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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Normal Does Not = Right

This is parent/teacher conference week at my son's school. Fabulous Husband and I had an interesting meeting with the teacher, the assistant teacher and the principal yesterday. The principal sat in not as a principal, primarily, but because she specializes in special needs.

The funny thing about this, I have more "special needs" than our son, and also, because of my "special needs", my son has a couple of behavioral issues going on. His teacher told us:

1. He's so LOUD.

2. He gets into people's personal space.

Yes, he is loud. I have inadvertently taught him to be loud over the course of his seven years of life. Even before I found out my hearing loss had reached the degree of "deaf" I had been telling him to speak up. Every day. All day.

I have a vision impairment, as well, nystagmus, which makes lip reading a bit difficult if you're not right in front of me. Nystagmus is when your eyes quickly move back and forth, like a tic or muscle spasm. I'm not sure if it is a muscle or neurological disorder. I only know that it interferes with reading lips. As a result, I have taught him that it's appropriate to get right in front of me so I can "see" what he is saying. Hence, he has been trained it is ok to get into the personal space of others, face to face, up close and personal.

I have a sneaky suspicion I may unconsciously do these very things myself. So, if we happen to meet in the future, and I seem to be closing in on your personal space, it is because I can't hear you and I want to "see" what you have to say. There's nothing weird about that.

Some deaf people don't hear themselves, depending on the degree of their deafness. Others may think they have a speech impediment or an accent or have been tipping the bottle and their words are slurred. That is not the case. Think about it. If you had never heard people talking, you either would not speak at all, or you would not know what sounds are coming out of your mouth. It is by speech therapy and training that many of them can even accomplish to speak as well as they do, and it's not something most Deaf can do, especially if they did not have the training and help available to them, which is often the case.

As I have become deaf through the passing years, my own voice often gets louder to compensate. I often have to tell people I have no volume control and I may need a little help. Sometimes, I sense my voice has taken on a monotone quality. Sometimes, it just doesn't feel "right" and in that case, I appreciate when someone lets me know I'm getting a little loud because that helps me learn to be conscious of how I form my words and to put effort into my speech.

Sometimes, a child may exhibit traits that can be misinterpreted as having special needs or a medical problem when in fact, it may be the result of environmental issues. Just because something may not seem "normal" to you, does not mean anything is "wrong".  It may be perfectly normal for that child's family. In which case, it may just be a matter of teaching there are other socially appropriate ways of behaving.


  1. Thanks for sharing. It's interesting the unique battles we each have to face as we adjust to our daily life issues. I hope you can move forward in a way that helps your family feel more comfortable.

  2. We live and learn and adapt. :-) Thank you for stopping by, reading and leaving a comment, Brenda.

  3. He's a CODA. Child of deaf adult. Of course his personality is different. I just wish more teachers understood and appreciate them, because no matter what, my son resort back the same behavior that usually benefit both of us but annoys people who are not used to it(repeating, loud, expressive, and yes he gets in people's space because I respond better when he touch me or something.)

  4. My husband and I were just discussing that very term and issue tonight. I bet if he had deaf and hard of hearing children in his classroom they would see the benefits of this part of his personality, and how it boils down to a communication skill in these particular instances.
    Thank you for your comment, Anonymous.

  5. BTW, I am curious if there is a support group or something for CODAs? Books? I am familiar with the works of the Coda Brothers and Keith Wann, but I'm looking for teens and young CODAs my son can connect with as he gets older. Any suggestions?

  6. Hi. I tried to do a Google for you, hoping toi find something you were after, but there does not seem anything. Surely there must be a group over there, that your son could join and connect with, as he gets older.

    I hope someone else can help here.

  7. Thank you, Liz. It may be one of those things just not yet in the works. Thank you for looking!

  8. Very nice post! Something for everyone to think about when working with children or adults with special needs/disabilities/differences--whatever you want to call it. :)

  9. Thank you, (e. Sometimes, I just want to say "different". :-)