"A Loss For Words" By Lee Ann Walker: The Deaf World

832 words - 3 pages

Lee Ann Walker is an adult child of deaf parents. Her memoir, "A Loss For Words" examines what it is like to grow up without the usual linguistic and cultural norms. As the hearing child of deaf parents, the usual verbal cues and linguistic culture that most hearing people are integrated into. Culture results from a group of people coming together to form a community around shared experience, common interests, shared norms of behavior, and shared survival techniques. Such groups as the deaf, seek each other out for social interaction and emotional support. However, a non-deaf person growing up in a deaf culture may experience many of the same problems a deaf person in mainstream culture will face. This in turn may suggest that communication disorders are actually in part cultural conflicts, rather than "pure" illnesses. A Loss For Words, as an examination of a child growing up in Deaf Culture (Deaf is capitalized when referring to culture, left in lower case when referring to the state of not being able to hear) gives us insights into the way normative and abnormal communication is defined.Mastery of ASL and skillful storytelling are highly valued in Deaf Culture. Through ASL Literature, one generation passes on to the next its wisdom, values, and its pride and thus reinforces the bonds that unite the younger generation.Another feature of this Culture is the role of marriage. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 members of the American Deaf community marry other members of their cultural group. Many D/deaf couples also wish for a deaf child so that they may pass on their heritage and Culture, it is not just the language but the values, the same values that hearing parents want to instill in their children. Since deafness is not always hereditary, many deaf couples have hearing children. Walker herself was an interpreter for her parents starting at age four, a "head of household" (Walker, p. 19) at age eight, teacher and helper for her little sisters and a buffer between her family and the rest of the world.There are two things to be understood about communication disorders from this book. The first emerges from what we learn about Walker herself. As the hearing member of her family, she was given special responsibilities, but also torn between two worlds. There were times when she had difficulty navigating between the world of Deaf Culture and the world of the hearing. And yet, she does not demonstrate any communication disorders, though some childhood experiences (a learned dependence on...

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