Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pity? Really???

I'm not a huge fan of the show "Celebrity Apprentice" with Donald Trump, but I have been tuning in to watch this season because I really love Marlee Matlin. I love that Deafness is a part of her, but it doesn't define her. She's a great role model for Deaf children.

Anyway, I was watching this week's episode during which the teams were tasked with writing a children's book and performing it. This seems easy enough, right? While her team was brainstorming, Marlee suggested that it would be great to have a character in the book who had a hearing loss. The reaction of her peers was shocking to me.

It was decided, mostly by Dionne Warwick, that having a Deaf character would lead to "pity" and sadness on the part of the children reading the book. As a team, the majority decided that the four and five year olds were too young to be told that someone has a hearing loss and would feel sad about it, and instead went with another storyline that completely bypassed the Deaf idea all together.

Pity???? Really??? The last thing I think of when I see CJ and Liam is pity. I think of silliness, sign language, big messes, lots of giggles, ice cream parties, , hearing aid batteries, cochlear implant testing, etc. I think of a LOT of things, but pity and sadness are not on that list.

In case there be any question out there, allow me to clarify a few things in The Gospel According to Aimee. Children are NEVER too young to be taught anything. Even the youngest child can be given bits and pieces of concepts and come to accept it. To suggest that three and four year olds are incapable of understanding that a peer has hearing loss is ludicrous! CJ was four years old once. He stayed that way for a whole year, too. And, in that year, HE HAD PEER FRIENDS!!

The other children didn't fully understand what Deafness entails, but they knew they like CJ. They knew his ears "were broken, so he wears hearing aids and talks with his hands" sometimes. They knew he liked to collect rocks and organize them by size and color. They knew that he loved to tell knock-knock jokes, even though he didn't really understand why the jokes were funny. They knew he loved a good whoopee cushion and would laugh at every fart and bathroom joke. They knew he LOVED books and often hid them in his backpack so he could read them later. What they didn't know was pity for him. Never once did I see any of his peers feel sad or sorry because they knew CJ and that his ears don't work right.

Kindergarten went fine for CJ as well as first grade. He has his challenges and sometimes has to work harder to really play like the other kids because he misses some of what they say, but that doesn't get him down. On the contrary, I would assert that other children are better off for having been around CJ, Liam, or really any other child with a disability. Learning to coexist and enjoy peers with differing abilities as young children is what breeds acceptance and understanding. To suggest anything otherwise is narrow-minded.

If I feel pity for anyone, it's for those who are unable to see the beauty of diversity right in front of their own noses. I feel pity for the people who suffer with ignorance so badly that they are unable to see the amazing joy that Deaf children have within them. I pity the individual who clearly has not had the pleasure of meeting my boys and embracing them for who they are.

Let me be perfectly clear. It's absolutely acceptable to feel empathy and cry for the parent who is mourning the loss of a child's ability in one way or another. It's normal to feel frustration when trying desperately to communicate with a child who is unable to tell you why he's crying. It's human nature to have questions about how hearing aids, cochlear implants, sign language, and hearing testing works. To feel pity for a Deaf child, however, is just wasted energy. For anyone who was wondering, my children need your love and acceptance. They don't need your pity. At all.


  1. *LOVE* this post. I just love it!

  2. I must have missed that part of show!! I just start watching it yesterday! I would be mad! how the dimissed that deaf/hearing loss thing!! But Marlee she is smart not to get riffed up or they can "fired" her...you know?
    But I would be interested to keep on watching!!!
    Love your blog..my son, Cory has BI-Cochlear Implants..it has been a surreal experience for us too.

  3. Excellent post. I wish I had seen the episode you write about. I just might start watching as I like Marlee too.

  4. I posted a link to the episode in the blog post. You can also go to www.hulu.com and watch it. It's episode 2 of this season.