In the early 1960’s German measles were running rampant throughout the United States. Many feared that they would get the measles but, those who feared it the most were families who had loved ones who were pregnant. Pregnant women feared that their children would be born with disfigurements, blindness and mental handicaps if they acquired it. However, it was not always possible for these women to stay away from those who were inflicted with measles, because often times those who had it were their own children whom they had to care for while they were pregnant.
Tom Spradley moved his wife Louise and his son Bruce to Illinois in the early 1960’s; to live in a college town so that he could teach over the summer. While living in this quaint village Tom and Louise’s son Bruce came down with German measles unbeknownst to Louise and Tom; Louise was exposed to German measles while only a few weeks pregnant with their second child. About a month a passed and Louise had confirmed with her doctor that she was pregnant and she was distraught at the fact that her unborn child may be blind or have any congenital birth defects. Louise and Tom spent many wakeful nights together fearing the repercussions of being pregnant and exposed to measles. They went from doctor to doctor hoping to get answers to find out if they would have a handicapped child. Most doctors reassured her that she and the baby were going to be fine; Tom and Louise were not so sure.
Nine months passed very slowly for the Spradley family, but the day that Louise and Tom were waiting for had finally arrived and that was the birth of their baby. They prayed and worried tirelessly if she would be normal. Louise gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who had all of her body parts in tact with five fingers and five toes. Louise and Tom were thrilled and they breathed a sigh of relief when the doctor confirmed that they baby was healthy. Tom and Louise named the baby Lynn.
Lynn was growing like a weed and she was a normal and a happy baby just like her brother Bruce was. At about four months old Louise had noticed that at a fourth July party Lynn was not reacting to sounds as she should be. There was a large explosion of fireworks and Lynn had a no reaction at all this is where Louise became concerned. For months Louise and Tom checked to see if Lynn could hear, they would drop things, they would call her name and she reacted normally. But as time progressed they realized that she was very perceptive on what was going on around her and that she was reacting because of visual stimulations not noise stimulation. Tom and Louise took Lynn to the clinic and discovered that she had a profound hearing loss and that she would never hear normally.
As soon as they found out that she had this hearing loss they were directed to a hearing clinic and they were told to continue to speak to Lynn normally however, about a year passed and Lynn turned two and she was still not able to speak. Louise and Tom took Lynn to the John Tracey Clinic when she was about three and they said to them “Just keep pouring the words into her and sooner or later they will come back to you” Tom, Louise and Bruce spoke to Lynn normally every day they worked with her relentlessly day in night, but Lynn was becoming more and more frustrated, so Louise and Tom decided to enroll her into an elite oral school which not everyone was accepted into; Lynn was accepted into the oral school and began immediately. Months went by and Lynn could say two words from attending the oral school. She was able to say ball and Bruce; this was progress for Lynn, but not enough to be able to fully communicate.
Louise remembered that she had ran into a deaf man at the grocery store and she talked to Tom about it and they agreed upon getting in touch with a deaf group at a local church in their community. When Tom and Louise arrived at the church they were astounded on how well those who were deaf communicated. They were taken back that they had such a sophisticated way of communicating, all this time Tom and Louise were always told to not gesture to Lynn because she needed to become oral. However, now that Tom and Louise were exposed to Sign Language they wanted to give it a try for the benefit of Lynn and her communication. They began to learn Signs little by little and then they began signing to Lynn, Lynn picked up Sign Language almost instantaneously. In a matter of one week she had learned thirteen signs, which was more than she had learned in her entire three years at the oral school. Her first sign that she learned was “I- Love-you” she signed that to her mother and Sign Language opened a new door for Lynn she was able to communicate she was able to ask questions and she was able to be answered. From that moment on Louise, Tom and Bruce knew that they were speaking Lynn’s language.
Deaf like Me was a fantastic book to read it was intriguing to find out what Tom and Louise went through to ensure Lynn’s success. It was astonishing to me that Sign Language was not offered in conjunction with aural rehabilitation. I do understand why this was the case however, I do not agree with agree with these methods. I was saddened for Lynn’s family that they struggled to communicate with Lynn for so long. As I was heavy hearted for Lynn, because she could not communicate at all with her family she was shut out from day to day conversations for about four years of her life. I could not imagine not being able to communicate for myself or having my children not able communicate with me. I feel saddened for the deaf in general because I know to this day that being oral is always the goal amongst speech therapist and audiologist. However, in a case like Lynn’s being oral just isn’t possible with a profound hearing loss from birth.
What I did find so comforting was that her family tirelessly continued to find help for Lynn. They never gave up and even her brother and her grandparents were on board with helping Lynn and communicating with her by any means necessary. It was extraordinary that Lynn’s family took an interest in Sign Language even after they were advised from the oral school not too. I was delighted that they were led by their curiosity and decided to venture into exploring American Sign Language and they were able to acclimate themselves in the Deaf community and because of that Lynn had a better quality of life.
Lynn’s family learning Sign Language gave her the opportunity to excel in her studies and she was able to go away to school and become independent; because she was able to communicate. The problem is most people do not give those who are deaf a fighting chance, they immediately label them as having a disability and that is how they are treated. Being deaf is not a disability being deaf just means that they have a different way of communicating and that is through Sign Language.
After reading this book I do have a different outlook as far as the families are concerned. I have a greater respect of what hearing families must go through to get their children help when they do find out that they have hearing loss. I now know that it is generally not the parents who do not want to learn Sing Language it seems that it just may not be offered as it should be in conjunction with aural rehabilitation.
After reading this book I am inspired even more to become a speech pathologist, with my goal being different from most. I will encourage ASL I will enlighten families that are lost and inform them that they and their child can communicate together by using Sign Language. I will not discourage the use of ASL like most do.
I believe that this book can offer valuable information to those who have a deaf child and are discouraged. This book opens a door for families with deaf children as it gives them the opportunity to look into a life of a person who is deaf and born to a hearing family. To know that their child can succeed in spite of their differences in communication.
Deaf Like Me is a well written book and the authors Thomas and James Spradley did a sensational job at depicting the day to day life of being hearing and having a deaf child and from a deaf persons perspective of being deaf and not being given the ability to effectively communicate. I would highly recommend this book and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.