What Did you Say?
A Lesson For Us All

by Linda Miles

Recently my husband was talking with our six year-old, hard-of-hearing son, Jared. My husband asked Jared if he understood. Jared nodded, affirmingly. Then, just as his dad stepped out of the room, Jared turned to me and asked, "What did Daddy say?"

This situation reminded me of when I was in my early teens, probably in the seventh or eighth grade. For a time I thought I might be hard-of-hearing myself. This question was a worrisome one to ponder. I thought of the number of kids in the school with glasses, and yet, I couldn't think of anyone my age that wore hearing aids. Somehow it was different.

I walked part of the way to my junior high (in Arvada , CO ) with a shy friend. As we walked, we would look ahead and most likely down at the ground. I would often ask her to repeat what she said. I believe I had this problem with several of my friends during this time. It became tiring and embarrassing to ask, "What?" all the time. I could tell this annoyed them. I ended up not bothering and getting along in the conversations and relationships without full understanding. Well, my hearing is normal and of course my friends were just in the teenage stage of looking at the ground and mumbling as they talked! I remember deciding that much of the time it is easier to lie and fake understanding than to ask, "What?" all the time!

Does this work? Can one get by in life with partial understanding? This may slide by in casual conversations with friends or watching TV, but what about hearing rules to a sport or game, or listening to a teacher or a boss?! Have we been humiliated by laughing at a joke we really don't understand?

We parents need to encourage our children to stand up for themselves and make sure they understand and are understood in life. It is actually a lesson for us all.

Whose responsibility is it to make sure communication is made? I would say it is both parties in a conversation. Misunderstandings are frequent enough in life. Checking for understanding is always important; whether it is between parents and deaf/hh children, parents and hearing children, husbands and wives, or bosses and employees. Clarifying can feel a little socially awkward at times, but sure can save big problems later. With deaf/hh children, those little (or big) smarties can adapt very well and guessing is probably a way of life, but checking for understanding and clarifying is crucial to them comprehending their world.

I will take this one step further and encourage us all to maintain a high standard of communication with whichever method we choose. For at least a year of my son's preschool years, he believed all knives and scissors were called, "cut-it." I was satisfied with this because I knew what he meant, but we parents need to remember that we can't simplify the world for our children.

Be a good role model by asking when you are confused. And with your children, be patient, slow down, and treat every bit of information with importance. Much of what we know is learned indirectly. Our children deserve to fully understand!

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