To implant or not to implant?
That is the question faced by every parent of a deaf child.
The Facts: Alexandra received her first cochlear implant (CI) on January 18, 1998. She was almost 3 years old, she had had 36 ear infections and despite speech therapy since she was 13 months old, she had no formative language skills.
The Questions: Cochlear Implant? No Cochlear Implant? Positives? Negatives? At the time, making this decision was profoundly nerve-racking for me as her mother and virtual single-parent. Like any mother, I wanted to do the absolute right thing by my baby, my daughter.
Whether or not to have her skull opened and have her ear implanted consumed my every waking moment for months. I lay in bed at night contemplating the decisions I needed to make for the future of my hard-of-hearing 2 year old.
I just kept thinking --
“This child is a gift to me, to love, to raise and to make the best possible decisions for. She deserves for me to make a studiously researched and well-educated decision. I was so afraid that I would make this irreversible decision and later in life Alexandra would hate me for it or tell me that she wished I would have waited to let her make the decision when she was old enough. But that was not the case as time wasn’t on our side if we wanted to raise her to be able to communicate orally.”
In Hindsight: I would choose for Alexandra to have a cochlear implant again and again. (Yes, I know that is controversial in many deaf communities yet for us, my decision still stands.)
Why? Alexandra is now 22 years old and thankful to be able to hear and appreciative of the agony that went into making that choice on her behalf 20 years ago. She is grateful that I did my research and made an educated decision based on her future well-being.
Together we’ve discussed and advocated for her to take advantage of medical advancements which have enabled her to hear; advancements which have given her opportunities she would/could not have experienced otherwise.
Giving Thanks: Alexandra is thankful she can write full and structured sentences and research papers for college. She is thankful she can speak clearly and concisely. She is thankful she can follow and engage in meaningful conversations with hearing and non-hearing friends and family. She is thankful she can interact in a classroom and follow a professor’s teaching. Most importantly she is thankful that she is going to graduate from college and be able to obtain the career of her dreams without being hindered by her lack of language skills and writing comprehension.
Did all of this come easy? Absolutely not. Alexandra worked incredibly hard to develop these skills. She took advantage of the resources available to her as a child and she still does while in college. For example, Alexandra has a broad network of interpreters, speech therapists, qualified Deaf/Oral teachers, audiologists, note takers and an unbelievable support system of family and friends.
During this journey we have hit many roadblocks requiring us to reassess our course of action. We remained focused and diligent in our goal and with all of that being said and done, Alexandra will graduate from the University of Louisville in January 2019.
Had I known 19 years ago what I know now, I would still make the same decision. No doubts, no regrets from either mother or daughter.
Deaf People and Educational Attainment in the United States: 2017 Key findings are summarized below.
- In general, deaf people attain lower levels of education than hearing people.
- 51% of deaf people complete at least some college.
- Younger deaf people are increasingly more likely to graduate from high school.
- General educational attainment rates have increased since 2008.
- Deafdisabled individuals demonstrate lower educational attainment levels.
- Deaf women attend college at higher rates than deaf men.
- It is necessary to recognize how the intersectional identities of deaf people interact with educational experiences and outcomes.
- Income and employment vary across fields of degree.
For more information about deaf people and educational attainment in the US you can download the report here.