I am an older deaf woman who used to live with a family in Staunton, a deaf couple and their two hearing children. I shared a home with them for 29 years. Several years ago, when the father became very sick one evening and was rushed to the hospital emergency room, his wife and 15-year-old hearing daughter were with him. His wife kept asking for an interpreter in the ER. But the doctor said, “I do not have an interpreter tonight for you.” She became upset and bewildered. She did not know what to do. She needed to know what was happening to her husband.
The doctor asked the daughter to interpret for her deaf mother. The mother did not want her daughter to interpret for her, but she had no choice. Do you know what the doctor said to the 15-year-old daughter? “Your dad will not live very long. He has maybe one year left.”
How do you think the young daughter felt? She, of course, was very upset and confused. She was not ready to let her father go. She had to interpret the doctor’s words to her mother that her father was going to die soon. The daughter ended up having a breakdown and stayed in a hospital for a week due to depression and confusion. Her mother and I went to visit her every day that week.
The father passed away soon after. Of course, the children were upset and angry. The children still needed him and loved him very much. Their father was too young to die.
I encourage everyone in the community to become more aware of the experience of CODA children (Children of Deaf Adults). Children, especially underage children, should not be allowed to interpret for their family at all, period. Only professional American Sign Language interpreters should be provided to meet the communication needs of deaf families, never the children at all. Save both deaf families and CODA hearing children from pain and confusion.