Thursday, February 07, 2008

The experience of being a CODA - isolating and unheard

I don't talk about it very much - but I am very aware that being a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults) impacts me greatly. A discussion today about how I learnt to speak - sent me into a self-reflective mood around my life as a CODA tonight. Often CODA's feel isolated. However, I think the thing that I find hardest is being a CODA of deaf parents who don't sign. It really feels like the world that I "belong" to is very small - I'm not part of the deaf community, in many ways I'm not part of the "normal hearing" community, but neither am I really part of the CODA community because the "norm" is signing families. There are a few of us CODA's from non-signing families but we are very few and far between. It's an isolating experience.

Over the last year or so a person who has worked with me for a number of years has realised that for me to say that I don't feel "heard" is not simply "I don't think you have taken in what I am saying", rather it is "I don't feel like my existence is being acknowledged" which we both realise comes from very early childhood experiences, particularly stemming from not being "heard" by my parents. As I have been around young children in recent years I can't imagine what it was like for me as a baby/toddler to not be "heard" by my parents and the number of times I felt like I was ignored and just plain treated as a non person. One of my responses to this has been to desperately seek out being "heard"/"acknowledged". The reality is that my parents did all they could to "hear" me (my sense is within what they could control were over-protective) - but the limitations were so huge and given the circumstances there is no way around the fact that there would have been many times where I was in want or need and was not responded to. I am still coming to terms with how this has effected me.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. I'm a Coda too and I have a coda friend that also did not know sign. She is learning now after several years of feeling torn about it. I'm listening. Share your coda stories.

Tanja said...

I'm not a CODA, but I really relate to how you feel. I've been struggling with how to explain that feeling of my existence not being acknowledged. Thank you for putting it into words and sharing how you are feeling.

Anonymous said...

It's only just occurred to me in a conscious way that your parents would have never heard you cry... or laugh... and so on, and that that is so profound that it brings me to tears. xo