‘Coda’ adult climbs to new heights

2017-02-14 06:02
 Photo: supplied Norma Millar with her children, Daniella, Ben and Matt.

Photo: supplied Norma Millar with her children, Daniella, Ben and Matt.

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NORMA Millar is a 44-year-old mother of three, she is also what is known in the deaf community as a Coda, Child of a Deaf Adult, because both her parents are profoundly deaf.

When asked how she coped growing up, Millar says it was the only reality she knew. Looking back, she now realises she matured quickly and became a very early communicator, being the spokesperson for the family.

“One of the first things people ask when they know my background, is how I learnt to speak growing up, and I can never answer because as far as I am concerned, I had a normal childhood and learnt to speak like everybody else.

“I remember being five and having to phone the doctor, dentist and hairdresser to make appointments for myself, my Mom and Dad,’’ says Norma, who has a sister six years younger.

“To this day, when I go to a restaurant, I order for the whole table. My husband has given up placing his own order,’’ laughs Millar.

She says that people who are deaf and hard of hearing make up the biggest handicap group, and that if someone temporarily loses their ability to hear they need to readjust to sounds when this sense returns, as the auditory processing parts of the brain need to be constantly stimulated. This is not the case with sight.

Millar’s father Bobby is 100% deaf while her mom Jean is profoundly deaf, and wears a hearing aid that alerts her to noises, although she cannot process speech sounds.

“My mom seems to have developed an ‘extra’ sense. She doesn’t sleep with her hearing aid, and when I was little I would get up and just stand by her bed and she would wake up instantly. She always seemed to know when us children needed her.’’

“The deaf community is the closest-knit community I have been exposed to. It is very difficult for people who are deaf to be fully part of a hearing social event, as it is difficult to lip-read unless someone is facing you squarely, so group conversations in a hearing environment are incredibly strenuous and difficult.

“If more people knew sign language, people who are deaf or hard of hearing would not feel so isolated and lonely in this environment.

“In addition, if people are made aware of the best way to communicate with deaf people, for example, making sure your mouth is visible for lip-reading, not covering your mouth, it would also be of great value.”

She said she struggles when people make excuses for not being able to achieve something.

“Four years ago I studied hearing-aid acoustics through the University of Pretoria. Shortly after that I was diagnosed with cancer, and had to have surgery that left me unable to speak for a few months.

“Six months after my recovery I was determined to create some sort of awareness about the importance of sign language and to assert myself as being very much alive and still capable.

“So my best friend and I climbed Kilimanjaro in support of the Talk Sign Campaign, and raised a healthy contribution due to the kind support of many people.”

Millar asked the community to support the Talk Sign Campaign. To order stickers to sell at R10 each at your business or school, e-mail alice@thealist.co.za

- Supplied.

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