Kat Reading

Kat Reading

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Why do you talk weird?"

Friday Miss Kat and I stopped at a playplace to hang out. It was very hot outside and we needed a cool place to play. Miss Kat is very sociable and it is very easy for her to approach other kids and play. This day was no exception. She played very well with several kids and they all admired her Zhu Zhu pet and it's lovely princess dress. They talked and ran and played. Everything was going well until I heard the words..."Why do you talk weird?"

First and foremost, Mama bear came out. I wanted to snatch those kids down from the slide and yell at them. Of course, I didn't. I gave them the benefit of the doubt (actually, I walked away in anger and Hubby talked me down) and they were actually just curious. They weren't being mean to Miss Kat, or making fun of the way she spoke, they just had never encountered someone who spoke differently from them.

Now to be honest, Miss Kat doesn't have a "perfect voice". She is pretty darn intelligible, and kids never have to have her repeat herself, or misunderstand her, but she does sound different. Add to that that she still has some peculiarities in her grammar, and as she ages, kids do notice. So...what do we say? Do we explain to her that she doesn't sound "normal"? She very easily answers questions about her equipment and is able to advocate for herself and repair situations in which she mishears or doesn't understand, but we have never addressed the "quality"  of her speech.

(While all of this has been quite painful to witness and think about, it is still better than how she was treated when her only means of communication was ASL. Kids were much more cruel then. I remember once when I screamed at a mother because she child said, (and she clearly heard and did nothing about it) "Why can't you talk? Only babies can't talk. You must be a baby. I don't play with babies. Get away from me." Yeah, I FLIPPED OUT over that one. Another time it was "What is she doing with her arms? Make her stop that!" or the adult who told me to "Shut her up!".....)


SK3 said...

It's a normal question for kids to ask, and she should understand that her speech does sound different from other kids. She's old enough now that you should let her answer -- not jump in. There's nothing wrong with her saying that she couldn't hear until she got her implant, and she's still working on learning how to talk. That's probably the simplest and most honest answer. Kids will accept her much more readily if she's matter of fact about it.

Also, many deaf adults will tell you their horror stories about how they were told they had "beautiful speech" at school, and then they went out in public and nobody could understand them. I'm not saying that's the case with your daughter - -just that she needs to be aware that her speech sounds different than people who could always hear, but that's okay.

Anonymous said...

Key thing to remember is that it's intelligible speech that counts. If people can understand then that's all you need.

Anonymous said...

Now Miss Kat's momma knows how we feel...let Miss Kat speak/sign for herself.

Dianrez said...

Momma bear will need to be restrained more in the future as Miss Kat grows older and interacts with a wider variety of people.

When my son was little he had been taught in speech class to make consonant sounds, so he was vocalizing to himself at the town playground. Immediately he was surrounded by bigger boys, about 7 to 9, who were becoming aggressive. I walked into the middle of them and said, "he's deaf" in my very, very Deaf voice. The bigger of the boys said something like "let's go" and they dispersed. Today, now that he is grown, Son is fine handling hearing people by himself

Anonymous said...

You're now encountering the downside of oralism that SO MANY kids, even with clear speech have encountered for decades and even centuries. We talk funny. So hearing people think we're retarded or have an accent. That really is tough, b/c there's still SO much prejudice out there. I know a lot of dhh adults who haven't been hired b/c some headhunter hears their voice and thinks they're mentally handicapped. Oral skills are great yes.....BUT, they do not and cannot equalize dhh kids 100%. Ask any deaf kid who was raised oral and in the mainstream....and they will ALSO tell you that although they are happy they can interact through voice with the hearing world, they still feel like they don't feel a part of the hearing world 100%

Anonymous said...

great topic, MKM! I can really relate to it because I've been asked that question thousands of times throughout my long life. I honestly don't remember what I said, if anything, when I was Miss Kat's age, but I lived in a small town, so everyone knew sooner or later that I was deaf, even if I never told them.

When I got older, I learned to tell hearing people that I'm deaf right away and I show them how I want to communicate. That way, the hearing person immediately feels at ease knowing it's not something wrong with THEM. I'm often astonished how often the OTHER person blames him/herself for communication failure! Many deaf people, myself included, have felt for so long that communication breakdowns are always their fault. They never stop to think that hearing people are extremely self-involved too. haha.

By telling someone in a straight-forward way that one is deaf, the hearing person learns the mindset that deaf is simply different and still OK.

In my experience, hearing people don't demand 100% perfect, normal speech in order to accept other people. They do notice when someone's speech is different, and they will ask about it. Whether the hearing person will reject the deaf person depends on the hearing person's life experiences - some will feel uncomfortable, and others will feel it's not a big deal. My hearing friends who don't sign accept me as I am. True friends don't require me to be perfect to "earn" their friendship.

It's always nice when kids can become familiar with a variety of different folks, even those who have visible and invisible differences.

and BTW, good job on staying out of it and letting Miss Kat deal with the situation. :)

Another Anonymous

Miss Kat's Parents said...

Actually, anonymous, no one here ever claimed that CIs make kids hearing...go sell your line somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

Miss Kat's Mom, I never said that you said CIs make deaf kids hearing. It's just that there's a HUGE downside of oralism that it does not and cannot fully equalize dhh kids. It's a good tool yes, but when a lot of people think that you're mentally handicapped because of the deaf accent, that is a HUGE disadvantage. HOH kids have been dealing with the downsides of oral only for decades...now you are too

B.BarNavi said...

Anon, that's not the fault of oralism. That's the fault of a parochial society that doesn't expect anything less that a perfect accent. It's no different with a Black American accent or any foreign "fresh off the boat" accent. Deaf Americans raised orally have a distinct manner of speech. Fact. So do Chinese people who learn English in China (or in America, for that matter). When they are passed over for a job due to an accent, do we blame the English teachers for "teaching them wrong", or do we put it where it belongs - on the saps who refused them those jobs? What about a white New Yorker or a Bostoner or a Southerner with a heavy regional accent, refused because their speech reminded the headhunters of lack of class? Must be those local schools, right?

Kids will be kids, and provided they don't start using Kat's voice to try to hurt her (such is as the fate of many foreign exchange students), she should be fine and make friends as usual. Perhaps over the years, her speech will start matching that of her peers. And if she picks up a regional accent and moves to another region, then the kids there will ask questions about THAT! And that puts us right back to square one.

Conclusion: Don't let it get to you. It's a natural part of growing up, even with normal-intelligence native hearing kids.

Anonymous said...

B. barnavi,
sorry but hearing kids even with odd accents NEVER get crapped on the way kids with deaf voices do.
Unfortunatly, a deaf voice can sound like we're mentally disabled...and there's NO WAY at ALL of getting around that.
I scored 660 on the verbal SATs and also have a very high verbal IQ. I was only in spoken language therapy until I was four. However,I was in speech therapy for about 15 years. I still had a deaf voice, and still had tons and tons of kids make fun of me or assume that I was mentally handicapped b/c of the quality of my voice. Hell, I STILL get that sometimes......my point being is that speech abilty does not equalize dhh kids 100%....the overwhelming majority of kids will have a deaf voice...heck even some late deaf adults have the deaf voice!

Miss Kat's Parents said...

Well DeafDyke, oh wait, I mean Anonymous, then I guess it is a good thing that Miss Kat doesn't have a "deaf voice". I have no idea where you get the idea that the majority of kids today have voice quality issues, because it simply isn't true. As a parent of a deaf child, I have a ton of experience hearing deaf people (adults and children) speak, and yes, a generation ago it was extremely common for even the "oral superstars" to "sound deaf". But thanks to better technology, today's kids simply don't. That is not to say that they all have perfect speech, but that so called "deaf voice" is not at all what I am talking about in this post.

TO said...

IMO, if there's something, anything at all, that no one ever talks about, or where your parents get upset when people say something about it, I think it can end up feeling like there's something wrong or embarrassing about it, as it can end up feeling like a taboo subject.

So I would try to practice being relaxed and casual when people ask about it, especially around her. IMO, that will help her learn to be relaxed and casual about it herself.