Words for a Beautiful, Laughing Deaf Child

Giana is six years old and was born profoundly deaf.

She is an enchanting child – I can tell this only from her picture, however, because I’ve never met her. But her mother, Gina, says that this is pure Giana, a beautiful laughing girl, who is also deaf and who has been struggling in her early school years. 

Gina contacted me recently looking for some special help. She is involved in the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) in their Essex County chapter, which holds an annual fundraising event to support HLAA’s Walk4Hearing, which supports people with hearing loss. This year, Gina and her colleagues organized a successful masquerade ball with the theme of Don’t Hide Behind Your Hearing Loss, and Gina was looking for a poem to read that night.

She wrote to me:  

“We want people to accept their hearing loss. I don’t want Giana to be embarrassed, but to be proud. If someone says something she doesn’t understand, I want her to ask the person to repeat it, instead of pretending to hear.

She uses an Advanced Bionic cochlear implant and she uses sign language. Because Giana is still struggling to speak, she was transferred to a Total Communication school**.  She loves to swim and dance and is loved by many because of her personality.

I am looking for a poem to read at the masquerade ball to tell Giana that it’s OK that she is different – but also, for the people who are coming to know her, to better understand her hearing loss journey.

OK, wow, gulp. I didn’t have much time. A frantic search on the web didn’t turn up anything appropriate, so I decided to write something. Here is what Gina read to her daughter and the audience. (Note: Anyone looking for a polished, literary-quality poem is may be disappointed. It doesn’t matter – Giana liked it.)

 

Poem for Giana

 

Giana, I’ve never met you.

You are 6 and I am 60-ish.

We live thousands of miles apart.

    But what joins us in our hearts

         Is that we – you and me – are both deaf.

 

What words can I use,

To tell you, Beautiful Laughing Girl,

That being deaf

Makes you special in this world?

 

When I was six

I wish they’d told me that

Not being able to hear

Was OK and not bad

 

And I wish they’d said,

“We can help you hear

With hearing aids, CIs

And other technical gear.

But you, (Gael-Giana),

Because you will have to,

   You will try harder

     Listen better

       Look people in the eye

         And see things that hearing people can’t.

 

There will be many times

You’ll wish you weren’t deaf

But there will also be times

You’ll see deafness as a gift.”

 

So, Beautiful Laughing Girl –

Keep giggling and talking and signing

Because you’re that gift to us all.

 

** According to the Hands & Voices organization: Total Communication (TC) is a philosophy of educating children with hearing loss that incorporates all means of communication; formal signs, natural gestures, fingerspelling, body language, listening, lipreading and speech.  Children in TC programs typically wear hearing aids or cochlear implants.  

 

 

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a sought-after speaker for her humorous and insightful performances about hearing loss. Unheard Voices and EarRage! are ground-breaking solo shows that illuminate the profound impact of hearing loss on a person’s life and relationships, and which Gael has presented to appreciative audiences around Canada, the United States and New Zealand. A DVD/video version of Unheard Voices is now available. She has received awards for her work, including the Consumer Advocacy Award from the Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists. Gael lives with her husband and son in Toronto.

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Elizabeth Unser

I understand perfectly! I’m an Oral Deaf with profound hearing loss. What a lovely poem for any deaf persons. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous

Beautifully written for a Beautiful girl!

Gina

I cannot thank you enough and i will read this poem to Giana over and over again every year until she understands the power of those words

Gael Hannan

She is lucky to have such a caring, compassionate and determined mama!

Lorne Hanson

Gael what a gift you are to all!

Cindy Gordon

Beautiful Gael!!