The Cochlear Implant and Sign Language – One Mom’s Viewpoint

Louise’s note:  I have long been an advocate for all deaf people to know sign language, even as a “back up” when they are the recipient of the cochlear implant. Christy Garrett is a mom and a follower of the SIGNING FAMILIES FACEBOOK page. She asked if she could post this blog as a guest.  I gladly obliged.

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Sign Language is a Useful Tool for Cochlear Implant Recipient’s

 by Guest Blogger, Christy Garrett

As a young mom, it was very overwhelming to discover that my daughter was born with a severe to profound hearing loss.  She seemed so perfect.  However, when she was a month old it seemed like she was responding to typical household noises but after multiple hearing tests the doctors confirmed that she was deaf.  This news crushed my heart and I began to blame myself for her imperfection.  Then I realized that she was born deaf for a reason.

She began learning American Sign Language around 9 or 10 months old.   A speech therapist would come to our house from the Early Intervention Services, a program that is designed to help families who have children with special needs.  They provide services free of charge and help find care that they can’t provide for children ages birth to three years old.  Also, the Early Intervention Team can refer to the local school district your child  who may continue to receive services within a school environment.

Early intervention specialists began teaching my daughter sign language using play therapy.    She was able to learn basic sign language for common words such as apple, shoe, mom, dad, and more.  I remember the first time that she finally signed back to us, that day was a huge milestone as she was finally able to starting to learn how to communicate!

At the age of 3, I decided that she should have the opportunity to receive a cochlear implant so, that she could communicate orally with her baby brother that was on the way.  When she received her cochlear implant, the speech therapist and doctors recommended that we drop the sign language all together.  They felt that if she relied on sign language that she wouldn’t take interest in learning how to hear and learn to talk.  However, the opposite happened.

Sign language has been a great tool and has benefited her more than I think the doctors and speech therapist realized.  She is now considered bilingual and is fluent in two languages.

However, her knowing sign language has been useful on more than one occasion when something on her cochlear implant has failed or she is having a hard time understanding.
I can count on my hands how many times over the years that her implant was damaged or broken and had to be returned.  Sometimes it would take a week or more to get it back, without her cochlear implant she was deaf.  Sign language allowed her to continue learning without skipping a beat.

Technology is great but it isn’t perfect.  She was born deaf and having a cochlear implant has allowed her to join the hearing world; however, it doesn’t change the fact that without the device she is still deaf.  So in certain situations her implant has no use:

  • showering/bathing
  • swimming
  • some sports
  • loud background noise
  • her batteries die and she doesn’t have spare ones with her
  • cochlear implant isn’t functioning properly

I asked my daughter what she would recommend for a parent who is contemplating on teaching their child sign language and they have a cochlear implant.  She is 16 years old now and didn’t have a say in the decision that I made when she was younger.  However, now she is able to share her opinion and is able to help others.

She said, that knowing sign language has allowed her to learn more vocabulary words and improve her word knowledge.”

Christy Garret, is a wife to her loving husband of 4 years and a mother to three beautiful children – Ages 15, 12, and 18 months old. I am the owner and founder of Uplifting Famiiles. In my spare time, I enjoy blogging, spending time with my family, going to church, and playing games. I can be found on twitter at @upliftingfam

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