Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Reflections on Switched at Birth

Last night I watched the premier episode of Switched at Birth on Hulu as I don't have access to ABCFamily television station. I found out later that it's also available for viewing through the ABCFamily website. There's an excellent recap and review of this episode on Elizabeth's Eh?What?Huh? blog so I'm going to skip retelling the story and get straight to my reflections.

I was surprised by my intensely personal response to the show. I found myself identifying strongly with Daphne the main character even though I wasn't deaf as a teenager myself. I pondered this afterwards and realized that this program's theme is about coping with a change in your identity, in the way you view yourself, and that's been my internal experience of the past few years since I abruptly learned I have a hearing loss. Until then I had assumed my hearing was normal. Once that rug was pulled out from under me, I had to regain my footing and see myself in a new way.

I adored the loving relationship between Daphne and her mother who signs. I was delighted when she and her mom flicked quick oks to each other as that's something I do now on a regular basis with my son and occasionally with uncomprehending hearing people as it's become such a habit of mine. I'm looking forward to seeing on future episodes which of Daphne's new family first makes the effort to sign to her. My bet is on her new brother. He seems the most open to Deaf culture. Of course he messed up when he wouldn't talk directly to Daphne's best friend who is deaf and doesn't speak, but he did ask the right questions during the conversation. I'm hopeful there will be an episode at some point where her new mother learns some sign. That would be very satisfying to watch and a major turnaround from her completely clueless attitude currently.

The parts of the program dealing with the cause of Daphne's deafness were very poignant for me. As part of my own hearing loss journey I've examined why my hearing loss happened. Was it something I did wrong? Was it something I could have avoided doing? Perhaps most agonizing for me - How could I not realize that I didn't hear the way others do?

When the biological parents of Daphne instinctively seek to fix what they see as a "problem", I could relate to that as well. Unfortunately, I've had someone tell me to go to the doctor and get it taken care of when I began using an assistive listening device in addition to my hearing aid. She didn't understand that my hearing aid doesn't restore my hearing. I've also had a well-meaning family member compare getting a cochlear implant to having cataract surgery. When I replied that it would be okay if my hearing decreased further (I am nowhere near the point of qualifying for a cochlear implant), that I have confidence in my ability to cope and enjoy life without hearing, my relative was completely baffled.

The scene where Daphne's biological father calls out to her when her back is turned and realizes she can't hear him was very moving. In the next moments, he listens to everyday sounds he has taken for granted and comprehends that they are missing from her world. That's the paradox of my own hearing loss experience. Once I understood there were sounds I am unable to perceive, I became tuned into and grateful for the sounds I can hear aided and unaided. When someone asks me now, "Can you hear that?" and I can't, I simply shake my head no. But when I can hear a bird singing or some other lovely sound, I revel in it. I can no longer take it for granted.

One of the best parts of the show was seeing how poised Daphne was when dealing with her emotional parents. Teenagers everywhere take notes! It will be interesting to see if Daphne's self confidence falters any when she moves from a deaf school to a mainstream high school environment.

These are my thoughts. I'd be interested in reading your reaction to the show or what I've written, if you care to share.


Anonymous said...

Hello, I don't have access to ABCAF or Hulu either, so I'd like to know how you have access to Hulu.

Liz said...

I would love to watch this, but it's not available over here in the uk.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Anonymous,
I have access through the link in my post on the word Hulu. Once I click it, the program begins. Hulu is available in the United States and its overseas territories.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Hi Liz,
I wonder if it will be available on DVD when the season finishes like Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye....

Liz said...

I don't know Sarah. Who knows. If it's popular then could well be, but I won't be buying any dvds this time.