I would like to start with stating that it was very impressing for me to watch the movie “For A Deaf Son” by Rob Tranchin. I thought I had some idea about deaf people and their life but in reality it appeared to be totally different from what I expected. In this documentary one family was brave enough to share all their pain and frustration regarding having the deaf son with the rest of the world. It believe it took a lot of courage to highlight the main challenges they faced and decisions they made, no matter right or wrong; still, I am quite sure this video helped a lot of people in the similar situation to feel themselves more confident.
Thomas Tranchin was only one year old when his parents started to suspect that something was wrong with the boy. Unfortunately, their fears confirmed after the examination, when their son was found to be profoundly deaf. So Mr. and Mrs. Tranchin had to face the whole new reality, the reality of deaf people. “We have a child who is different from us”, says Rob Tranchin in the movie. It took them a lot of efforts to cope with that fact and with the choices regarding the child’s future in order to move forward. The main decision they had to make was how to enable their child to communicate with them and the rest of the world.
Tommy had some speaking capabilities which Rob and Laurie saw as a saving boat. They believed if their son could learn to talk, he would live a normal life. Unfortunately, the speaking therapy didn’t give the results they hoped for, so the father started his research about the world of deaf, namely about their education. Tranchins had visited a couple of different educational institutions as well as interviewed the experts in deaf education and headmasters of those schools. He also collected the insights of a couple of other families facing the same issue. Through the whole movie we can observe in details the conflict between speech and sign language. While oral speech approach might give a kid a chance to live in a usual “American culture”, ASL according to Linda Daniel, one of the professionals interviewed in the documentary, is “quick, and gets language and expression early.” It is a natural language for deaf people to express themselves. Still, it has one great drawback as it “inhibits the development of speech” (Linda Daniel “For a Deaf Son”). Even though at the beginning of the movie Tommy’s parents choose a speech-only program of deaf school for a boy to attend, at the end of it they were quite unsure which educational approach to lean towards.
Tranchin family has been struggling with the same challenge as probably the rest of the hearing parents with deaf children were. They wanted to make their kid happy very much, but they did not know what would be better for him. Unfortunately, Tommy was too young to make his own choice. It was concluded in the documentary that the hearing parents cannot be a language model for their deaf children, so they have to allow other deaf people to demonstrate the kids that they can find their place in this world and be happy. It involved some degree of disconnection of the child from his parents, which Mrs. Tranchin was very anxious about. For too long she had been rejecting that her son was different and hoped to make him normal again. She did not want to intersect with this other world and to face the fact that ‘her son was born into minority’ (“For the Deaf Son”). That is why she tried really hard to put Tommy in the hearing world, which only created more distress for the boy and the whole family. The only thing his parents should have done, and I think that is what they actually did at the end of the movie, was to accept the boy as he is. The video ends with the words of Rob to Tommy “We tried to change you but you changed us”, which was very relieving for me to hear. I believe they understood that ‘different’ does not mean ‘wrong’ or ‘insufficient’, and eventually everyone was able to overcome the frustration and uncertainty of the situation they found themselves into.
As for me, I support the point of view that the deaf girl Alina made. Even though she could communicate fairly well using the speech, she said that “you have to make an effort to speak, while with signs you just talk” (“For the Deaf Son”). On my opinion, this quote well underlines the difference between using the two languages for deaf people. People like Tommy and Alina will never master perfect speaking skills, so no matter how hard they try, there will always face a discomfort when expressing themselves. This is not the case with American Sign Language. That is why I admire the parents who decided to learn ASL instead of making their children practice specking. At the same time, I think Tommy’s parents tried their best when it came to their son’s happiness and education. To my mind, no one has a right to blame them for doing something wrong, but only to respect their care and love to their son.
I am not sure if there was anything that I did not like about the movie, but I know exactly what I liked about it. It was the way how open main characters and the rest of the speakers were to share their anxieties, challenges and sometimes even devastations. The sincerity of the video has touched me a lot and I would suggest it for watching not only to those who are deaf or know deaf people, but also for all who straggle to understand and accept whom they are.
For a Deaf Son. Dir. Rob Tranchin. 1994. Film.