Deaf studies

DODA / Deaf children of Deaf parents / Deaf family

Deaf family portrait
"Deaf Family" photo courtesy of Jolanta Lapiak

Deaf families or "Deaf child of Deaf parent(s)" called "doda" is a minority. About 5-10% of deaf children are born to deaf parents, whereas the remaining 90-95% of all deaf children are born to hearing parents. This means that about 90% of Deaf parents give birth to hearing children (called "coda"), while about 90% of all deaf children are born to hearing parents. That is, Deaf community consists mostly of the deaf children of hearing families.

Deaf children of Deaf parents are also considered "codas". But, since about 90 percent of hearing children are born to Deaf parents, it's a large percent that the term 'coda' is commonly referred to hearing children of Deaf parents. So, deaf children of Deaf parents are then called doda, but they are mostly simply called "Deaf family".

What is it like to grow up Deaf of Deaf family?

Is there anything unique about a hearing family? Nothing (other than every family is unique). So it should be nothing unusual for a Deaf family. Life of a Deaf family is pretty normal like any all-hearing family, just like life of a Spanish-speaking family, French-speaking family, Hindu-speaking family, and so on.

Only the difference is language and culture. But, Deaf family is not common to hearing outsiders. So, it's fascinating. So, we'll tell stories.

Through stories, you will learn about the world of sound, vibration, visual culture, and our precious language in a visual-spatial modality.

Language and communication

There isn't much a difference between a hearing family and Deaf family in terms of growing up in a family with full access to the same language and culture, having a normal language acquisition from birth, all having the same access to communication, and so on. We experience all everday things in everyday life.

However, a deaf child of hearing family often would be awed by the ease of full-fledged access to conversations at dinner at a Deaf family's home for a sleepover. It's full of life, lively chats, laughs, and jokes. Talking about anything from politics to school. No infamous lines "will tell you later" and "never mind" that many deaf children of hearing families regularly were told.

family dinner

Yes, deaf children consider being deaf of Deaf family a blessing. Because, unfortunately, the majority of hearing parents of deaf children don't know or don't learn sign language. But, a small percent of hearing parents who learn ASL is even truly a blessing to their deaf children.

Amy Cohen Efron shared her experience being around Deaf friends of Deaf family and she values the existence of DODA.

And, we believe, Deaf children of hearing family are equally valued by Deaf of deaf family within Deaf community.

Random anecdotes

-> When my Deaf parents bought a lot in the 1990s, they requested the builder to modify an electrical system when building the house. Each room in the house has two electrical outlets next to each other, one white and one beige. One is a regular outlet like you have at your place. The other one is for doorbell and phone-ring. Just plug any lamp in the "Deaf outlet" and it flashes every time a doorbell or phone rings. Yes, that means light in every room flashes throughout the whole house! If you see one, you know it's a very rare Deaf house.

-> Somewhere in a book I read, there was a story about a Deaf child of Deaf family. The child was surrounded by all family members manually speaking. One day, the child visited his hearing neighbor's family. He was perplexed, seeing see all family members moving their lips. Scratching head, what is that? Then, his Deaf family explained to him about the concept of "hearing" people who speak with their lips. Few of you might relate to this experience when you saw someone moving with their hands for the first time when you were a child. Many times, I've seen hearing children curiously looking at me manually talking with others. They had no prior knowledge of deaf and sign language.

-> To call a Deaf family member or to get their attention, we flip the light switch on/off (if from the door), stamp on the floor, wave hand, tap on the shoulder, or use an intermediary. Rarely, if one's eyes are too glued to a television screen that none of these ordinary methods work, one might throw something like a small pillow, ha.

-> In some cases more or less than variants, a hearing stranger might realize that an adult is deaf. Then she would turn to the deaf's spouse only to discover that the spouse is deaf, too. Then, she would turn to their child and, before she is about to vocally speak, the deaf parent would intervene, telling her that the child is deaf too. Then if there were a sibling, she would in gesture, umm, point to the sibling and point to the ear, "deaf too?"

The reaction may be like "all of you deaf?" She/he might think it's unfortunate. A pity. In truth, Deaf family is as normal as -- no less fortunate than -- a hearing family.

-> When my Deaf parents's single Deaf friend chatted about his private love life with them, while I was doing my business from across the room. At that time I was an early teenager. As I casually listened (not eaversdropped on) his conversations out of peripheral vision, I caught my father quickly whispered in his foreign signed language translated as "Psst, be careful. Daughter". Sometimes those guys talked a few private stuff in their foreign signed language. Years later, I told him that I understood them in the foreign language! I grew up naturally acquiring their another language without using it much.

-> If hearing teenagers come home late, they might tiptoe to their bedrooms as quietly as possible without making any sounds, right? Likewise, I'd quietly sneak into my Deaf parents' house and keep everything as dark as possible without making any lights.

More to come. Got a story? Email me.

Related posts

More related stories about coda: hearing children of deaf parents.

More stories on how deaf people perceive through the world of eye.

New to sign language? "Where do I start?" or "How do I start learning sign language?" This ASL Rookie guide lists some selected links to the tutorials for ASL beginners to get started and keep rolling. It may be a useful review for intermediate-level learners and ASL students as well.

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Expressing needs and wants

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Talking about activities

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Stories, poems, performance arts, etc. in sign language.

This documentation project follows a child's language acquisition, literacy development, and phonological acquisition in sign language, specifically ASL, from newborn to age five in a natural native-ASL environment and visual culture.