Friday, July 20, 2007

Lullabies, deafness and Total Communication

Our dear friends the Lees expressed regret on sending these lovely lullabies for Reuben given his deafness, but what we're learning is the importance of Total Communication, the concept of communicating through all avenues, not just through hearing.

As you know, Jason and I are great lovers of live music and I guess that makes his deafness even more poignant. Yet at a Starsailor gig back in November, we were warmed to watch sign language being used to communicate at the side of the stage. Whether the signer was communicating the words themselves, or communicating the message, the rhythm, the feeling being conveyed by the music, I'm not sure. We didn't realise the significance at the time, but it has made us feel that Reuben will be able to appreciate music, albeit in a different way to ourselves. My brother Joe who's an avid writer has since said that he'll write about music for Reuben so he'll be able to appreciate it in a different way. I hope that'll extend to Starsailor's music too, as I know Joe's not a fan.

Communication in another sense was a big part of my former profession, wherein I learnt the power of body language, tone of voice and language as having a significant impact on the delivery of a message, ie it's not just the words that count. In much the same way, Reuben will draw upon facial expressions and other body language, we'll continue to express feelings through touch and indeed words. We hope he will lip read along with sign. We will perhaps draw on many more resources than for hearing parents to enable him to "hear".

It doesn't make Reuben's deafness any less painful, but it gives us avenues.


skeybunny said...


I believe that Reuben will be able to appreciate music in some way. A collegue of mine has a grand-daughter who is Deaf (she is an ex-Daffodil Princess, no less--this is a big scholarship/pagent in WA state...but I digress). Her mother became an ASL interpreter, and she has told me stories of going to loud concerts and seeing groups of Deaf teens and young adults dancing RIGHT in front of the giant speakers. If they stand near the speakers, then they can FEEL the music vibrations. Hearing is just one of our senses. And although Reuben won't have this one, you are going to give him a live that is full of experiences through all the other senses.

Sarah, Jeremy, and Evan

PS We will be thinking of you next weekend at the CHARGE conference.

yp said...

"Deafness" is a concept that most people are unknowingly not giving much thought to until it in some ways enters their own life. I can only speak of the deafness our son Keith has, deafness from birth - not loss at an early age, not progressive loss, not later loss. I think part of our wonderful Western Scientific mind does us disservice here. We are taught that hearing is the physical response of the auditory system (the ears only) to vibrations in the air as processed by the brain. In our life with Keith and other deaf children I have learned that there is so much more to any sesory perception than it's literal processing and that truly no sense functions in complete isolation from the others. I have learned to embrace a new sense of wholeness, not based upon how Keith's abilities test, but rather on how Keith's abilities serve him. There is an entire synthesis of a myriad of perceptions which add up to perceiving, understanding and giving meaning to sounds. Keith has 90-120 db loss in one ear and 70-90 db loss in the other. All of his brother's friends who meet him think this must not be the brother who is Deaf, because in their imagination deaf never looked like this. Perhaps it is the schoolbook accessibility to someone like Helen Keller, who is often portrayed as still, soundless and silent. I do deeply believe that Reuben will enjoy sound with the fullness of his being, enhanced by the love and enthusiasm you have for music, life and beauty. I believe this because of what I have experienced with Keith and others. Total communication worked for us. There is no guaranteed way moving forward to know what will be best perceived and processed by our precious children. Your entries on sign and sound are beautifully written and expressed wonderful thoughts. You are such a dear blessing and steward of Reuben's every capacity and possibility. With great love, yuka