papers on educational topics. He is a discussion writer at a profound writing company.