AUTHOR JENNIFER ROSNER OF LEVERETT, MASSACHUSETTS IS RAISING TWO YOUNG DAUGHTERS -- BOTH BORN WITH SEVERE HEARING LOSS. NEITHER ROSNER NOR HER HUSBAND IS DEAF. SHE HAS JUST WRITTEN A MEMOIR - CALLED "IF A TREE FALLS: A FAMILY'S QUEST TO HEAR AND BE HEARD". WFCR'S KAREN BROWN REPORTS.
JENNIFER ROSNER HAD RECENTLY FINISHED HER PH.D. IN PHILOSOPHY in 2000 WHEN SHE WENT INTO LABOR WITH HER FIRST DAUGHTER, SOFIA.
[*our daughter was born in calif at stanford hospital and shortly after her birth, someone came in and ran a hearing test, ..and she failed the test right there .... ]
THE NURSES TOLD ROSNER, AND HER HUSBAND BILL CORWIN, NOT TO PANIC - IT COULD JUST MEAN FLUID IN THE EARS, AND THEY WOULD REDO THE TEST. BUT SOFIA FAILED THE RE-TEST, THEN A MORE SOPHISTICATED HEARING TEST TWO WEEKS LATER. SHE WAS DIAGNOSED WITH A SEVERE HEARING LOSS.
[*it unfolded like a rollercoaster. we were so happy to have this sweet beautiful baby and terrified what the hearing loss might mean it was a very overwhelming time, and it was also a time when you went on the internet to understand the deafness, you were barraged by the politics of deafness.]
THE POLITICS REVOLVE AROUND TWO MAIN CAMPS -- THOSE WHO CONSIDER DEAFNESS A CULTURE, WHO BELIEVE DEAF CHILDREN SHOULD BE RAISED WITH SIGN LANGUAGE TO COMMUNICATE WITHIN THE DEAF COMMUNITY, AND THAT EFFORTS TO HELP THEM HEAR SUGGEST WRONGLY THAT DEAFNESS IS A DISABILITY. THE OTHER CAMP CHOOSES WHAT'S CALLED THE AURAL APPROACH - USING MEDICAL TECHNOLOGY, LIKE HEARING AIDS OR SURGERY, TO HELP CHILDREN HEAR, LEARN TO SPEAK, AND ASSIMILATE WITH MAINSTREAM, HEARING CULTURE. ROSNER AND CORWIN CHOSE HEARING TECHNOLOGY.
[and one compelling reason for us was intimacy. we're hearing parents . we could and have learned some sign language, and i'm sure if pressed we could become extremely fluent in it, but we couldn't do it quickly, and there was this feeling we wanted to be intimate with our child and fearful that if we chose a signing path we'd be giving our child to this community that we're not really part of.]
ALTHOUGH ROSNER AND HER HUSBAND WERE ROUNDLY CRITICIZED BY PEOPLE IN THE SIGN-LANGUAGE-ONLY CAMP - ONE HOME AIDE STOPPED COMING ALTOGETHER - ROSNER FEELS SURE THAT HEARING AIDS WERE THE RIGHT PATH FOR SOFIA.
[at the time, of the diagnosis, i felt so griefstricken and frustrated that i didn't have a single week with my baby without this news of her deafness, but on the other hand, having known so early, we were early to get on it, and she got the technology at 3 months and her first words were at 11 months. sh'es just been talking ever since.]
MEANWHILE, ROSNER HAD DISCOVERED THAT HER DAUGHTER'S DEAFNESS WAS LIKELY HEREDITARY. ROSNER'S MOTHER HAD HEARING LOSS - THOUGH SHE HADN'T REALIZED IT WAS CONGENITAL. SHE RESEARCHED HER FAMILY TREE - MOSTLY EASTERN EUROPEAN JEWS -- AND DISCOVERED A NUMBER OF DEAF ANCESTORS. KNOWING THIS, ROSNER AND CORWIN DECIDED TO TRY FOR A SECOND CHILD.
[we had in our heads there was a possiblity our second child could be deaf, but the journey wiht sophia was going so well, that we weren't too worried. in the end when julette was born, it turned out she was profoundly deaf, and being prof deaf, is a diff animal than being severely hearing impaired. and we were then thrown into the same nexis of decision making the second time]
THIS TIME, OVER COCHLEAR IMPLANTS - AN ELECTRONIC DEVICE SURGICALLY PLACED IN THE SKULL BENEATH THE SKIN. BY SENDING SOUND WAVES DIRECTLY TO AN AUDITORY NERVE , THE COCHLEAR IMPLANT ALLOWS SOUND TO REACH THE BRAIN, WHEN COMBINED WITH AN EXTERNAL SOUND PROCESSOR.
[ in the past, some of this technology really wasn't as good as it is now. and deaf children were put in situations where .. they didn't have a great chance to be successful but in the age where our children were born, the technology was so good that the chance of success is really high. and that is what happened. we found out that juliet was a candidate for an implant, and we did give her one, and she's been incredibly successful as an aural child.]
SO SUCCESSFUL, THAT JULIET WAS 3 YEARS OLD BEFORE SHE LEARNED - THROUGH A CASUAL CONVERSATION - THAT SHE WAS IN FACT DEAF.
[and at the time, i was mortified that i forgot to mention it. but the thing is, she just functions so much like a hearing child, she does have this added oddity. she can take out her hearing technology and have complete silence, ... but for her, it wasn't really her sense of herself, that she was deaf. and 0:22:56.3 again, there might be pp for whom that's an offensive situation to be in, she dind't even know she was deaf -- ... but the thing is, she doesn't identify herself as a deaf person or hearing person. she identifies herself as a six year old girl.]
WHILE ROSNER STILL WORRIES HER DAUGHTERS WILL ENCOUNTER SOCIAL AWKWARDNESS - TROUBLE TALKING ON THE PHONE, SAY, OR UNDERSTANDING WHISPERS - SHE SAYS THEY'RE BOTH THRIVING AT LEVERETT ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN MAINSTREAM CLASSES. HER HUSBAND BILL CORWIN IS NOW DIRECTOR OF THE CLARKE SCHOOL FOR HEARING AND SPEECH - FORMERLY THE CLARK SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF - WHERE THEIR DAUGHTERS SPENT THEIR EARLY EDUCATION YEARS. JENNIFER ROSNER'S NEW BOOK IS, IF A TREE FALLS - A FAMILY'S QUEST TO HEAR AND BE HEARD. FOR WFCR AND WNNZ, I'M KAREN BROWN.
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