One thing I knew would happen when having a second child is that I’d have to go through the motions once again of letting my hearing child know that Mommy and Daddy are deaf, what being deaf means, that we use sign language and that things are just a little bit different in our home mainly because the parents can't hear. For example, we look out windows to see who is at the door instead of shouting at an unseen knocker standing on the other side of a thick wall of wood, and we have captioning on our TV set to let us know what people are saying.
I knew I’d have to go through this all over again with Jesse. What I didn’t count on, however, was constantly having to remind him that I need to see his lips if I want to lipread him.
The big difference between my two hearing children is that one of them signs more than the other. Jennifer is the signer. And even though Jesse learned signs a lot quicker than Jennifer did as a toddler, Jesse is rarely signing to us. He hardly ever signs. At all.
So, for the most part, my husband and I have had to rely on lipreading him to understand him. Sometimes he will write things down to the best of his abilities or I’ll employ one of the many tricks I use to understand a non-signing child better (which I talk about in my deaf parenting book), but mostly, with Jesse, it’s all about lipreading.
The downside about that, though, is that, being 5, Jesse sometimes forgets that in order for us to lipread him, we need to see his lips!
I have sounded like a broken record lately because I have had to keep repeating certain reminders to Jesse when it comes to lipreading:
“Jesse, I can’t read your lips when your face is right in front of mine.”
“Jesse, I can’t read your lips if you cover your mouth.”
“Jesse, I can’t read your lips when you are looking away. You need to look at me when you talk.”
And I also tell him I can’t read his lips when he’s talking too fast or when there is food in his mouth.
I was raised in an oral home, so I don’t mind lipreading. As it is, we use both lipreading and sign language to communicate. But when it’s only lipreading, we have to make sure that the person speaking remembers certain guidelines to follow in order to make lipreading work. For Jesse, we have to repeat these reminders. We had to do the same thing with Jennifer when she was little. Many times, she forgot we can’t lipread her if we can’t see her lips. Eventually, the reminders sunk in. I hope they’ll sink in for Jesse, too. At some point.