Tuesday, September 12, 2006

On having a deaf sibling

I have two sisters. The sister in this photo is my sister who is deaf. She is helping get her three children (the big ones) and the twins as well as their cousin Daniel ready for the 'cousins' photo. This was taken at the christening of the twins and their cousin Daniel. My sister Deb is godmother to the twins. I was godmother to my other sisters son, Daniel.
PS: I am godmother to two of the big kids in the photo - Deb's boys Mitchell and Cameron.

DeafnessWelcome 2 My Deaf World DVD
Synopsis: Bethany Rose and Scott Masterson are schoolmates, a pair of energetic and charming teenagers who share three things - adolescence, school, and deafness. We (the hearing) might see deafness as a disability to be cured. But to Bethany and Scott, their deaf world is a rich culture of human possibility, with its own language, rules, challenges and inspirations. Welcome 2 My Deaf World follows Bethany and Scott through the last few months of their schooling at the Victorian College for the Deaf (VCD), Australia's first school for deaf kids, and now the only school that teaches in sign language from Prep to Year 12. With dreams of creative, sporting and academic success, both teenagers appear eager to move beyond their sheltered lives and enter the wider world. This documentary follows two teenagers on the edge of change, but it is also a story about what it means to be deaf in contemporary Australia. It is an exploration of a culture with its own language and history.
Product Code 6SBWDW
Format DVD
Duration 52 mins
Year 2005

My sister emailed me earlier tonight suggesting I might want to watch the above doco when it airs here on Thursday night. She is a profoundly deaf person in her early forties. As her younger sister I grew up around signing - but my sister was raised in an era when families were often in the dark - struggling to do the best they could for their children. There are things about being a sibling of a teenager with a disability that I still regret today - adolescence is such a tough time - for all of us but especially for those who are 'different'. As a child and an adult though I love having a deaf sister - it is because she was in my life that I am a more visual learner. I think I have a strong sense fo justice, patience and compassion - that may or may not have been fostered by my relationship with her. I know however that when I found out my own child might have DS - even though I knew very little and nothing constructive about DS - I was already at an advantage - I understood as only experience can tell you that difference is ok. No - more than that. It is GOOD!

I am so proud of my sister - she copes in a hearing world so well. She is married with three wonderful children and she has built a strong marriage and has confidence in the deaf community. Just this year she has returned to part time work as a data processor - for anyone such a return after 17 years as a stay at home mother would be hard - try entering the hearing world of work after such an abscence!

Once I became a parent it also gave me greater insights as to how my own mother relates to my deaf sister - something that I don't think even my sister (even though she is a mother too) fully understands. The depth of feeling a child who is vulnerable can bring, the fear that you could do more for them - and believe me - my sister was raised forty years ago - I hope things have improved for deaf children - I can see things that I wish had happened differently in our family. Now like my mother I too must deal with these issues - I am doing my very best for Hannah - and perhaps when she is older she or her siblings too will see the mistakes I made. The things I could have done better - I pray that ways of helping children with DS continue to improve and develop but I also hope that what I am doing will be something to be proud of - for the rest of our lives as a family.


mum2brady said...

What a great post Shelley! Wow to your sister for returning to work and taking on the hearing world :) She sounds like a wonderful friend and person. I love the insights she helped you gain about differences, and I think you are a GREAT mom to Hannah and Kit. I think we all will make some mistakes and wish we'd done some things differently, but I like to think we are all doing the best we can, and God will take up the slack LOLOL

Thanks for sharing your insights! The documentary sounds wonderful, I'll have to check and see if it will air here :) Thanks!

Michelle said...

Great post on your sister - thanks for sharing what it was like to grow up with someone who is deaf...and kudos to your sister on going back to work after 17 yrs at home!