Thursday, November 18, 2004

Talking to Strangers

I got an email from a deaf e-friend today. In the course of the email she mentioned taking her two (hearing) children, six and four, on an outing with her. She said that the kids are very cute, and people often talk with them in public when they're out together, as people will. Waiters or bus drivers or strangers in the mall will bend down and chatter away to the cute kids who will chatter and smile and laugh right back, and mommy is sitting there not knowing a word that is being said to her children. It makes her uncomfortable, she says. Someone is accessing her children and she has no control over the situation, no way to monitor the information they are being given, no way to gauge whether someone gives her a "creepy" vibe. What she wants to do when this happens is take their hands and walk away.

But she knows that's not rational, these people are just nice grownups who think her kids are cute. She wants her children to socialize normally and not to be afraid of people, she said. She tries to remind them to always sign in front of mommy even if you're not speaking to mommy, but they forget.

It will get better, she knows, as they get older and remember to sign and are able to make better judgements for themselves about communicating with strangers or acquaintences. But right now, they are so vulnerable.

Just another piece of the complex patchwork quilt of deafness that had never occurred to me until today.



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