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Hey DEAF Boy! Bullies...Jordan, Rachel and Hearing Moms' Perspectives

Posted Aug 24 2008 6:39pm


"Get ready DEAF-BOY...forget about the curveballs; let's see if you can handle some heat!"..."By the way, don't ever call me DEAF-BOY again." These two sentences from RALLY CAPS, that my son can finally read, had a profound impact on Jordan. While playing a game of Go Fish with Sofia and Jordan, Sofia looked at Jordan and said, "Jordan, I asked if you had a monkey...What are you DEAF!" I swear Jordan almost hit her. He got very, very indignant and said, "Don't say that to me, Sofia."



*Shocked*



When Jordan said, "Hey Mamma, what are you DEAF?" to me for the first time, I thought, we have finally arrived- he is so aware of who he is and that his deafness is such a part of his identity, that it no longer represents a weakness to him. I guess I was wrong. There is a fine line. He can say it, but others can not offend him. I shared this experience with other mothers on the Pediatric Cochlear Implant Circle and received many interesting replies, that I would like to share...(obviously with permission)



Rachel emailed me her response off-group (at 3 am. her time...does the girl ever sleep??):



Hey Jodi!



I just saw your post on CICircle about Jordan getting upset over

being called, "deaf." As a person who is deaf and who hears with a CI

like Jordan, I would be offended if someone called me deaf in a

"teasing" scenario, and so, I can completely understand how Jordan

feels. While deafness is part of my life, it doesn't define who I

am. I'm just a person who happens to be deaf and who hears with CIs and

from reading your post, I think that's how Jordan wants to view

himself. Because Jordan grew up in the hearing world, hears and

speaks, I think it's hard for him to view himself as a deaf person as

a whole. As you know, I can't see myself as a deaf person as my

entire identity. To me, when someone says "you're deaf" in a

teasing scenario, it's like someone saying, "You're mentally

disabled" or "You're autistic" or "You're fat."



Also, I would be careful about saying "proud to be deaf" because for

some people, it's sensitive to say "proud to be deaf" because some

view it as "proud to have a medical issue" like "proud to have

diabetes" or "proud to be blind" and perhaps, Jordan may view it that

way too. Choosing how to define one person's deafness is a very

personal choice, and maybe you might want to ask Jordan how he

defines his deafness.
You might want to ask him "Do you view

yourself as a hearing person or as a deaf person?" and ask why, as

that might help you understand why Jordan wants to define himself the

way he chooses to.



The way I view my deafness as part of my life is that I feel that my

deafness has made me a more unique and special person.
So, I think

saying "Your deafness has made you a more unique and a special

person" instead of saying, "It's something you should be proud of" would

probably be something Jordan would understand better about being

deaf.
Anyway, I apologize if I sound "preachy" but I just wanted to

give you my perspective as someone who grew up with CIs, and I

understand how Jordan feels.



Diane, a hearing mom of a remarkable son, wrote:



Kids are pretty astute and can tell when someone is using words descriptively or

insultingly. And I can't blame someone for not wanting to be called "deaf boy".

My son explained to me that when people referred to him as that, they were making

the deafness the most important part of him. He asked Why don't they call me

Soccer Boy? Smart Boy? Funny Boy? It was a way of singling him out as being

very different from everyone else, when one reason that he had so much speech

and AVT and used HA's and a CI was to be accepted like everyone else. It would

be like calling an African-American, "black boy". Yes, his skin might be very

dark, and yes he might be a boy, but why does that have to be the identifying

characteristic? Can't he be a Swimmer/Singer/Football player/Spelling Bee

Champion/Whatever Boy that happens to be black?



At least, that's how my son felt about it.



My son suffered his share of teasing and insults. I remember one day in the 4th

grade he came home and told me he had been called Stupid Deaf Boy. It was the

Annual 4th Grade VS 5th Grade Kickball Championship. My son had played soccer for

several years at that point and had quite a kick. He kicked a homerun with

bases loaded to help the 4th grade beat the 5th grade. You have to realize,

this was Big Stuff! The 5th graders were the Kings of the Campus and did not

like for one second that the little 4th graders had won. So a 5th grader was

angry at the end and called my son, Stupid Deaf Boy. He was angry and he seized

upon the most obvious thing he could think to try and insult him. By then, we

had gone through our share of ignorance and meanness, so my son was fairly

nonchalant about it. He told me that obviously the boy didn't know one thing

about him or he would have never called him Stupid (by this time my son had been

tested and identified as Gifted and Talented), and so what if the kid called him

Deaf? He was!



I think when he was younger we always talked about the fact that

he had ONE disability and MANY capabilities. We even compared him to specific

kids in school that struggled at things where my son excelled. We pointed out

that they weren't deaf, but that they couldn't do as well at certain things that

he could. We also pointed out constantly that EVERYONE has something to

overcome, that his was just more obvious to the observer. Lastly, we taught him

Consider the Source. Sometimes the biggest thing some kids have to overcome is

IGNORANCE. We talked about how some kids feel a need to put others down in

order to lift themselves up, and that really they deserved our pity.



With regard to the above incident, I'd like to add that my son's 4th grade

classmates heard the boy and were outraged. Before a teacher even had a chance

to do a thing, they surrounded the boy and forced him to apologize to my son. One

insulting kid, many supportive friends.



I'd also like to say that this issue definitely gets better as kids get older.

There is always going to be a jerk (c'mon, how many of us adults know someone

who is a jerk?! I know I do.), but the vast majority of kids will totally see

this as just a part of who their friend is, and not a big deal at all. Along

with our previous post on Prom fun, I'd like to mention (and I don't want to

seem like I'm bragging - just sharing, really!) that my son was recently elected

President of his high school's National Honor Society (by his peers) for his

Senior year, he was selected to be one of two boys from his high school to

participate in the American Legion Boys State program this summer (nominated by

teachers), and we received a phone message that seems to indicate that he is one

of 30 students from our state selected to participate in a selective summer

residential academic program hosted at a university for 4 weeks (application

reviewed by our state's Dept of Education). My point is that his deafness has

become a "non-issue". He's a "regular" kid who can expect to participate in

anything he wants, just like any other kid, and to be accepted by his peers and

adults alike. He's become so "normal"! (Again, absolutely no offense intended

to anyone by my use of that word.)



Hope this helps,



diane



And... Naomi checked in as well (go directly to her blog for more on Bullies-and bring the kleenex):



I'm not sure that it is the fact that it is his deafness that is being referred to but rather that the person using this kind of phrase is clearly insulting him and it is the fact that someone is insulting him that leads to the anger. In the same way that "fat kid" would make a larger child angry, it is the intent behind the words rather than the words themselves.



My son had his share of teasing in his old school, sadly those charged with

dealing with it did their best, but really had no clue. They spent their time

putting out the spot fires rather than trying to change the culture of bullying.

He stopped reporting it to them after awhile.



In my son's case the teasing/bullying came mostly from one child. This child was

small for his age, was of an ethnic background that traditionally do not deal

well with disability, and struggled academically. My son was tall, and a whizz at

school.



My son and I talked about how much of this boy's reaction was about jealousy,

that he was jealous of my son's ability to do so well at school in spite of his

hearing loss. We spent a lot of time talking about how kids that bully will find

something to pick on no matter what, red hair, big nose, glasses whatever! This

kid couldn't get to my son so he started in on my other son with "the freak's brother" oh yeah he was a charmer! We talked about how insecure this boy was and that he tried to make himself feel better by putting other people down.



It wasn't until a year or so later when my son had the maturity to really

discuss it from his perspective that he described home "as a safe haven". He

reported to me that knowing he came home to a place that was safe, supportive

and where he felt so much love, sustained him during the tough times at school.


He moved schools since then and has never been teased in his new school and

has so many mates he is never home!



I think the issue here is helping our kids understand why people behave in

that way. The thing is that whilst I could have cheerfully gone right off at

this kid, I saw the way his parents were, the way he was treated, the

expectations on him, he lived his own hell right there in his own house. His

behaviour was a reflection of that. I think we need to let our kids know that it

is ok to be angry about this stuff but in reality what does all that anger do?

It eats them up and for what? They can't change the behaviour of another person

but they can choose to change the way they respond to that behaviour.



It also comes from developing self-esteem and a good close friendship group.

My son has his friends and he values what they think. Anyone else, he doesn't care

what they think, they are not important to him, so he couldn't care less what

they think about him and doesn't waste a second of the day worrying about it.

*I spent eleven years without support in dealing with psychological and technical issues in raising my Deaf child; now that I have finally found this support, I hope that others who need it...recognize that need and seek it out, because it does exist. Why go through all of this, alone?*
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