This is the fourth September, the fourth Deaf Awareness month that we have celebrated and the third year that I am even aware of what this means.
This year has hit a lot harder and differently to the previous years. The first September and Deaf Awareness month Oli was 3 months post cochlear implant surgery. We were in thick of our therapy and just so excited. The second September, we were getting ready to immigrate to the U.S. During this time I became so much more aware of what Deaf Awareness actually meant. The resources that were available in the U.S. were astounding. Last September, we were back in South Africa and I was searching. For what, I wasn’t really sure, but it just felt like I, no we needed more.
This September, this Deaf Awareness month, I spent the month watching the most informative panel discussions that were hosted by the @Wits Centre for Deaf Studies. The topics covered from South African Sign Language, d/Deaf culture, deaf/blind information, Deaf advocacy, Deaf art and interviews of the most incredible people. Some of these people were Deaf, many used South African Sign Language, some used hearing technology and some used a combination. Then there were the hearing individuals working alongside and together with members of the Deaf community, it was so inspiring.
On Saturday, September 30, 2023, the Wits Centre for Deaf Studies hosted a fun day. We unfortunately couldn’t attend as Oli wasn’t feeling great but I will absolutely be there for the next one. This last month, I have realised that there is a whole community that I was not aware of present in South Africa, literally just down the road from us. A community that realises that there is no right or wrong way to navigate the journey of being hearing parents to a deaf child. A community that is willing to mentor us and guide us.
I would like to clarify that during our journey we have never been told by any professional, that has crossed our path that there is a right way or wrong way. Each one has worked within their frame of reference, within their expertise and for that we as a family are truly grateful. As Oli gets older, I have realised that I would like him to meet other Deaf community members. I want him to be exposed to people that are just like him, perhaps also cochlear implant users, hearing aid or BAHA users, South African Sign Language users, cued speech or perhaps a combination. I want him to see that he can grow up and do whatever he sets his heart and mind on, knowing that being Deaf is not something that should stand in his way, in fact, it just makes him more unique and a bonus extra superpower.