What is it like to be a CODA (child of a deaf adult)?
By gahear on November 7, 2023 in Blogs
According to The Journal of Deaf and Deaf Studies, 90% of deaf adults have hearing children. These children are known as CODA (children of a deaf adult). They have a unique experience growing up seeing the resilience and strength of the deaf community while being able to navigate between the deaf and hearing worlds in a way others often can’t
But outside of the deaf and CODA community, not much is known about CODAs themselves. There has been more recent interest in children born to deaf adults since the movie CODA came out in 2021, but there is still more to learn and understand.
What Does CODA Mean?
CODA stands for a child of a deaf adult. The term was first coined by Dr. Robery Hoffmeister in the 1980s and describes both hearing and deaf children who have deaf parents. While their experiences growing up do vary, when sharing how they grew up, CODAs tend to share many similarities. They often serve as a bridge between two worlds: the deaf community and the hearing one. They tend to be fluent in both sign language and spoken language and are often interpreters for their parents.
Communication is Key
As you might imagine, communication is an important aspect of a CODA’s life. Many children of deaf adults learn sign language before they ever learn to speak and are often better at picking up on body language, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues than children who grow up with hearing parents. Speech can often come later with a speech therapist or with the help of hearing friends or family members.
Translating is also a big part of life early on. Whether their parents have them act as translators or hearing people in society ask them to play that role, many CODAs end up translating and interpreting for their parents at an early age, as a professional translator is not very common in most settings. This can lead to some interesting (and sometimes inappropriate) early experiences for CODAs, especially when they have to translate at parent-teacher conferences!
A Thriving Community
Because being a CODA is such a unique experience, finding a community is vital. Being around people who are like you and who understand and accept you is important for everyone, but it can be especially important for children of deaf adults. Not only does being around other CODAs allow them to share their experiences, but it also takes off some of the weight that society puts on a CODA’s shoulders. They can share inside jokes, resources, stories, and struggles in a way that may be more difficult with those who don’t share their experiences.
Lots of Responsibility
Responsibility is another big part of the CODA experience. Finding the right balance between the hearing and the deaf world can be both difficult and rewarding. Translating for parents, especially at a young age, can have CODAs being part of conversations that may not be appropriate for young children.
Additionally, CODAs often feel like they must be the protectors for their parents in a world that doesn’t always treat disabled people like they deserve. This can lead to a reversal of roles, where the child can feel like the parent in some cases.
But that doesn’t mean the responsibility isn’t rewarding as well. Their unique experiences often lead them to be more empathetic, better communicators, and have more cultural sensitivity than their hearing counterparts. They also learn a deep appreciation for diversity and inclusion.
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